Wednesday, July 16, 2014

1974 MFC '73 NLCS- Game Two

1973 NLCS- METS vs REDS-Game 2
Additional  information concerning this game required an update to the text section.
Updated 7/18/14
Mets lefty hurler Jon Matlack would start game two of the NLCS in Cincinnati.  And he would pitch the best game in his MLB career. One of the best games in Metropolitan history.

At a time when we needed a split, needed a win big time so as not to get bowled over by The Big Red Machine, Matlack came through. Matlack's performance would elicit a comment from Bud Harrelson that Pete Rose & the Reds found objectionable, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

 It was Sunday, October 7th. New York had lost game one of the NLCS. Tom Seaver had a great outing but it wasn't enough. Jon Matlack must have felt he needed to be perfect to hold the Reds down. And he almost was.

Matlack had won 14 games and lost 16 during the season, but Mets fans knew that his record did not reflect his abilities. He sported a 3.20 ERA and struck out 205 in 242 innings, good for third in the National League behind teammate Tom Terrific and Steve Carlton. Jon suffered from a thing that was very frustrating, yet familiar to Metropolitan fans. The offense was not supporting him in the runs department.

 Matlack was, like Jerry Koosman, an ace in a rotation that already had an ace in Tom Seaver. And like Jerry, he was a lefty who could bring it.

A few months earlier Matlack was the architect of the 10th one hitter in Mets history. He shut down the Houston Astros, pitching a perfecto until the 6th inning when he gave up a double to start the frame. He ended up with a 1 hit shutout.

With Matlack, Koosman, and Seaver in their prime I expected that the Mets would finally get a no-hitter, something that up to this point in Mets history (and as you know, for years and years after this) was an elusive achievement. It wasn't that much of an issue then. Mets fans felt they would get the no-no in due time with these three pitchers on the staff through the 1970's.
_________

Don Gullett was going for the Reds. He won 18 games in '73 (he lost 8), a career best. At the games start it looked as if he, like Jack Billingham with Tom Seaver, would get the better of our starter. Don's first three innings were as smooth as silk, a walk in the 3rd to Matlack himself was the only Met to reach base.

Matlack's start was a bit bumpy before he settled down. He gave up a hit to Andy Kosco in the second (Kosco would also single in the 7th inning for the Reds only other hit) that was erased by a double play. A walk and a sacrifice put a Red in scoring position with two out in the 3rd, which was stranded there as Pete Rose grounded out to Bud Harrelson at short.

In the fourth inning the Mets got Matlack something that were in short supply in his games during the '73 season . A run.
 With one out Rusty Staub launched a Don Gullet pitch out of the park and New York had a 1-0 lead. It would be all they needed.

Matlack would cruise, getting stronger and honing his command. He surrendered 2 base on balls (one to Kosco) in the 5th, the additional Kosco single, and that was it. Incidentally before Kosco drew the walk he hit a long drive down the left field line that missed being a game tying home run by mere inches. Fortunately none of the other Reds could touch Matlack.

The two walks in the bottom half of the 5th put another Red in scoring position with two out. Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson desperately pulled his starter for a pinch hitter. Don Gullett had held the Mets to only two hits. The way Matlack was pitching Sparky felt he had to go for it. The move would backfire. Matlack would strike out the pinch hitter Phil Gagliano and the Reds bullpen, usually excellent, could not keep the Mets in check. Clay Carroll pitched 3 shutout innings but Tom Hall and Pedro Borbon were not effective.

New York broke it open in the top of the 9th with 4 runs on 5 hits off the two relievers. Huge RBI singles by Cleon Jones, Jerry Grote and Bud Harrelson gave Matlack the insurance runs that, he may not have needed, but us Mets fans were relieved he had.

One of the runs was not without controversy as Felix Millan came around to score on Cleon Jones single. Millan collided with Johnny Bench at the plate on a close play in which he was ruled safe by plate ump Ed Vargo.

