NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Fans of the New York Mets can now step right up and meet an incredible piece of their team’s history.
After decades of trading hands, the baseball from their very first winning game is back home. Tuesday actually marked the anniversary of that game, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
It was April 1962 during the Mets’ inaugural season at the now-demolished Polo Grounds in Washington Heights. They lost their very first game and then the next several games, earning the nickname “The Lovable Losers” along the way.
The Mets would go on to lose 120 games that first season.
But 57 years ago Tuesday — April 23, 1962 — they earned their first win, or “W,” as sports jargon goes, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.
Jay Hook, who is now 82 years old, was the Mets’ pitcher. He wrote the date and score of the game on the ball and signed it.
Lorraine Hamilton, who is the team’s executive director of broadcasting and events, explained how the ball traversed three different states for decades before landing back on local turf, at the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum.
“So Jay Hook held onto it for a number of years and then he decided when he was no longer with the Mets that he would give it to Mrs. Payson and Mrs. Payson was the owner and founder of the team,” Hamilton said.
Joan Payson, the first owner of the Mets, left the ball to her daughters.
“And then they were thinking like what’s the right place for it to go and they thought of Rusty Staub and his foundation,” Hamilton said.
The foundation tried to sell the ball through Sotheby’s, but there were no takers. So the Mets stepped up to the plate, paying an undisclosed amount to the foundation.
Hamilton said a baseball can decompose in heat or light, but the one from that day nearly six decades ago is as good as new.
“It just worked out perfectly that we had a spot right in that case for it,” Hamilton said.
It’s a relic to reassure fans that history can repeat itself, even 57 years later.
And Mets fans can see the first winning ball for themselves. Access to the museum is free for anyone who attends a game at Citi Field.