The Great Ed Kranepool Made Me A Mets Fan
A reflection of a baseball icon
In 1962, I was 13 years old, my current wife Carmen was barely two, President John F. Kennedy was in his first term and the New York Mets were born. I sometimes wonder why I remember the Mets back then, because I really wasn’t a baseball fan that cared too much about the teams, but for whatever reason I was made aware of their existence.
I was raised in Spanish Harlem, later moved to the Bronx, and I was only interested in hanging out with my friends, playing basketball and some baseball, but stickball was my favorite. There started to be a lot of publicity surrounding the Mets, and I started to become interested in what was going on in Queens.
Casey Stengel was the one name I remembered the most as he was constantly being quoted in the papers. I learned about Marv Thronberry and for some reason I thought he was a great player, but later on I realized he wasn’t a very good first baseman at all, even though he did hit a little. Roger Craig was on the downside of his career, but he did pitch very well even though he lost a lot of games that year.
As 1962 wore on, I began to become a true Mets fan and emotionally invested in the team. Even though they lost over 120 games, I was happy whenever they won despite it happening only 40 times that first season. This team brought some life to our city, and even though the Yankees were the team most people followed and talked about, the Mets were endearing and captured my attention. I began to learn everything I know about baseball by following the Mets, even though they didn’t play winning baseball. Most of the players were on the downside of their careers and the young ones didn’t have enough talent, but I grew to love this team.
Casey Stengel was a riot who when he spoke said things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but were nonetheless funny. Many bad things happened during the early 60’s, from Kennedy being assassinated, the demonstrations because of the Vietnam War and the Mets losing a ton of games, but when they actually won a game, it made me feel proud to be a fan.
Ed Kranepool came up with the Mets during that first season and he immediately became my favorite player. I can remember his first hit being a double and thought, “wow he is going to be a superstar”. As we later realized, he turned out to be a very good player, but not the star everyone expected. The reason he was my favorite was because when I entered high school, I started playing first base and was also pitching. I am a lefty just like Kranepool and I can remember playing at Monroe High School where Kranepool graduated from and thinking wow he actually played on that field, where he hit home runs and drew so much attention to himself from scouts and teams.
The one time I played at the Monroe High School field, I pitched and lost 1-0 in extra innings. Just being on the same field as Kranepool gave me goose bumps. I felt that if he played there and went on to the major leagues, that I might have a chance. But, even though I never lived out my dream of playing professional baseball, I was given an opportunity to live out a dream of walking on the same field that he once starred.
Kranepool went on to have a nice career with the Mets and even though the younger fans do not know much about him, he is still well known by the die-hards that followed the Mets during my generation.
As I reflect on those times, I can say the Mets were very instrumental in making me a baseball fan who now enjoys the game so much and looks forward to each upcoming Mets season. Perhaps a story for another day….
Original article posted in MetsMerizedonline.com