Meet the Dicks (part 1)

Sounds like there will be several moves to catch up on soon, when the Mets may or may not disable Luis Castillo; recall and assign numbers to outfielder Jesus Feliciano or infielder Justin Turner, decide on keeping Chris Carter around, and recall pitcher Jon Niese form the disabled list, perhaps while also succeeding in convincing Oliver Perez to take his act to Buffalo. Then there’s the issue of whether Bobby Parnell ought to be replacing the suddenly ineffective Raul Valdes orRyota Igarashi, who looks to me like the worst pitcher in the league about now. We will update as necessary.

Until then, let’s get excited for knuckler R.A. Dickey’s next start, and the beginning of a new homestand and the end of a road trip, with the first in a multi-part exclusive series at MBTN we’re calling Meet the Dicks. We are starting naturally with the Mets’ first ever Dick, Dick Smith.

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Dick Smith was purchased by the Mets along with Norm Sherry from the Los Angeles Dodgers organization shortly after the end of the 1962 season. A fleet, righthanded hitting outfielder, Smith had been signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent out of Medford, Ore. in 1957 but had yet to reach the majors. He was a freeswinger with good power-speed potential: He’d hit 19 home runs, 18 doubles, 11 triples and stole 30 bases with Omaha of the American Association in 1962.

The Mets were in the midst of what would become a 22-game road losing streak when they recalled Smith from Class AAA Buffalo the following July. The team had lost patience waiting for the bat of shortstop Al Moran to come around and banished Moran to Buffalo and installed Larry Burright as the new regular shortstop. Smith was recalled to take Moran’s roster slot.

Smith was issued No. 16, a jersey that had until days before belonged to another new Met arrival,Jesse Gonder, who’d received it from the man he’d been traded for, Sammy Taylor. Gonder however switched to No. 12 concurrent with the recall of Smith.

Smith made his major league debut, and became the Mets’  first Dick, on July 18, 1963 at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. Smith pinch hit for Al Jackson and fouled out behind first base: the opposing pitcher was none other than future Met (and future Met manager) Dallas Green. Smith appeared in another three games on that trip but after 10 days was returned to Buffalo when Moran was recalled. He wouldn’t collect his first hit until a return engagement in September, a single off Curt Simmons of St. Louis. He’d finish the year with a .238 batting average in 42 at-bats.

Smith caught the eye of Casey Stengel during the following spring training where he was “easily the fastest man ever to wear a Mets uniform” according to the Sporting News. Although primarily an outfielder, Stengel cleverly platooned Smith and Tim Harkness as leadoff-hitting first basemen. Smith in fact led off the first Mets game of 1964 vs. the Phillies’ Dennis Bennett, and played regularly at first base vs. lefties for most of the first two months of the year.

The highlight of this stretch came May 26 at Wrigley Field when Smith became the first Met in team history to record five hits in a game — three singles, a triple and a double — as the Mets whalloped the Cubs 19-1. However, Smith’s days were numbered once his platoonmate Harkness injured an elbow. His replacement was a prospect named Ed Kranepool, then viewed as a potential star and everyday player. Smith’s playing time grew sporadic and by July he was reassigned to AAA, never to return to the Mets. He hit .233 and his 6 stolen bases would tie for the club lead that year. He’d be traded back to the Dodgers following the season for a minor league lefty, Larry Miller, who’d play briefly for the Mets in 1965 and ’66. Smith got only 10 turns at bat with the Dodgers in ’65 before his big-league career was over.

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