Millan flipped over Bench trying to get to the dish and Bench argued that Felix could not have touched home because the catcher had fallen on the plate when he was knocked down. Replays showed that Bench was correct, and Millan had never touched the plate.

Matlack pitched the 9th and got The Big Red Machine 1-2-3, striking out the great Johnny Bench to end the game.

New York had won the second game of the '73 NLCS in fine fashion, pulling the much needed split. At games end Buddy Harrelson made a comment in a post-game interview that was really just some self depreciating humor. Regarding Matlacks superb performance, Bud said, "He made the Big Red Machine look like me hitting today." I thought it was funny. The Reds didn't.

The series would now shift to Shea Stadium in New York for three games. This was the old  5 game series playoff format that required 3 wins to advance. I was excited and paramount in my mind was the far flung thought that the Mets could win 2 at Shea and capture the N.L. pennant. And if they did, I would be there and be part of the celebration. Unfortunately there were many, many Mets fans out there just like me, who hoped and prayed to be part of the scene should this happen.
And we'll get into that during games 3, 4 & 5.
____________________________________________________________________
  Notes:
Additional  information concerning this game required an update to the text section.
Updated 7/18/14

I had a very hard time finding pictures from game 2 of the 1973 NLCS. 
 The Millain/Bench photo on the first game 2 card was colorized for use here.
The Rusty Staub home run and Matlack pitching cards were created from a number of source photos which were combined and used here. Those pictures do not actually exist.
The game 2 card with Johnny Bench was created using a drawing I did of Bench in 1978. It has been colorized (with effects added to the backround) for use here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

1974 MFC '73 NLCS- Game One

1974 MFC '73 NLCS Game One

 The 1973 National League Championship Series was amazin'. It had big hits, great catches, magnificent pitching and what I consider the fight of the century.
The New York Mets would face off against the Cincinnati Reds. The '73 Mets were a rag tag little engine that could kind of team. 

Cincinnati was The Big Red Machine.

Metropolitan fans had faith, but little else. We saw the ball hit that wall. We knew all too well that miracles can happen. But beating the Reds would be a tough assignment.

Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Dave Conception, George Foster...
These three alone were murder.
We knew all these names because they all were all star players that formed one of the best teams that ever played the game. 
Led by skipper Sparky Anderson the Reds made the playoffs in 1970 & 1972 (they would also make it in '75, '76, & '79). 
1971 Topps
1973 Topps
1971 mfc
In 1970 they made it to the dance but Brooks Robinson spiked their punch. In '72 they got to the big show, but the Oakland Athletics were just starting their dynastic period.

The baseball experts said the Reds were due and the Mets weren't even supposed to be there. But baseball is baseball. That's why they play them out. Anything can happen. And with the Mets, one way or the other, for good or for bad, in invariably does.
_______________
 
Games one and two would be in Cincinnati at Riverfront Stadium. Met ace Tom Seaver pitched the first game and he was great. But great was not good enough on this day. 
Tom was up against Jack Billingham, and Jack was just a tad greater. It was a classic pitchers duel.

The Mets threatened in the 1st inning, loading the bases with one out. For Met fans this was the perfect start because our hottest hitter throughout the stretch run was now at the plate, Cleon Jones.

Cleon hit into a double play to end the inning. And that folks, is baseball in a nutshell. You always hope for the best and most of the time, you are disappointed.

New York got what proved to be their only run in the 2nd inning. Bud Harrelson walked and Tom Seaver himself ripped a line double into the gap in left center, sending Buddy scrambling around the bases, scoring all the way from first base.

This was also baseball in a nutshell. Sometimes wonderful things happen.

Now if you told me then that this would be the Mets last hit of the day, I'd have attempted to burn you at the stake for hexing my team. But no one said that. It wasn't even a thought.

I was thinking, jeeze, Tom's driving in runs. There's no way we can lose this game. And Seaver was cruising. He went through the Reds, scattering 4 hits in the first 7 innings. I felt in post season Seaver would go 12 innings for the win if he had to. The Met ace was locked in.

