Roderick Edwin Kanehl (April 1, 1934 – December 14, 2004) was an American second baseman and outfielder in Major League Baseball who played his entire career with the New York Mets (1962–1964). Beloved by Mets fans, his attitude was exemplary for a team that lost a modern-era record 120 games in its inaugural season. Kanehl hit the first grand slam in Mets history on July 6, 1962 at the Polo Grounds.
Before making the major leagues, Kanehl played for eight seasons in the New York Yankees' and Cincinnati Reds' minor league systems. In 1962, at age 28, he was given an opportunity to try out for the Mets' opening season. Through spring training, he worked tirelessly for a spot on the roster. He leaped over an outfield wall in pursuit of a ball and he scored from second on a wild pitch. His attitude and all-out play earned him the nickname ′′Hot Rod′′.
Despite the objections and criticisms of the Mets' general manager George Weiss, manager Casey Stengel stuck with Kanehl. Stengel liked Kanehl's hustle and determination to play the game.
In a three-year career spanning 340 games, Kanehl batted .241 and accrued six home runs, 47 RBI, 103 runs, 23 doubles and 17 stolen bases. A highly versatile utilityman, he played every position except pitcher and catcher.
Kanehl played his final major-league season when Shea Stadium opened its doors in 1964. Then he returned to the minors and was upset over never gaining an opportunity to remain in baseball after retiring. He worked in construction, sold insurance, and later owned a restaurant. When Stengel died in 1975, Kanehl was the only former Mets player who was present at the funeral.
After suffering a heart attack, Kanehl died at a hospital in Palm Springs, California at age 70.
- ^ Rod Kanehl, 70, an Original Met, Dies
By Dean Hanley
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