The complete history of the New York Mets got its start five years after the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants picked up their teams and moved to California. For New Yorkers, this was devastating. This meant the New York Yankees was the only MLB baseball team left representing the city.
Meet the Mets
The New York Mets were officially brought in as an expansion team in 1962 by the National League. This was a team that was designed with the heart of New York City in mind. Originally founded as the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, the Mets took on jersey colors that did more than represent the flag of the city. Blue was the main color belonging to the Dodgers while orange belonged to the Giants. The name itself served as an homage to the Metropolitans, a New York-based team that belonged to the American Association’s baseball league from 1880 until 1887.
Interestingly enough, before the Mets actually made its debut as a team in the National League, a theme song was written for them by Bill Katz and Ruth Roberts. “Meet the Mets” was a song that played on local radio and television as an effort to add hype to a team that hoped to win over a solid fan base.
The first season of the New York Mets wasn’t something to boast about. The team only managed forty wins out of the 160 games played. When the second season began, the team had a star pitcher in Carlton Willey. This changed after he became injured and the team’s winning momentum came to an end. Another star that made 1963’s season a bit better was Duke Snider. The regular season saw him hit the ball two thousand times and reach his 400th home run. It was enough to put someone from the Mets into the 1963 All-Star game.
For the Mets, the first two seasons they played as an MLB team were held at the Polo Grounds. This was the home turf that once upon a time belonged to the National League’s New York Giants before they moved to San Fransico. While the Mets played at the Polo Grounds, a brand new stadium in Queens was in the works that would accommodate the team’s needs. That would be Shea Stadium.
Inside the newly built Shea Stadium, the 1964 season began when Casey Stengel brought Yogi Berra on board with the hope to improve the Mets’ stats as a baseball team. It was also hoped the new home in Flushing, Queens, would give the team the oomph needed to shine.
William Shea, the man behind the creation of the stadium, was the very same who founded the Continental League. This was the third major league he proposed that would run alongside the American League and the National League. In response, the NL opted to invite expansion teams to join the fold. This prompted Shea to enter the New York Mets not only into the league but develop a baseball field that would be fit for a team he intended to turn into champions.
When the 1966 MLB amateur draft took place, instead of choosing Reggie Jackson they went with Steve Chilcott. This came as a surprise as Jackson already established himself as a superstar in the making while nobody seemed to hear about Chilcott. In 1967, the Mets would add Tom Seaver to the team in that year’s amateur draft. He, along with Chilcott, played key roles in the 1969 Miracle Mets when this underdog team beat the Atlanta Braves to earn the newly developed National League East Division title. This win secured the Mets a spot to play the top-seeded Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Nobody expected the Mets to win but they did.
Winning the 1969 World Series was the spark the New York Mets needed to prove they were a baseball team that knew how to play in the majors with championship quality. However, one would think from 1970 until 1973 this wasn’t the case as the Mets seemed to fall back to mediocracy.
It didn’t help the Cincinnati Reds had a lineup known as the Big Red Machine. When the Mets experienced yet another so-so season in 1973, they somehow managed to win the division title by taking out what was deemed an unbeatable team. After eliminating the Reds, the Mets entered the World Series final for the second time. As hard as the team from New York fought against the Oakland Athletics, it wasn’t enough to win the championship.
The 1973 World Series was one for the record books as MLB was heavily dominated by the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates at that time. Sadly, 1973 was the only season the team became a sparkle in the eyes of New Yorkers as a baseball team. At best, the team coasted from one season to the next. Among the fan base that had certain expectations, this was a disappointment.
On June 15, 1977, the Mets traded their star pitcher, Seaver, to the Reds when he and the team’s management couldn’t reach a contract agreement. In return, the Mets received Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Pat Zachry. At the same time, the Mets also made a trade with the San Diego Padres and the St. Louis Cardinals. According to baseball fans at the time, this was dubbed the Midnight Massacre. These trades wound up biting the Mets as they played as one of the worst teams in MLB for years.
Under New Management
For the Mets, struggling to look like a team who knew how to play major league baseball took its toll on the team. Between low morale shared by fans and players, the team desperately needed to change its fortunes around. In January 1980, the team was sold to Doubleday, a publishing company for over twenty million dollars. Nelson Doubleday, Jr. became the chairman while minority shareholder Fred Wilpon became the ball club’s president. Frank Cashen was brought on board as general manager, charged to rebuild the team much like how he built the Baltimore Orioles while he was with that team beforehand.
What Cashen was hired to do began to see the fruits of his labor materialize in 1985. When he first took over, he recruited Darryl Strawberry in 1980, Dwight Gooden in 1982, and Keith Hernandez in 1983. These players were key to boosting the Mets from consistently looking like a sub-par MLB team but this wouldn’t be realized until 1985. In the meantime, Davey Johnson took over as manager in 1984.