Much to my surprise Red righty Billingham, who's first couple of innings were bumpy, settled down and got locked in himself. After Seavers double in the 2nd he proceeded to no-hit the Mets for the next 6 innings. But Jack Billingham was not Tom Seaver. I was confident that Tom would out -last him.

Unfortunately Seaver weakened in the 8th and one of his fastballs hit the fat part of Pete Rose's bat. Boom. Tied game, 1-1 going into the 9th.
Rose's homer did not take the wind out of my sails. I still believed.

Red reliever Pedro Borbon got the thick part the Mets line-up 1-2-3 in our half of the 9th.

Seaver stayed in for the bottom of the 9th, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. If Tom felt he had enough in the tank he had everyones trust.

He got Tony Perez to ground out. I didn't know that Perez would get in the Hall of Fame, but even then I was pretty sure Johnny Bench would. And he showed Tom, me, & everyone watching why. He pulled a Seaver offering for a NLCS "walk-off", which then was just known as a "game winning home run".

The NLCS was only around for 5 years in 1973 and I suppose Bench's could be the first NLCS walkoff. I'll have to look that up.

Johnny's homer was one of those times I got that sick feeling in my stomach as the ball went off the bat. Every sports fan knows the feeling. When you know you are done but the game isn't quite over yet. The ball had a ways to travel before it was.

 The Mets, with ace Seaver on the mound pitching a great game, had lost the first game of the '73 NLCS! This was was not good. I now felt like probably every other Met fan out there. We had to win tomorrow and pull a split in Cincinnati.

We had to..

COMING SOON:1973 NLCS GAME TWO
_________________________________________________________

The Adventure of the Playoff Tickets

Tickets for the games in New York for the 1973 NLCS went on sale soon after the clinching in Chicago. I don't recall if it was the next day. That would have taken quite a bit of scrambling by me to find myself parked third in line at the ticket window the same day that I skipped school to see them clinch. But whenever they went on sale, that's where I found myself. I recall it being announced, and how they expected "legions" of fans to sleep over at Shea to assure a good spot in line.

I wanted tickets bad and I was not planning on camping at Shea, but as soon as I heard this I knew I'd be one of those "legions". I arrived at Shea the night before they went on sale. It was not too late, still light out. After 8 but before 9 o'clock dark. There were only two other people on line at the first ticket booth I came across. Other ticket windows had 2 or three more in line. I thought maybe this was a silly thing to be doing. But I stayed. I don't recall being with anyone. I did attend the N.Y. games with my friend Pat so I assume he was there too. And by 10 that night there WAS a legion of fans there. Hundreds had arrived between the time I set up my folding recliner chair and when it became nighttime dark.
A Shea ticket booth. I wish that
guy wasn't blocking the view.

I even saw old friends from the playground in Lefrak, a whole big group of them, and we hung out. At one point one of them whipped out a football and we started to toss it around. Things naturally led to us wanting to play an organized game of touch football. Not out here on the cement though (we did usually play on cement in the playground). 

We were thinking on the field. On the outfield grass inside Shea. 

This didn't seem too unreasonable a plan to me. It wreaked of adventure. And we weren't drinking or doing drugs at the time. Everyone's plan to get to Shea was thrown together so quick that partying was not on the list of considerations. 

But we were wacky active kids. And all of us were well versed in sneaking in to Shea (this also would not be the first time that I snuck on to the field at Shea when it was closed to the public). We were sneaking in to Shea for years during games, when cops would man the area. Now, late at night with the Mets not having a game and no cop by the standing room only area, the sneaking in part was a piece of cake.

We would climb the chain-link fence behind the Mets bullpen, where Mets would drive in and park their cars. This led to a wall near the ramp that led into the standing room only section out in right field. Get from the fence to the railing, pull up and over and you were in. 
Shea had a back door! The figure marks where the cop was usually hanging out.

