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Wrigley Field historical sleuthing: Casey Stengel edition

Ol’ Case was pretty happy on this day.

Bettmann / Contributor

These aren’t Cubs players, but since you’re definitely looking at Wrigley Field, there’s a story to be told here.

Getty Images’ caption:

A happy man is Casey Stengel, New York Mets’ Manager, after his team defeated the Cubs here to break the Mets’ 17 game losing streak. Mets’ Jim Hickman, (R), joins Casey in giving the victory sign. Hickman scored the winning run in the 9th inning.

Jim Hickman, of course, was to become a Cub later and played on the North Side from 1968-73.

The first thing you might wonder is: If the Mets have just defeated the Cubs to end a long losing streak, why are so many folks still sitting in the bleachers?

No, it wasn’t to help Casey celebrate. The 4-3 Mets win that broke that losing streak was the first game of a doubleheader Friday, June 8, 1962, a DH that was caused by rescheduling a postponed game from May 9.

The game went into the top of the ninth tied at 3 and then this happened, per the SABR game recap:

In the Mets ninth, Hickman led off with a single. Hook bunted; Hobbie tried to get Hickman at second but he was safe. Don Elston relieved Hobbie. His first batter, Ashburn, bunted down the first-base line. Banks couldn’t field the ball and the bases were loaded. Elston fanned Chacon but Charlie Neal’s sacrifice fly scored Hickman for a 4-3 lead.

Then Elston had to retire Frank Thomas to end the inning, thus actually getting five Mets to make what should have been outs. Those were the 103-loss 1962 Cubs.

The Cubs won the second game 3-2. The Mets would win the five-game series (there was another doubleheader Sunday, June 10) three games to two, but it would take the expansion Mets almost two months before they would win more than two straight games. By the time they won three in a row August 4-5 (a doubleheader was again involved), they had gone 14-43 (!) since breaking the 17-game losing streak, on their way to a post-1900 record 120 losses.

Other notes on this photo:

  • No. 4, seen at the right of the photo, is Mets infielder Charlie Neal.
  • The scoreboard clock reads 4:10. Doubleheaders in 1962 started at 1:00. The first game ran 2:44, so it would have ended about 25 minutes before this photo was taken, probably just about the time the second game was to begin.

Thank heavens for the 1962 Mets. Because of them, the 103-loss Cubs did not finish in last place. However, the Mets did split the season series with the Cubs, nine wins each. The 1962 Cubs were the only team that didn’t defeat that year’s Mets at least 12 times.