Hard-hitting original Frank Thomas dies at 93
One day, as Thomas was double-crossed after obviously trying to hit the backboard, if not slam the ball on it, Stengel shouted from the dugout, “You want to be a sailor, join the navy!”
Thomas is also remembered for his supposed role in one of the craziest episodes of the Mets’ fledgling years.
Richie Ashburn, who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame for his play with the Philadelphia Phillies, was in center field for the Mets alongside Thomas at left. The shortstop was Elio Chacon, a Venezuelan player who knew little or no English.
As the story progressed, Ashburn grew frustrated with his inability to communicate with Chacon about who would take over when a pop fly was hit in shallow left center field. Mets outfielder Joe Christopher, who was bilingual, suggested a solution: Ashburn should shout “I got it” in Spanish when he wanted to make the catch.
It was “Yo la tengo”, Christopher told him, and so Ashburn transmitted the signal to Chacon.
One day a short fly ball came down, Ashburn told Sports Illustrated in 1992, and he saw Chacon “roll out of the shortstop like a little kid on a scooter.”
“So I shout, ‘Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!’ And Elio brakes.
Just then, according to Ashburn, Thomas came from left field, attempting to catch the ball, and collided with Ashburn as he fell to safety. No one had spoken to Thomas about “Yo la tengo”.
In the early 1980s, New Jersey musicians Ira Kaplan and his wife, Georgia Hubley, formed a rock band. Kaplan, a Mets fan since childhood, had read about the Thomas-Ashburn-Chacon mix-up. He called the group Yo La Tengo, and the name stuck. The group has remained active to this day.