I went to alot of games from 1970 to 1972, I mean A-LOT, and I never would have been able to do that if I didn't sneak in half the time (Even though the nosebleed seats were only a buck-fiddy!). 

We got busted a number of times. A cop would run us off and we'd bolt, only to wait for around 15 minutes and try again. We were like the prisoners in The Great Escape. And even though we were trying to break-in, not break-out, we would never give up. 

There was one cop who was very cool. After running us off a few times in one day, the third time he saw us approaching the fence he waved us up. And whenever that officer was there in the future, he would remember us, recognize us, and wave us up. I remember he once said "I'd rather you kids were at a ballgame instead of running around in the streets." 

So, like I said, the getting into Shea part would be easy. I asked the two people ahead of me in line to hold my place (I had gotten to know them a bit) and off I went with my old friends. 

We all got in a line and climbed up and over. I guess there was about 10 to 12 of us in our group. We were up and in and walking through the field level boxes to the field. As we left the standing room only area we could see that other people had seen what we did, and they began climbing up. A line formed down there and one after the other fans were climbing in to old dark Shea. What had we started? We didn't care. We had a game to play. 

We headed to dead center and laid out the ground rules. It was a full moon or close to it, and there was just enough light to be able to just about see. We use jackets and stuff to mark end-zones, chose up sides, and went to town. It was really, really far from acceptable conditions for a game, but we played and we had a freakin' ball. Me and the guys I played football and baseball with in the playground were now playing a game of touch in centerfield at Shea Stadium. In the dark.

There were many people inside Shea at this point. Over a hundred, easy. Roaming around the stands, the infield and dugouts, some sitting watching our game. We were the only ones taking advantage of being on a ball field though. We were well into our game. Dave S. was about to take a snap when SNAP, suddenly there was light. Not the stadium lights. Random floating lights. No...flashlights. And were those spotlights beyond the outfield wall? 
Uh-oh.

I don't recall how long we were inside Shea before the cops showed up. And not just a few. There were "legions" of them. A megaphoned voice started: " You are in the stadium illegally and are trespassing! Please stay were you are and we will....!" -- 

We would not be hearing anymore after that. They would see how fast we could run. And they did. I don't think one person followed orders and stayed put. Everyone took off in all different directions. Most of my group were experienced Shea crackers. And even though now, for the first time, we were breaking out of Shea, we knew what to do. The police were coming from out of the stands. We took off right for the outfield wall, pulling ourselves up and flipping to the off side. Then we dashed to the 3 section high chain-link fence, and scaled that like monkeys, also flipping off the top to the other side and to the paved sidewalk surrounding the outside of Shea. We were out of that stadium in a flash, sitting at the base of the fence and catching our breath. 

I have a vague recollection of a flatbed truck out there with a bank of spotlights that they were shining into the stadium. There were police all over the area but none were making any move to round anyone up.

We could see that most of the people who were in there were right behind us, scaling the big fence. Maybe the police just wanted to shoo us out. They weren't catching any of us, and didn't look like they were really trying to.

There was a story circulating later  in the night among the legions of Met fans camping out that one person was arrested (or at least taken in). A little fat kid who couldn't climb the outfield fence. I have no idea if that was true or not, but it became part of the story when I tell the tale.  

We all separated and went to our places in line (those guys were at a different booth) and just chilled. Might have slept a little. I don't remember. The ticket window opened at whatever time it was scheduled to and I was thinking I'm 3rd in line- I'm gonna get amazin' seats. I didn't realize then that regular old Joes like you and I were not going to even have a chance for field level box seats in the post season. They were all spoken for already. The best seats they had available were mezzanine box and up. The ticket guy was very patient with me as he explained things and I kept going- "What do ya mean!" I was able to purchase a block of 3 tickets, mezz box, first row right behind the auxiliary scoreboard in left. 
My ticket was a blue one like this. I had never seen a fancy ticket like this before. I can't believe I didn't save the stubs. I saved the stubs of almost every concert I ever went to.