1985 started off as a promising season, which was a first for the Mets since 1976. Added to the team roster at this time was the star catcher from the Montreal Expos, Gary Carter. This was also the year Gooden won the Cy Young Award. Unfortunately, these factors weren’t enough for the Mets to qualify for the playoffs. They’d have to wait it out another season.
Curses and Blessings
For the Mets, 1986 was a much better year that gave the team the kind of results they were looking for. It was as if whatever curse the Mets experienced that kept them from becoming a winning team was finally broken. They won the National League’s division with 108 wins out of the 162 games played. This was one of the best the NL has ever experienced.
Also, a highly dramatic win against the Houston Astros in the playoffs before moving on to face the Boston Red Sox became another major highlight for the Mets. While they played their sixth game against the Astros for the National League championship title, the two battled it out to sixteen innings, which set a new record until it was broken in 2005.
Adding to the drama of the 1986 journey to the World Series, the Mets faced what seemed like imminent elimination as the Red Sox looked like they were going to come out on top in this matchup. However, the Mets managed to pull up their socks well enough to bounce back while at the same time the team from Boston floundered. As a result, the Mets kept the Curse of the Bambino going against the Sox. The Mets won the World Series that year, sending New York City’s top baseball rival back to Boston empty-handed once again.
Shockingly, the Mets started the 1987 season without Ray Knight. He was voted World Series Most Valuable Player due to his stellar performance that played an instrumental role to the team securing their second championship title. As a result, he went to the Baltimore Orioles. Also leaving the team was Kevin Mitchell as he went to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Kevin McReynolds. In the meantime, Dwight Gooden added to the team drama after failing a drug test when evidence of cocaine usage was found in his system.
The struggles the Mets dealt with during this turbulent season plagued the team players, as well as the management. The trades continued with the departure of Ed Hearn to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for star pitcher David Cone. Sooner or later, something had to give.
In a way, it did, at least for Howard Johnson and Darryl Strawberry. In 1987, these two were the first Mets to score at least thirty home runs and steal thirty bases in a single season. As a team, the Mets failed to make a playoff impression as they were unable to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in order to advance. Although they faired better in 1988 by winning the National League’s division title, it wasn’t good enough to go any further. From there, it was once again downhill for the Mets as they drifted through the 1990s as a team that fell back into mediocracy.
Going into the twenty-first century, the Mets finally had a winning record that would earn them the chance to enter the MLB playoffs. This meant having to defeat the San Fransisco Giants, which they did. They then had to beat the St. Louis Cardinals. The team accomplished this too. As a result, they came face to face with none other than the New York Yankees.
For New Yorkers, this World Series has been dubbed the Subway Series as the city boroughs of the Bronx went head to head against Queens. This was a series that was far from boring, even if you were a baseball fan not from New York.
The second game of this epic event witnessed Mike Piazza’s baseball bat shatter as it struck the ball pitched to him by Roger Clemens. One of the pieces flew straight toward the pitcher’s mound and Clemens responded by picking it up and hurling it at Piazza as he made his way to first base. This awkward moment in baseball witnessed the benches clear as the emotions between the Mets and the Yankees became too high. Thankfully, everybody calmed down enough to avoid being ejected from the game once it was given the green light to continue. When the World Series was over, the Mets were unable to topple the Yankees.
Upon starting the 2001 season, the Mets hoped to make their way back to the World Series in an effort to win their third championship. This was the same year New York City became a victim of terrorism when the towers belonging to the World Trade Center were struck and destroyed by aircraft. On September 11, the entire world seemed to come to a standstill.
At the time, Shea Stadium was used as a relief station. It wouldn’t be until September 21 that the Mets would return to their home turf. Once again, Mike Piazza’s batting performance took center stage as he struck the ball for a dramatic home run that would earn his team a come-from-behind victory against the Atlanta Braves. For the Mets, this was regarded as one of its finest moments in team history. However, this wasn’t enough to give the team the same kind of season they experienced in 2000.
Despite what looked like a star-quality lineup, the Mets failed to achieve a winning season in 2002. They finished dead last in the National League East Division with only seventy-five wins. This was a disappointment for the team and their fans. Making matters worse, the ownership of the team between Doubleday and Wilpon came down to a legal battle as these two men could no longer get along. In the end, Wilpon won his case against Doubleday and had the New York Mets all to himself. In what came across as a custody battle between divorcing parents, the Mets and their fans were caught in the middle until the matter was decided. Between court disputes and the team’s instability as quality ball players, the Mets struggled until the fate of the team was decided in Wilpon’s favor. Once it was over, Omar Minaya took over as general manager leading into the 2005 season.
