Ken MacKenzie, original Mets reliever, dead at 89

The 1962 Mets went 40–120 (. 250) and finished tenth and last in the National League, 60-1/2 games back in the standings. Yet incredibly, one pitcher posted a winning record on the season ...

NEW YORK — Ken MacKenzie, a left-handed reliever who was the only pitcher with a winning record on the expansion 1962 New York Mets, died Thursday. He was 89.

MacKenzie died at his home in Guilford, Connecticut, Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said.

MacKenzie was 8-10 with a 4.80 ERA in 128 relief appearances over six seasons with the Milwaukee Braves (1960-61), the Mets (1962-63), St. Louis (1963), San Francisco (1964) and Houston (1965).

After his playing career, MacKenzie coached Yale’s baseball team from 1969-78.

Born in Gore Bay, Ontario, MacKenzie was a graduate of Yale, where he captained the baseball team and was second-team All-Ivy League in hockey.

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He was 19-6 in three varsity baseball seasons, going 6-0 against Harvard.

“His signing with us makes him the lowest-paid member of the class of Yale ’56,″ Mets manager Casey Stengel once quipped.

MacKenzie signed with the Braves in September 1956 and made his big league debut at San Francisco on May 2, 1960, allowing a hit to his first batter, Joey Amalfitano.

His first decision was May 27, when he gave up a game-ending grand slam to Cincinnati’s Ed Bailey.

He was sold to the Mets ahead of the expansion draft in October 1961 and went 5-4 with a 4.95 ERA in 41 relief appearances and a start in an August doubleheader against St. Louis.

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That was the only winning record among 17 pitchers on the Mets, who went 40-120 and set a post-1900 record for defeats. The only team with a poorer record was the 1899 Cleveland Spiders at 20-134.

“We didn’t have an infield that got very close to ground balls, so they didn’t make a lot of errors,” MacKenzie recalled in 2022. “I always said that we had a pretty good pitching staff because we threw the ball a long way. I’m proud of the fact that some of the players (that) hit home runs off me were good hitters. I faced some really good hitters: Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Frank Howard.”

MacKenzie recalled pitching in the 13th inning at Dodger Stadium on May 19, 1963.

“I was still on the mound when the ball deposited itself up in the seats up in left field,” MacKenzie said. “Chris Cannizzaro came out to the mound and said: `MacKenzie, what the hell’s the matter with you? You didn’t think that ball was going out?’”

“If that one went, I was going to see it,” MacKenzie remembered telling the catcher.

MacKenzie was 3-1 with a 4.84 ERA in 31 appearances for the Mets in 1963 before he was traded to the Cardinals on Aug. 5 for right-hander Ed Bauta.

The Cardinals were in New York at the time of the trade.

He retired after splitting time between the major leagues and Triple-A in 1964 and ’65.

MacKenzie returned to Yale in 1967 as freshman baseball coach and freshman hockey coach and succeeded Ethan Allen as varsity baseball coach in 1969.

His first baseball team included future NFL quarterback Brian Dowling. MacKenzie along with the Yale football staff helped recruit Ron Darling, though MacKenzie stepped down before Darling’s first college season in 1979.

MacKenzie worked in Yale’s alumni office until retiring in 1984.

He is survived by sons Ken and Geoffrey. Funeral arrangements were pending.

The Mets said nine players remain alive from the 1962 team.

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