I was disappointed that I could not get field level but I was happy with the seats. When the Mets were out there I could cheer on Cleon Jones. When the Reds were in the field I could jeer at one of my Mets baseball nemesis's of the time, Pete Rose.

This was going to be a great series! 
______________________________________________________

The picture used in the 2nd NLCS card is actually a composite of two photographs. Then it was colorized.


I didn't expect the 1973 post season cards to require any colorizations. But I can see now some of the photos I want to use need to be colorized. This slows down the project and the frequency of my posts. What I'll do is make a post for each game and try to get up at least one a week. Later I'll gather all the NLCS cards up for one post.

Thank you for viewing.

Colorizations: Seaver double. Rose HR.

* A message to Stubbly Bubbly from Baseball Birthdays. Can I please have your e-mail address. I've been trying to post at B.B. and I give up. I can't even contact the guy who runs it without logging in, which I can't do. I want to talk to you about using some of your Met photos and colorizations. Please contact me at zvon58@hotmail.com. Thanks :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

MFC ATMS #2- Gil Hodges

MFC ATMS #2- Gil Hodges


Please sign the petition

I think this is a good time to release the Gil Hodges Mets Fantazy Card for 2014, from the All-Time Mets Fantazy Card Set. If you're following the blog you'll know that a number of cards from this set have already surfaced here ( 7 IIRC). There are currently 20 cards completed. Eventually it will be a complete set of the most important, best and favorite Mets players and representatives in the teams history. Some cards will deal with that history. No idea yet how many cards there will be in the set. Card backs are part of the plan.

This ties in well with the petition to get Gil into the Hall Of Fame, which I hope all of you have signed. 

We can make this happen.

Please sign the petition

____________________________________________________________
Credits:
Bruce Stark- The classic drawing of Mr. Hodges.

The drawing has been colorized
for use here.


If you don't know who Bruce Stark is, shame on you!
The Art Of Bruce Stark

Monday, June 30, 2014

1974 MFC '73 Mets Fantazy Focus: Mets Clinch!



In 1973 one of the most stunning turn arounds in baseball history occurred.
The New York Mets were in last place, 11.5 games out on August 5th. With a now healthy team, a red hot Cleon Jones, a virtually untouchable Tug McGraw and a Rusty Staub hungry for the post season, Yogi's Mets went on a tear, winning 34 of their last 53 games. They were 19-8 in the month of September.

After the crucial five game series with Pittsburgh ( Mets took 4 of the games) and vaulting into first place, the Mets didn’t look back.
 With the rest of the division floundering they were able to zip through and held a one and a half game lead over the Pirates going into the final days. 


The last series of the season was against the Chicago Cubs. If they could win 2 of the 4 games they would clinch.

Because of 3 straight days of rain the games were to run beyond the end of the scheduled season, requiring an extra day. On September 30th and October 1st the two teams would squeeze in four games, with two double headers on each day.

_____________________________
September 30th, 1973

The double header on the last day in September would not start well. Jon Matlack pitched a fantastic game but received no run support. Matlack went the distance allowing 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 9 and only walking 2. He blanked Chicago for 7+ but would lose the game 1-0.

The lone run scored in the 8th inning on a Ron Santo RBI single.


_______________________
October 1st, 1973

In game 2 it was Jerry Koosman up against Cub ace Ferguson Jenkins. The Mets came out swinging and scored 3 times in the first climaxed by a Rusty Staub RBI single and a costly error by Cub 3rd baseman Ron Santo. Santo tried to throw out Met baserunner Wayne Garrett at home on an infield chopper by Cleon Jones. Garrett scored sliding hard into Cub catcher Ken Rudolph, Santos throw got away and Staub jogged home with the 3rd run.

The Cubs answered right back with 2 in the 2nd when Mets 3rd baseman Wayne Garrett made a costly error of his own. 





