The Mets are headed to the World Series! Though the championship years have been scarce (1969 and 1986 were the only two in the franchise’s 54-year history), Mets fans remain a devoted lot. Have a look at some inside baseball on the National League’s scrappiest band of well-paid misfits.
1. THEY COULD HAVE BEEN CALLED THE BEES.
“Mets,” as any dyed-in-blue fan knows, is short for Metropolitans, the corporate name for the franchise. (The full and fancy title: the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, Inc.) Before a 1961 write-in campaign helped to decide their designation, owner Joan Whitney Payson entertained other names: the Bees, the Islanders, the Continentals, the Meadowlarks and the Avengers, among others. (Suggestions from letters that appeared to take the mission less seriously: the New York Addicts, Slumlords, and Muggers.)
2. THEIR LOGO HAS HIDDEN MEANINGS.
OK, not that hidden—you just have to look closely. Designed by sports cartoonist Ray Gatto in 1961, the Mets insignia incorporates a number of regional elements. The bridge is intended to represent the five boroughs; a church spire on the far left symbolizes Brooklyn; the second building is the Williamsburg Savings Bank, at the time Brooklyn’s tallest; next to it is the Woolworth Building. You can also see the Empire State Building and the United Nations building on the right. The blue and orange colors are a nod to New York’s original National League teams, the Dodgers and Giants, respectively, who left the state for California in 1957.
3. THEIR MASCOT WAS ONCE A MULE.
While mascot Mr. Met has been a fixture on the field since 1964, owners flirted with a possible replacement in 1979: They enlisted a mule to take some laboriously slow trots along the foul lines. A fan contest named him Mettle. According to winner Dolores Mapps, she chose the name because “Mettle” exemplified their strength, stamina, and courage. In a clear violation of team spirit, they finished in last place that year and averaged only 10,000 fans per game. Mettle's role was put out to pasture by 1980.
4. JERRY KOOSMAN WAS DISCOVERED BY AN USHER’S SON.
Legendary pitcher Jerry Koosman led the Mets to one of their two World Series titles in 1969. For that, the team can thank Johnny Luchese. Catcher Luchese and Koosman played together on an El Paso-based Army team. Impressed with Koosman’s pitching, Luchese called his father, Jerry, who happened to be an usher with the Mets at Shea Stadium. Word got to Mets scout “Red” Murph, who took a look and promptly signed Koosman to the team. He spent 12 seasons there before being traded in 1978 to Minnesota.
5. GARTH BROOKS TRIED OUT FOR THE TEAM.
Country music star Brooks was college pals with Mets third baseman Robin Ventura. After finding success in the recording business, Brooks wanted to go back to his roots: he joined the Mets' spring training in 2000. After going 0-17 at bat, the team elected not to add him to their rotation. Though his participation was sometimes dismissed as a PR stunt, Brooks also tried to get on the San Diego Padres in 1999 and the Kansas City Royals in 2004.
6. THEY ONCE TRADED A PLAYER FOR HIMSELF.
Baseball teams swap players in the hopes they’ll be able to bolster their line-ups and create better chemistry on the field. In 1962, the Mets acquired catcher Harry Chiti from the Cleveland Indians for some cash and a vague promise of a “player to be named later.” But Chiti’s performances—he played few games and hit no homers—prompted his departure. The team traded him back to the Indians, fulfilling their obligations in the original agreement: Chiti was traded for Chiti.
7. THEY HIT A HOME RUN IN CITI FIELD BEFORE IT WAS EVEN BUILT.
The Mets made Shea Stadium their home from 1964 to 2008 until the structure was demolished and effectively replaced by the modern Citi Field. During a May 2007 home game, David Wright hit a homer off of Yankees pitcher Mike Meyers and the ball went sailing over the bleachers and right through the adjacent Citi Field construction girders. In 2009, Wright also became the first Mets player to hit a home run inside the new arena.
8. THEY HIRED JESSE OWENS AS A RUNNING COACH.
The Mets got off to a discouraging start in the early 1960s, going 40-120 in their first season and not getting appreciably better from there. To help their on-field speed, the team hired Olympic track and field sensation Jesse Owens as their running coach in 1965. Owens’ greatness was neither teachable nor contagious: the Mets finished in last place that year.
