The 1962 Mets lost more games (120) than any team since 1900, finishing 60.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants. However, in their inaugural season the Mets produced their first slugging outfielder, left fielder Frank Thomas, who turns 88 today.
In 1962, Frank Thomas batted 266/329/496 with 34 home runs and 94 RBIs, good for an OPS 17% better than the National League average in 1962. Despite those very solid numbers the Mets All Star representative for both All Star games played in 1962 was Richie Ashburn, playing in the last season of his own Hall of Fame career.
Those home runs by Thomas remained the Mets’ single season record until Dave Kingman broke it in 1975 with 36 long balls. Thomas also had the Mets record for most RBIs and total bases (283) until broken by Tommie Agee in 1970.
Additionally, the 34 homers Frank Thomas hit in 1962 were the most home runs of any New York player that season. Roger Maris had 33 for the Yankees in 1962, the year after slugging 61, and Mickey Mantle hit 30 that season.
Thomas had been obtained by the Mets on November 28, 1961 in a trade with the Milwaukee Braves with a player to be named later for a player to be named later and cash. On May 21, 1962 the Mets sent Gus Bell (the 8th pick from the Reds in the 1961 expansion draft who was hitting 149/221/198 on the season) to the Braves to complete their side of the trade and the Braves sent back 25 year-old utility infielder Rick Herrscher to the Mets completing the trade.
In 1963 Thomas did not have as good a year for the Mets as 1962, but still hit 260/317/393 with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs in 126 games. The following season, Thomas was hitting 254/295/340 when on August 7, 1964, the Mets traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for prospects Wayne Graham, Gary Kroll and cash. The Phillies were in a pennant race, eventually losing out to the Cardinals, despite Thomas hitting 294/311/517 with 7 home runs and 26 RBIs in 39 games.
Frank Thomas was released by the Cubs in June 1966, his final season in the majors. A three time all star with the Pirates (1954, 55 and 58) his career batting line was 266/320/454, good for an OPS+ of 107. Thomas hit 286 career home runs, averaging 88 RBIs and 73 runs scored for every 162 games played.
Thomas, who spent more than four years studying for the priesthood before being signed as a ballplayer, once summed up his attitude about life: “I always felt if you gave 100 percent at whatever you did, you didn’t have anything to be ashamed of.”
The franchise’s first real slugger, Frank Thomas has nothing to be ashamed from his time with the Mets. Happy Birthday, Frank!