The Mets certainly had humble origins. The expansion rules of the 1960s weren’t designed to make the Angels and new Senators (1961) and Mets and Astros (1962) immediate winners. Far from it: it would be years before any of the four would contend, and the “Amazin’s” Miracle season of 1969 followed a string of mostly lovable losing for the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium denizens, as well as their fellow newcomers to the American and National Leagues.

But when it all got started in Flushing, legendary Casey Stengel, already a septuagenarian, was hired to be not only the manager of the team but also its face. In his new book, Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character, author Marty Appel, known more for his time as Yankees PR man and writer of much Yankee-related material, discusses some of the behind-the-scenes that went into making Stengel the choice.

In an email interview with Mets Hot Corner, Appel credits Stengel with much more than just putting the likes of Choo Choo Coleman and Marv Throneberry in the lineup every day.

“The fan base of today is largely built on what he did with the Mets in four seasons,” said Appel. “The ‘Amazin’ is still used; he rallied the fans to chant ‘Let’s Go Mets’ and he made it fun to root for that team.  The Mets got a lot right when they started – the mascot, the logo, the song, the uniform, the fan involvement – but mostly, hiring Casey was genius.”

While the book only dedicates a few chapters to his Mets and post-baseball life, Casey’s time in Queens was certainly influential. Telling is that the cover of the book shows Casey in a Mets cap (though it’s impossible to tell just from the photo.”

“He was a Mets fan til the end, but he wore Yankee underwear,” added Appel. “He probably would have wanted that cap with all the logos he wore at Old Timers Days. It’s a Mets cap – but it’s the face that won over the designers. It’s a great photo. We didn’t want anyone to think it was a ‘Mets book’ or a ‘Yankees book.’ It’s the story of a baseball lifer – 55 years – who was, as they said, the game’s greatest character.”

However it is defined, it’s a terrific book and one that Mets fans will be glad they picked up.