9. A 1985 GAME VS. THE BRAVES WAS ONE OF THE LONGEST IN HISTORY.
The Mets may not have the deepest bench in the sport, but their moxie is second to none. The team has been in three of the ten longest games in MLB history. Unofficially, a July 1985 meeting with the Atlanta Braves tops them all: including rain delays, it lasted eight hours, fifteen minutes, with players slogging their way through standing water. The contest ended at 3:55 a.m, with the Mets winning 16-13.
10. “MR. MET” WAS ONCE THREATENED BY THE SECRET SERVICE.
Considered one of the greatest baseball mascots of all time, the six-foot-ten-inch Mr. Met was one of the first characters to appear live during games. (He debuted in an illustration on program covers in 1963.) Returning from a decades-long sabbatical in 1994, he could shoot smoke out of his ears and arch his eyebrows; the costume entered its current incarnation when his bulbous head couldn’t fit through doors. His genial attitude was met with scorn by Secret Service officials in 1997 when the costume kept setting off metal detectors during a visit from President Clinton: the mascot was told snipers would go for “the kill shot” if he had any bad intentions.
11. THE THEME SONG WAS CONSIDERED SEXIST.
“Meet the Mets” was written in 1961, long before the team had played their first game. A result of open auditions for the best theme, the jingle was submitted by songwriters Ruth Roberts and Bill Katz. The catchy lyrics were prosaic in nature and seemed harmless. But the New York Times considered “bring your kiddies, bring your wife” to have sexist overtones. The song was slightly revised in 1984 to erase the phrase, and to eliminate mention of the Mets “knockin’ those home runs over the wall.” Because that really didn’t happen too often.
12. THE TEAM HAS MANAGED ONLY ONE NO-HITTER.
It took over eight thousand games, but the Mets finally scored a no-hitter when Johan Santana shut down the St. Louis Cardinals in a June 2012 home game. On the rebound from shoulder surgery, Santana was originally supposed to be limited to a max of 115 pitches, but stayed in for 134 when it became clear he was about to make Mets history. It was a rare triumph not only for the team, but for the pitcher: “I don’t think I’ve ever even thrown a no-hitter in video games,” he said.
13. CATCHER MIKE PIAZZA CALLED A PRESS CONFERENCE TO DECLARE HE WAS STRAIGHT.
After team manager Bobby Valentine gave an interview to Details magazine in 2002 suggesting baseball was “ready” for an openly gay player, some readers inferred Valentine was hinting at a possible pioneer on the Mets. Apparently terrified of being pegged as homosexual, catcher Mike Piazza preemptively declared his staunch heterosexuality during a press conference. “The truth is that I’m heterosexual and date women and that’s it,” he told reporters. “Obviously these things do not apply to me at all.” Piazza went on to clarify baseball would have no problem accepting a gay player. In August 2015, Milwaukee Brewers prospect David Denson became the first athlete on an affiliate MLB team to come out.
14. METS FANS HAVE THE WORST GRAMMAR IN THE LEAGUE.
As if Mets fans didn’t get enough heat already, the Wall Street Journal partnered with proofreading service Grammarly in spring 2015 to analyze the spelling and punctuation skills of sports league fan bases. Reviewing the comments section of the Mets official MLB page, they found an average of 13.9 mistakes for every 100 words typed—the worst in the game. The Cleveland Indians, in contrast, had only 3.6 mistakes.
15. JERRY SEINFELD ONCE CALLED A GAME WITH KEITH HERNANDEZ.
The Mets’ Hernandez became a perennial trivia question when he appeared in a two-part Seinfeld in 1993, romancing Elaine and embroiling the gang in a JFK-esque conspiracy theory. (Hernandez estimates he gets $3,000 a year in royalties from the reruns.) In September 2013, Jerry Seinfeld agreed to join Hernandez to call a game for broadcast. In the booth, the comedian referred to Hernandez being on the show—which didn’t become a massive hit until 1994—“the biggest thrill we had up to that time.” The team earned repeated mentions on the series, including the pilot episode where a game outcome is spoiled for Jerry, who had taped it. “Boy,” Kramer said, “the Mets blew it tonight, huh?”