Top 100 Mets #78: Rod Kanehl

The good citizens of New York were welcoming back the National League; the beloved Bums had left in '57, the Giants in '58, and now, in '62, here came the Mets. And so it came to be that there was an unlikely fan favorite in those early formative years – and he wasn't a big name. He didn't hit homers like Frank Thomas, wasn't a future Hall-of-Famer like Richie Ashburn or have a long and distinguished pedigree, but he grabbed a special place in the hearts of every Met fan. (Free Preview)

For this reason he earns the nod as the seventy-eighth greatest Met.

Having managed the Yankees for twelve seasons Casey Stengel had seen thousands of minor leaguers come and go. But one special kid caught his practiced eye when he crashed into an outfield wall during the Yankees' 1954 instructional camp, and he stuck in Casey's memory for years.

The guy practiced hard and played every game as if it would be his last. Yes, it's a cliché, but in the case of this kid it was a reality nonetheless. He played with dirty-uniform grit and determination every time he got on the field. When the "Old Perfesser" signed on to skipper the fledgling Mets, he was determined to bring in some of "his guys". Rod Kanehl was one of his guys.

The organization's general manager at the time, George Weiss, thought Casey was full of it. How could he bring a career minor leaguer onto a team that was looking to establish a winning identity right out of the gate? But after much persuasion, Stengel got his wish. Rod became an original Met after being selected in the minor league draft.

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

1962

Mets

.248

351

87

4

27

52

8

23

36

.296

.322

1963

Mets

.241

191

46

1

9

26

6

5

26

.268

.288

1964

Mets

.232

254

59

1

11

25

3

7

18

.256

.280



Joan Payson, the Mets owner, witnessed her first game on July 6, 1962. That day, Rod Kanehl belted the first grand slam in the club's brief history. He had etched his name onto another person's soul.

Rod had an ability to make people like him – unless you played on another team or in some cases his own. Some thought he was arrogant, but the beat writers covering the team day-by-day loved him. He was eminently quotable, never afraid to speak his mind, and before long, they would tag him with the nickname "Hot Rod".

He entered spring training as a long shot to make the roster and get an opportunity to head back to New York. He switched positions, from the outfield to second base, and was buried behind such proven vets as Charlie Neal and Felix Mantilla; but there he was, on opening day, sitting next to Casey on the bench. He was ultimately to become Stengal's primo pinch-hitter that year.

In 1963, he demonstrated just how slow the Mets were on the base paths, leading the team with six stolen bases. "Baseball is a lot like life," Kanehl said that year. "The line drives are caught and the squibbers go for base hits. It's an unfair game".

But those early Met fans loved the way he played that unfair game.

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