That Magic Moment: On This Date in Mets History

The date was April 23, 1962. In the Mets 10th game that season against the Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, they won for the first time - ever. Yes, ever. You will remember that 1962 was the Mets' inaugural season, and April 23 was without question a magical moment. The winning pitcher that day was somewhat of a journeyman by the name of Jay Hook, a great name for a pitcher. History will certainly not remember Hook for his career numbers - they were anything but memorable.

No, history will probably remember him as the player to pitch the Mets to their first ever victory, a 5-hit 9-1 win.

History, though, should also remember Hook for helping us to better understand another magical moment. It is something that happens maybe 40 times or so in every major league baseball game. How can something that occurs that frequently be magical? It is, though, and it makes us marvel each time it happens. It is simply a pitch - a curveball.

Jay Hook was signed by Cincinnati in 1957 out of Northwestern University. Incidentally, Cincinnati would be home to a team called the Red Legs for another two years. Hook struggled in most of his five seasons with Cincinnati, going 11-18 during 1960 - his best. In 1962, the Reds - they were called the Reds at this time - exposed Hook to the expansion draft, and the New York Mets selected him.

Settling in as a third-starter in Mets rotation behind Roger Craig and Al Jackson, Hook went 8-19 with http://photoarchive.ap.org/fr2js.html#a 4.84 ERA during that 1962 season. He had 8 wins in a year when the Mets won only 40.

Jay Hook played eight seasons for three different teams, ending his playing career with the Mets in 1964. His career stat line would read: 29 wins, 62 losses, and a 5.23 ERA in 160 games. Though not sizzling stats by any stretch, Hook's renown would be stitched into baseball history through a more intellectual manner.

In August 1962, Robert Riger wrote an article titled "The Pitch That Changed Baseball" for Esquire. It could be argued, however, that the scientific examination and methodical interest in that pitch - the curveball - began when Jay Hook had written an article for the May 1958 copy of Sport about why a curveball curves. Hook, you see, had majored in Engineering while at Northwestern University.

And although there were books and articles aplenty about the ‘how' of the pitch, Hook was one of the first to analytically inspect the flight of a baseball after it left a pitcher's hand and the mechanics required to make it curve - the ‘why' of the pitch. Jay Hook, in fact, would oftentimes be referred to as baseball's Sir Isaac Newton. Hook's mind and body working in concert with one another during the game, however, was a struggle at times. His manager at the time, Casey Stengel, would have you believe most times.

Casey Stengel called Jay Hook "the smartest pitcher in the world until he goes to the mound." There was a running joke around baseball at the time that Hook had a hard time getting the message through to his arm. His intellect, though, was no joking matter.

After a rough 4-14 campaign in 1963 and only three appearances in 1964, Jay Hook, baseball's Sir Isaac Newton, returned to Northwestern University to obtain a Masters Degree in Thermodynamics. He went on to an illustrious career with the Chrysler organization, taking with him eight years of major league baseball memories. Later, he returned to his alma mater as a visiting professor and a board member of Northwestern University's Engineering school.

A newspaper reporter caught up with Hook prior to the 2002 baseball season. "There's a magic about the '62 Mets," Hook would say. How true, and Hook's win on April 23, 1962 was most probably the Mets' first magical moment all fans should never forget. Jay Hook's greatest baseball achievement, however, might have been helping us to better understand another magical moment. It is simply a pitch - a curveball.

John C. Sinclair writes a Met historical column every Wednesday on NYMFansOnly.com


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