The Mets' official mascot was Homer the Beagle, and he lived at the Waldorf-Astoria on Park Avenue. Oh, what a wonderful time that was to be young and single and a beagle living in Gotham! And if you happened to be a big league mascot on top of that, well, then the world was indeed your Gaines-Burger.
Homer was trained by Rudd Weather-wax, the man who taught Lassie everything she knew. Alas, the Weatherwaxian magic didn't always work on Homer, and the beagle never quite got the hang of circling the bases at the Polo Grounds. But then again, neither did Throneberry.
Matriculating in the Yankees' farm system of the 1950s, Marv Throneberry was thought to be the next Mickey Mantle, not the first Mickey Klutts. But by 1962 he found happiness in simply having one of the 500 big league jobs that then existed. As for his often erratic play? "A lot of it," Throneberry says now, "is nothin' but fiction."
Let us pull a nonfiction classic from the shelf: Throneberry lashed a triple off Chicago Cub starter Glen Hobbie in the first inning of a game at the Polo Grounds on June 17. But Chicago first baseman Ernie Banks motioned for the ball, stepped on first, and Throneberry was called out on appeal. Says Ashburn: "We could all see from the dugout that Marv really didn't even come close to touching first base."
All except Stengel, who shot from the dugout as if catapulted. Second base umpire Dusty Boggess intercepted the skipper and informed him that Throneberry hadn't touched second base, either. "Well, I know he touched third," went Stengel's timeless punch line, "because he's standing on it."
"I can kid about it now," says Throneberry, relaxing after dark at his fishing house near Collierville. "When people ask me about it, I ask them, 'Have you ever seen an umpire who could see?' "
He is good-natured enough to have done 13 self-deprecating beer commercials for Miller Lite. His name resurfaced nationally in 1983 when the incriminating bat George Brett used in the Pine-Tar Incident was discovered to be a Marv Throneberry model. When a young New York writer named Jimmy Breslin wrote a book about the 1962 season called Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?, Throneberry was, naturally, the comic lead. "Jimmy Breslin went on the TV once and said that I made him famous," says Throneberry. "I think it was on Johnny Carson. He admitted it."
Having said all that, Throneberry is still fiercely proud of his seven seasons in the major leagues. "I still don't know why they asked me to do this commercial" was one of his signature lines in the Miller Lite ads. And in wrapping up your conversation with him about the '62 Mets, you get the feeling that he still doesn't know why you asked him to be in this story.
"People always ask me to tell them some of the funny stuff that happened that year," says Throneberry, "Really, I don't remember that much funny stuff happening."
Some people, of course, wouldn't know funny if it sprayed seltzer in their face. Marv Throneberry is not one of those people. He simply needs to have his memory refreshed.