The terrible 1966 New York Mets, who finished the previous season with the worst record in baseball, were in the midst of their fifth sub-.500 season when the June Amateur Draft arrived. The Mets shockingly selected Steve Chilcott over Reggie Jackson.
Chilcott ended up being the biggest bust in draft history because he was the only position player selected first overall to never make it to the big leagues. He was a high school catcher from Antelope Valley High School. It is perplexing why a team would draft a high school catcher over a player that Larry Getlen of the New York Post claimed was the best amateur player in the 1966 draft.
The reason why this is huge news now is because of Jackson’s new book that Amazon listed to be released on Tuesday. Getlen of the New York Post reported that Jackson’s co-authored book with Kevin Baker is about Jackson’s MLB experiences.
One of the most interesting things in the book is the reason why the Mets did not draft Jackson in 1966.
“Reggie had unlimited tools. He worked hard,” Arizona Sun Devils’ manager Bobby Winkles said. “There was no doubt in my mind he would play in the M.L. No college coach could predict the Hall of Fame for a player. He had all the tools and he made the best of them.”
It appeared that Jackson was a cinch to be the Mets’ draft choice, especially after such a positive report like that from the manager. However, Winkles informed Jackson in June that would not happen.
“A day or two before the draft, Bobby Winkles sat me down and told me, ‘You’re probably not gonna be the No. 1 pick. You’re dating a Mexican girl, and the Mets think you will be a problem,’” Jackson writes. “‘They think you’ll be a social problem because you are dating out of your race.’ ”
No matter what the circumstances are, it is ludicrous to think that a team would not select a player because he would be a ‘social problem’. Teams should be deciding which players to draft based on their skill-set and personality.
The Mets really missed out on a great player because of their moronic mindset. Jackson could have been a key member of at least one World Series Championship in 1969. He could have also helped them win the 1973 World Series, which Jackson’s Oakland Athletics won four games to three against the Mets.
He would have been a great fit with two future Hall of Famers, starting pitchers Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.
Jackson went on to have a fantastic 21-year career with the Kansas City A’s in 1967 before moving to Oakland, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and the then-California Angels, now Los Angeles Angels. He is currently 14th on the all-time home run list with 567 and 23rd on the RBI list with 1,702.
In addition, he won five World Series rings — three with the A’s and two with the Yankees.
He really made the Mets look like idiots for not selecting him. Everywhere Jackson went in his career, he was beloved by the fans. The only disruptions he caused was with the Yankees were because he did not get along with manager Billy Martin and owner George Steinbrenner. It had nothing to do with him being a ‘social problem.’
Hopefully for the Mets’ sake, they have learned from this infamous mistake. There are going to be great players in the Amateur Draft on a yearly basis. The Mets’ fans were probably as enraged for the Mets selecting Chilcott over Jackson as the Portland Trail Blazers‘ fans were when Portland selected Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in 1984.
Mets fans have to hope that their beloved team does not make a similar mistake next June.