Here’s Ken Boswell’s 1971 Topps baseball card. That’s the Cardinals’ Vic Davalillo arriving too late to break up the double play as Boswell works the pivot between shortstop Al Weis and first baseman Art Shamsky. The card — which must be one of the only Mets cards that includes a view of the Whitestone — was shot on May 28, 1970, in the 6th inning of a game that Mets were losing 6-0 to the Cards. Boswell, however, was having a good afternoon. He’d go 3-for-3 in this game with a double, a sac fly, and both Met RBIs in what became a 9-2 loss. Against Bob Gibson, not bad.
Boswell wore No. 12, which is apropos in that this month marks the 12th anniversary of Mets by the Numbers, which I’ve determined “went live” for the the first time on Feb. 22, 1999. This makes MBTN one of the real dinosaurs of the Metosphere; the Ultimate Mets Database, whose awesome powers I use to determine things like what happened to the Mets on May 28, 1970, debuted at around the same time. A site called Mets Online, founded by the current Yankees beat writer for MLB.com (!) and whose offspring today operates as NY Sportsday, was around then too, but not sure of many others. No. 12 was then in a dark period following Jorge Fabregas’s departure and the coming of the Shawon Dunston Era later that year.
Boswell was a Met for eight seasons and possessed a pretty good left-handed bat for a second baseman, especially for his era. A few injuries interrupted his early progress, and he’d eventually be displaced as the regular second baseman by Felix Millan, but he remained a useful player who batted 1.000 in the 1973 Word Series (3-for-3, all pinch hits) and clubbed home runs in consecutive games in the 1969 NLCS rout of the Braves. When Willie Randolph namechecked Ken Boswell while taking the No. 12 jersey, it might have been his finest moment as Mets manager.
The No. 12 jersey has been an interesting one in Mets history. The all-time No. 12 was probably John “Bad Dude” Stearns, a four-time All-Star and all-time tough guy. Twelve was also the best of Ron Darling’s three numbers as a Met: He went 68-38 with a 3.38 ERA wearing 12 — and 31-32, 3.73 wearing other numbers (44 and 15, respectively). Darling’s the only Mets pitcher to ever have worn 12.
Twelve belonged to Tommy Davis during his outstanding (and only) Mets season in 1967; and to maddening chatty hacker Jeff Francoeur in 2009 and 2010. It currently belongs to Scott Hairston, who’s likely to be a pinch-hitter and hopefully not a full-time player for the 2011 squad. One day, we may remember 12 as the number belonging to two Hall of Famers who endured difficult stays in Metville: Jeff Kent (who probably deserves in) and Roberto Alomar (who’ll be enshrined this summer).
Who’s your favorite 12?