Wid Matthews (1896–1965)

 Matthews, perhaps the only Wid in Philadelphia Athletic history.

Matthews, perhaps the only Wid in Philadelphia Athletic history.

After Tom Meany, the next Mets administrator to leave his earthly form behind (October 5, 1965) was one Wid Matthews who, unlike Tom, had been a player — a long time prior. Wid, an outfielder, garnered about a year’s worth of plate appearances over three seasons in the mid-twenties, playing with two American League franchises that would be as doomed as himself by the time the Mets would come into existence: The Philadelphia Athletics and the Washington Senators (or the Nats or the Griffs or whatever they were calling themselves then). It was a rare good time to be a Senator, though, and hopefully Wid got a piece of the post-season money.  He was once traded for Al Simmons!  Bet you can’t say the same.

In his post-playing days, Wid (actual name: Wid) spent seven seasons as de facto GM of the Cubs, having learned the trade under Branch Rickey with the Cards and Dodgers. He in fact broke the color line for the Cubbies, signing and promoting Ernie Banks. He also gave Buck O’Neil his first MLB job, but he wasn’t as aggressive with black and Latino talent as some of his National League rivals and the team failed to prosper. He moved on to Milwaukee where he was second in command, before becoming one of the first front office employees the Mets hired in 1961. Continue reading

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Bill Monbouquette and Charlie Williams

Somewhere, where time has no meaning, and a thousand games are as a single inning, Bill Monboquette is teaching Charlie Williams the proper grip on a two-seamer.

Somewhere, where time has no meaning, and a thousand games are as a single inning, Bill Monboquette is teaching Charlie Williams the proper grip on a two-seamer.

In recent weeks, in which I’ve resolved to get back on this blog and review the final legacies left behind by deceased Mets personnel, the idea still remained to honor these fallen soldiers in the order in which they fell.

But it would be wrong not to take a moment to acknowledge the passing in recent weeks of two Met figures who had distinctive if not large places in history.

Bill Monbouquette had the strange fortune of being the special sauce of a pitching coach spread between the two all-beef patties that were Rube Walker and Mel Stottlemyre, the two highest-profile pitching coaches in Mets history with the most successful staffs. I’ll leave somebody wiser to me to judge whether they were better or just more fortunate. But Bill, under managers George Bamberger and Frank Howard, brought along Jesse Orosco, Doug Sisk, and Ed Lynch. Mike Scott failed to come along during his tenure, and Neil Allen fell into the strange malaise that led to his eventual trade for Keith Hernandez. So… yay?

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Tom Meany (1903–1964)

“Ford Frick just reached for the rye bottle. It’s his first positive move in four years.”
— Tom Meany, working the room at Toots Schor’s
Tom?  Or Brian Doyle-Murray?

Tom? Or Brian Doyle-Murray?

When you list Hall-of-Famers the Mets have employed, you perhaps wouldn’t want to overlook Tom Meany. Meany, the Mets’ public relations guy in 1962-1963 and promotions director in 1964 (does that make him the father of Banner Day?) took the alleged would-be route of Adam Rubin toward baseball employment, having jumped the fence after decades of writing about the game, working with several papers and authoring over a dozen books, while gaining a rep as one of the game’s great raconteurs. When the famed Toots Shor’s Restaurant closed, guess who was the toastmaster on their last night.  None other than Tom F. Meany, that’s who. A room full of well-oiled athletes, writers, and celebs of all stripe, and Tom was the one that held the room together for the evening.

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But more than a wag, he had a nose for a story. His big scoop as a baseball writer had come back in 1932 when he ducked under the bleachers during a rain delay at the Polo Grounds and stumbled upon the scene of John McGraw packing his office up to turn the team over to Bill Terry, ending a legendary 32-year career by sneaking out not-quite-as-unnoticed as he wanted to. The scoop was among the biggest stories broken by The New York World-Telegram. Meany became sports editor and columnist for tabloids now mostly forgotten — PM, The New York Star, and The Morning Telegraph — before becoming sports editor for the not-forgotten Collier’s magazine. When Collier’s too closed, he must’ve seemed like a carrier of a fatal disease, but he went to work for the Yankees on special promotions in 1956 before joining the not-yet-born Mets. Continue reading

Rogers Hornsby (1892–1963)

wait-for-springAs noted in last week’s post, Red Kress wasn’t alone long in the Mets afterlife. Passing away November 29, 1962, he was followed about five weeks later (January 5, 1963) by Rogers Hornsby, the original Mets batting instructor and the first Mets Hall of Famer. He had been inducted 20 years before, garnering 78.1% of the vote of the BBWAA, though wartime concerns kept there from being an official ceremony, an omission that wouldn’t be corrrected until 2013.

Hornsby was reputedly heavily disliked in his playing days, widely regarded by history as an unreconstructed racist and gambler (but a strict avoider of cigarettes, alcohol, and the movies, which he believed would hurt a hitter’s eyes) He must’ve been an interesting figure on the original Mets, the first team ever integrated from day one. Like Kress, he was felled by a heart attack. His was apparently preceded by cataract surgery in December, and followed by a stroke, which had been presumed to be small, but I guess did heart damage.

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Red Kress (1905–1962)

The first Mets uniformed personnel member to die was Red Kress, who passed away from a heart attack November 29, 1962, after coaching the team during the 1962 season. Despite sharing a staff with old timers like Casey Stengel and Rogers Hornsby, the younger Kress was the first to go — only 57, like Gary Carter.

grave-red-kress-1Red’s remains lie under this marker in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. (Lot #5648, for those of you keeping score at home.)  My friend Richard from The Ultimate Mets Database says that having the signature on the grave marker is pretty classy.

If you can read that monument a stone’s throw away (see the image just below), it says DAVIS. That’s the Sammy Davis, Jr. family plot. Fancy neighbors, Red! Continue reading