At first, Minaya was exactly what the Mets needed to turn things around. He signed up Pedro Martinez to pitch for the team, as well as Willie Randolph to manage it. The improvements seen in 2005 were magnified in 2006 as Minaya continued to make trades that improved the star quality of the New York Mets. Even though the Mets struggled in the playoffs, they bounced back as a decent team to watch in MLB.
After 2007 ended in disappointment, it was hoped 2008 would see the Mets experience better results. This was the team’s final season with Shea Stadium serving as its home turf. Unfortunately, the start of 2008 prompted Minaya to remove Randolf as team manager and replace him with an interim. Jerry Manuel would be the man assigned to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and the Mets once again failed to finish the season with enough wins to seize the National League East Division title.
In 2009, Citi Field became the new home for the New York Mets. That season witnessed newly acquired Gary Sheffield score his 500th home run in a home game against the Milwaukee Brewers. As impressive as this feat was, the fact he was the first pinch hitter to do so made the moment even more historic. Unfortunately, this was the only real highlight for the Mets as the season was once again played by a team that struggled. This was primarily blamed on the rack of injuries the players had to contend with. For the third season in a row, the Mets failed to qualify for the playoffs.
The first half of the 2010s wasn’t great for the Mets as a collective. The team’s troubles continued on the field and off. In 2012, the owners of the team at that time, Fred Wilpon and his new partner, Saul Katz, were forced to fork out $162 million in a lawsuit brought against them by the victims of the infamous Ponzi Scheme that was created by Bernard Madoff.
According to the court dispute, Katz and Wilpon were accused of knowingly doing business with Madoff in a scheme that was riddled with dubious intent. However, the charges of misconduct against the two were dropped once it was concluded neither man knew what they were getting into. Prior to the lawsuit, the men sold shares of the franchise for a total of $240 million in an effort to raise funds for a team that was already meeting financial difficulties. By the time the smoke cleared, all but $58 million was lost in a settlement.
While the Mets failed to impress as a team leading up to the 2015 season, there were a pair of pitchers that stood out by achieving notable accomplishments. In 2012, Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter for the Mets while R.A. Dickey managed to win the National League’s Cy Young Award.
Here We Go Again
When the Mets earned its sixth National League East Division title on September 26, 2015, they did so at the expense of the Cincinnati Reds. The team then proceeded to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, then the Chicago Cubs, before entering the 2015 World Series against the Kansas City Royals. Unfortunately, the Mets would be denied the opportunity to become a three-time World Series champion. However, this marked the end of a playoff drought the Mets desperately needed to climb out of.
In 2016, the Mets were able to enjoy the playoffs again but this time it was short-lived. The San Fransisco Giants snuffed the team’s hopes of advancing to the World Series. For the Mets, it was the final time they saw the playoffs as the team once again struggled as a winning team. When the 2019 season ran its course as a season showing full of promise, the Mets hoped to earn a playoff berth this time. It looked good with Pete Alonso as he won the 2019 Rookie of the Year Award, thanks to scoring fifty-three home runs. This actually became a brand-new MLB record.
2019 wasn’t the year for the Mets to shine beyond the regular season. They’d have to wait until 2020 to try again. Also at this time, a scandal was once again plaguing the team as their manager, Carlos Beltran was named in a scandal involving the Houston Astros. Beltran was out and Luis Rojas was in just before the 2020 MLB season was about to start.
As of October 30, 2020, the New York Mets have been under the ownership of Steve Cohen. To date, the team has two World Series victories under its belt. The first was in 1969 and the second was in 1986. They have won the National League pennant five times so far, as well as six National League East Division titles. Cohen’s first set of moves was to completely revamp the team’s management. The era of Wilpon and his family were ousted after Cohen bought them out. It was time to put the dramatics that plagued the Mets into a box and send it off to obscurity.
This included building the Mets from the ground up. Between management changes and the need to bring in a younger breed of baseball talent, the focus has been to return the New York Mets back to its former glory as a champion-class MLB team. Right now, the ball is in the court where it’s up to team president Sandy Alderson and general manager Billy Eppler to whip the Mets back into shape and get that elusive third World Series title.
Complete History Of The New York Mets article published on ClassicNewYorkHistory.com ©2022
ClassicNewYorkHistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used in the articles are either original photographs taken by ClassicNewYorkHistory.com journalists, public domain creative commons photos or photos licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicNewYorkHistory.com and ClassicRockHistory.com. All photo credits have been placed at end of the article.
We are not responsible for any locations visited based on our recommendations or information incuded in the articles as the website is for entertainment purposes only.