A post below regarding Moises Alou’s appearance as the 800th Met of all time drew an interesting response from Harvey Polis, who writes:
The 2007 Mets Media Guide lists only 797 all-time Mets through 2006, not the actual 79. As was the case last year, the missing Mets are pitcher Les Rohr(the only Mets born in England) and outfielder Darren Bragg. The same two were missing from last year’s All-Time Roster in the 2006 Media Guide.
I notified them of the error, but it was not corrected.
Amazin’! Because not only does Les Rohr have the distinction of being the first and only Met born in England but he was also the first-ever Met draft pick when the amateur draft as we know it today was established in 1965.
Until then, all amateur ballplayers were free agents, whom scouts competed to find and to sign. This competition of course led to inflated signing bonuses — an effect owners first tried to blunt by limiting the number of first-year players a team could protect from a postseason raid. This plan never worked out: Not only did teams lose good players this way (the Orioles in 1962 robbed the Mets of Paul Blair, who might well have become the Mets’ best player of the 1960s), but teams trying to avoid such losses simply carried young players on their squads all year long whether or not they were ready for the competition, or else tried hiding them with bogus injuries and other tricks. No, there had to be a better way, and a draft — which would limit every player’s suitor to one club (and therefore, his salary to what that club was willing to pay and not a penny more) was the solution.
Oh yeah, and the draft also would evenly distribute talent and prop faltering minor leagues, proponents were quick to add.
For the Mets the introduction of the draft was a mixed blessing. While pleased to be free of threats and restrictions to their prospects, they along with the Dodgers and a few other free marketeers feared the draft would blunt their financial advantages over the competition. Not that the Mets of the era ever carried through on the threat to spend big, they clearly enjoyed having the option.
And so on June, 9, 1965, teams would pick amateur talent one player at a time in the reverse order of the past year’s standings and alternating by league. The AL and the Kansas City A’s got the first crack that year so the Mets picked second overall.
Writing in the New York Post that day, Leonard Schecter:
As all the keen-eyed, sharply experienced baseball men from all over the world gather here to draft young baseball players off the sandlots and campuses of the nation, we can be certain of only one thing – they will make mistakes. … In years to come, these men will sit around over a glass of iced tea or something, shake their heads sadly and say, ‘How the hell could the Mets have passed that kid up?’
The passage is remarkably prescient. Because after the A’s selected Rick Monday, an outfielder with Arizona State University who’d go on to have a fine 19-year career, the Mets with overall pick No. 2 chose Les Rohr, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound lefty who was born in England but just graduated high school in Billings, Montana.
Met Scout Red Murff on Rohr that day:
“He is as impressive as Ray Sadecki when the Cardinals signed him. He strikes out everyone and his own catcher is in danger of being injured. He should be a 20-game winner in the majors in a few years.”
“I feel like I’ve been a part of something historic,” Mets assistant GM Bing Devine added afterward, and he had. In the 12th round, he’d unknowingly called the name of baseball’s future all-time strikeout leader.
That Les Rohr would battle injuries and ultimately appear in just six major league games over three seasons, while a 12th-round pick would go to become Nolan Ryan provides an early illustration of just how hit-and-miss the new draft system could be. And with the Mets still fighting an organizational talent deficit relative to their peers, it’s easy to understand their reservations. (In addition to Monday, the first round would also produce Joe Coleman, Bernie Carbo and Jim Spencer but no other Major Leaguers of substance). Future Met infielders Joe Moock and Ken Boswell were selected in rounds 3 and 4, respectively; and pitchers Jim McAndrew and Don Shaw in rounds 11 and 24, respectively.
As for Rohr, he’d have a promising debut in September of 1967 but suffer continued arm trouble and make brief appearances in 1968 and 1969, also in September. His lifetime record 2-3, 3.70. He wore Nos. 31 (1967-68) and 33 (1969) for the Mets.