Hobie Landrith

The batter standing at home plate was a second- or third-string catcher for most of his 14-year career, with a lifetime batting average of .233 and 34 home runs. The pitcher poised on the mound would win 363 games and become a first-ballot Hall of Famer. What happened on that fateful day could only have been construed as improbable, corny fiction.


On May 12th, 1962, my dad took me to the Polo Grounds for a doubleheader between the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Braves. The Mets, aka the Lovable Losers, were in their first year of existence, and by then they’d already lost seventeen of their first twenty-two games. The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the New York nine that day. Still, this 16-year-old kid had already adopted them as his team.

That first game, the Mets played well against a solid Braves team and pitcher Warren Spahn. Still, by the ninth inning they found themselves down 2-1 with two out and a runner on first base. The great Gil Hodges had singled, and Rod Kanehl pinch-ran for him. Up to the plate stepped pinch-hitter Hobie Landrith.

Warren Spahn

Seven months earlier, journeyman catcher Landrith had the (dubious?) distinction of being the first Met chosen in the expansion draft. Manager Casey Stengel’s logic: “You gotta have a catcher or you’re gonna have a lot of passed balls.” A left-handed hitter against one of the premier lefty pitchers of all time? Game over, right?


Hobie Landrith hit a home run on the first pitch. Off Warren Spahn. Mets win, 3-2!

Was this kid excited? Holy crap! But we all held our collective breath for a few moments as, in typical Lovable Losers fashion, Rod Kanehl missed third base as he headed home. The third-base coach put the brakes on Landrith before he came around, or the homer would have been voided. Kanehl was escorted back to third, touched the base and completed the circuit, Landrith following. A photo of a dejected Spahn walking off the field as Landrith came home made all the New York papers.

The Mets also won the second game of the doubleheader. Quite a feat for the Lovable Losers, who would go on to lose 120 games in 1962. And a memorable day for a baseball-loving kid from The Bronx.

Hobie heads for home; Spahn heads for the shower.

And what about Hobie Landrith? After hitting his only home run for the Mets he was sold to the Baltimore Orioles less than a month later. His career ended in 1963 when the Washington Senators released him.

Thank you, Hobie, for the one glorious moment that this now 75-year-old baseball-loving kid will never forget.

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