72-year-old Ron Hunt is a small-town country boy from Missouri. These days, he walks a bit slower and needs a cane to get around. However, the former Mets’ second baseman says nothing would keep him away from the Mets hosting the All-Star Game for the first time since 1964. When he became the first Mets player ever to start in the Midsummer Classic, “My manager Casey Stengal pushed for me to become an All-Star, telling everyone I was having a better year than Bill Mazeroski.”
At the All-Star FanFest Hunt, Hunt and his wife of 52 years, Jackie, took a stroll down memory lane, made possible by a scrapbook from a fan. It included a picture of Hunt with Yankees’ great Mickey Mantel, along with pictures and articles from the historic 1964 season. As the couple reflected on the halcyon days, Jackie remembers vividly what they did back in ’64 when they learned Hunt made the All-Star team: “We went out shopping for an air conditioner for our apartment.”
Hunt remembers his first All-Star Game like it was yesterday. The 23-year-old was one of the toughest outs in baseball. He was a scrappy player batting over 300 in his All-Star year and led the league in being hit by pitches. Hunt, who was runner-up to Pete Rose for Rookie of the Year in ’63, says he was not in awe of any of the future Hall of Famers in the Midsummer Classic.
How surreal was it? A little known slugger was sent in to pitch for Hunt in the 9th inning of the ’64 All-Star Game: “Manager Walter Alston came to me in the 9th inning when we were trailing the Al, and told me Hank Aaron was going to pinch hit for me.”
Another surreal moment came at the All-Star FanFest. An autograph-seeker produced what he claims are an actual pair of game-worn pants Hunt wore in the ’65 season — and that was a curve ball even Hunt didn’t knew was coming. Hunt is mystified: “I didn’t know where he got my pants!”
Hunt has had a very successful career away from baseball. He ran a youth baseball league for 18 years, but now he and Jackie run a 110-acre ranch, complete with cattle, in Wenztville, Mo.