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Manager Torre was traded to the Mets from St. Louis after the 1974 season, with a lifetime batting average of .300. He couldn't have known what he was getting into. Torre hit .247 that year and tied a major league record one night by hitting into four ground-ball double plays.
"I knew they'd had a lot of third basemen," Torre said recently, "but I think I was too old to think it was a jinx. Every team has had trouble filling one position. Look at the Brooklyn Dodgers and leftfield." He paused. "Well, I guess it wasn't as bad as the Mets and third base."
For the record, Mantilla became the regular third baseman in 1962, playing 95 games. Charley Smith held the job, more or less, for two straight years, 1964 and 1965. Wayne Garrett is the only other Met to be the regular third baseman for two years in a row. Garrett's glory years were 1973 and 1974. He was also the third baseman—well, no one else matched his 72 games—in 1969, the Mets' miracle year. Garrett, you should know, played 709 games at third, the most by a Met, lifetime.
Joe Moock played 12 games at third in 1967. Joe Moock? How about Larry Burright, Elio Chacon, Sammy Drake, Chico Fernandez, Wayne Graham, Pumpsie Green, Bob Heise, Rick Herrscher, Rod Kanehl, Gary Kolb, Danny Napoleon, Rich Puig, Amado Samuel and Ted Schreiber?
Amos Otis played one game at third in 1967. In 1969 the Mets decided that Otis, originally an infielder, was their third baseman of the future. He only played three games at third in '69 but he informed the Mets he wanted no part of that position. The Mets had Tommie Agee in center so they traded Otis to Kansas City for Joe Foy, a—you guessed it—third baseman. That was worst trade No. 1. Otis is doing splendid things for the Royals—in centerfield. Foy hit .236 in 1970 and was out of baseball by 1972.
Jim Fregosi was going to be the next savior. So what if he had never played an inning at third in his career? So what if he hit a career-low .233 in 1971? The Mets traded Nolan Ryan, Lee Stanton and two minor-leaguers to the Angels for Fregosi, who hit .232 in '72 and was given away early the next season. That was WT No. 2.
So who will be Third Baseman No. 68? Some poor unsuspecting rookie called up in September? A harmless utility infielder, sitting peacefully on someone else's bench at this very moment? One thing seems sure. It won't be George Brett.