Remembering the Mets First “Star” – Ron Hunt

After just reading Barry Duchan’s excellent piece here on MMO: “Mets Memories 1964 – Ron Hunt, Pete Rose and Bobby Klaus,” I was inspired to share my own thought’s and memories of Ron Hunt.

Back in ’64 I was 7 years-old, a tremendous Beatle nut, and a budding Mets fan. My favorite TV shows at the time in order were the brand new sci-fi adventures Star Trek, and The Time Tunnel, Combat!, and the re-runs of Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges (Beau and Jeff’s dad). Lot’s of great scuba adventure. To a seven-year-old Sea Hunt was pretty exciting, but thinking back all I remember about it was Lloyd gesticulating wildly underwater with lot’s of bubbles, and his freakishly bushy eye-brows behind the fogged up scuba mask.

I found out that Ron Hunt wore a rubber wet-suit under his Mets uniform because he was being hit with baseballs all the time, and it was the only way he could find to prevent his body from becoming one giant bruise. I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever heard of, and I quickly latched onto what was happening with this funny, inept baseball team in a place called Flushing, and their star second-baseman, the human baseball magnet. It was no wonder, the way Hunt used to crowd the plate. When he hit, the toes of his shoes were only six or seven inches from touching home plate, it was ridiculous and outrageous, even to me.

In the 1963 and 1964 seasons with the Mets, Hunt was hit by 24 pitches, 13 and then 11. Everyone thought that was amazing at the time, but he was only getting warmed up. After leaving the Mets he went on to play for the Giants and then the Expos. In the seven years between 1968 and 1974, Hunt was hit with a staggering 192 pitches! That’s an average of more than 27 HBP’s each season. His career year was 1971 with Montreal, when he was plunked a whopping 50 times, to give him a cool OBP of .402, and by the end of his 12-year big league career, Hunt had been tagged a total of 243 times.

November 29, 1966 was one of my personal worst days as a Mets fan. I was nine now, and at the time, I felt the Mets had done something very stupid. They had inexplicably traded their two best players, Jim Hickman and Ron Hunt to the Dodgers. Yes it was for an unbelievably talented left fielder named Tommy Davis, but he had not shown he was still the same kind of hitter, or that he had fully rebounded from a serious ankle injury that had wiped out his 1965 season.

Around that time Hunt and Hickman, and pitchers Dick Selma and Dennis Ribant (who GM Bing Devine would trade to Pittsburgh a week later for Don Bosch and Don Cardwell, a big contributor in ’69), were the only home grown major leaguers we could be proud of, and two of the most fun players on the team to watch. The return on the trade? Outfielder Tommy Davis for only one year. In the 1967 season Davis hit .302 for the Amazins, with 16 HR’s and 73 RBI’s, not bad, but what I didn’t realize at the time was the importance of what was about to happen with Tommy Davis.

On December 15, 1967, new Mets GM Johnny Murphy traded Davis, pitcher Jack Fisher and two other guys to the White Sox for a center fielder by the name of Tommie Agee, with a throw-in on the deal named Al Weis, a light-hitting middle infielder. Agee became a catalyst of the Mets drive to the World Series in ’69, batting lead-off, hitting huge HR’s down the stretch, and making legendary defensive plays in Game 3 of the Series. Weis, played ten years in the bigs, hitting a total of 7 HR’s with a lifetime SLG% of .275.

But in the 1969 World Series, Weis had 11 AB’s, 16 PA’s with 4 walks and 5 hits, a BA of .455. He also had 3 big RBI’s in the Series, and hit a huge homer off Dave McNally in the 7th inning of the clinching Game 5, which tied the score at 3-3, and set the stage for a two-run bottom of the eighth an inning later that gave the Mets a 5-3 victory, and the Series. Sadly, GM Johnny Murphy was to pass away the following January, just three months after his team won the title.

For the Series, Weis had an OBP of .563 and a SLG% of .727, which put his OPS at 1.290! Who could have known when the Mets traded their two star players back in 1966, and broke my 9-year-old heart, that three years later the players they indirectly got back would play key roles in helping them win a miraculous and legendary World Series. Our first and of course, one of only two in the first 50 years of the organization.

And it may never have happened, if not for Ron Hunt.

 To see the final out of the 1969 World Series, and the mayhem that ensued, click >HERE<