The score would stay 3-2 until the 6th inning, when New Yorks Cleon Jones popped a 2 run bomb to right center.

During all of September 1973, Cleon was da bomb.



Koosman had settled into a groove and breezed through the Cubs line-up, scattering 3 hits the rest of the way. Meanwhile the Mets picked up 4 more runs, in large part from Rusty Staub's hot bat, which knocked in 3.

 _______________________________

On October 1st Mets manager Yogi Berra went with Tom Seaver in the first game of the make-up double header hoping to win and avert a second game.
 Seaver was going for his 19th victory of the season.










 Cleon Jones put New York on the board early with a solo home run in the 2nd inning.




Jerry Grote tacked on two more with a bases loaded 2 RBI single and the Mets were up 5-2.






Seaver watches Rick Mondays 2 run homer


In the 7th inning Seaver faced two batters allowing a lead off single and a home run to Rick Monday. He would make way for Met ace reliever Tug McGraw with the score now 6-4.  

Tugger pitched 3 full shutout innings for the win, the final out a weak  pop-up off the bat of Glenn Beckert that John Milner would turn into a double play to end the game and the long, hard season.





Tugger was looking for a celebratory elaboration but the Mets were just too tired to jump around. McGraw did get a hug from his #1 fan that September, Met manager Yogi Berra. Yogi had now won two pennants as a manager. One with the 1960 New York Yankees, and now with the 1973 New York Mets.

The Mets did want to celebrate in the clubhouse. But they almost were not allowed to. 

"That was my 11th year and it was the first time I was going to get into post season play," recalls Rusty Staub. " I remember Mr. Grant (Mets Chairman M. Donald Grant) said, ' Don't open the champagne, we have another game to play,' and I said,' Mr. Grant, I'll play that game drunk. Don't worry, we're opening the champagne.' So we opened the champagne." Staub stopped for a second at the memory and shook his head. " My God, how can you say, ' Don't open the champagne'?"

Fortunately the second game was canceled and the celebration continued.
New York's winning percentage of .509 became the lowest of any pennant-winning club. But by winning 27 of their last 39, this was tale of a team that got healthy and hot at the most opportune time.

Cleon Jones was the top performer at the plate down the stretch run with 6 home runs and 14 runs batted in over the final 10 games.

The Mets would face the mighty Cincinnati Reds in the 1973 National League Championship Series. 
________________________________________________

A personal note: The game on October 1st, 1973 was a make-up game that took place on a grey (in NYC and Chicago, it turned out) Monday. I was hoping that the Mets would sweep the double header on Sunday and make Mondays game meaningless. It was scheduled to start before noon, at 11AM, and I had school. I was not going to miss this game though. I had cut classes here or there, cut out early once or twice, but this was the first time I ever planned to intentionally play hooky for an entire day. I was a freshman at Newtown High School at the time. 15 years old.

It wasn't a tough call. I was determined to see this game.  I was pretty sure my folks would not appreciate my Met fan wants and needs over school ( I wasn't the "best" student) so I didn't even approach them. I was going to have to pull this off without use of the family T.V. at home.

My plan was a simple one. Go to a department store and watch the game in the T.V. department. Rows of color T.V.s on one big wall. It was like my fantasy way of seeing a game other than being there.
I chose Macy's on Queens Boulevard, the round wacky one that at that time was pretty new. I fiddled about my nieghborhood from when I left for school until around 10AM, when I headed up to the  big chain-store. And they had a wonderful TV section with dozens of TVs on walls and the big consoles lined up side by side. I thought this was going to be great. 
No, he wasn't crazy Lenny. And Macys
had a better looking TV department.

One problem. All the sets were showing something else, the same soap opera on each one. As 11PM grew near I approached the Great Wall Of TVs and switched one, the best looking one, to WOR channel 9. There was a TV salesman who was around, and he did approach me, but didn't bother me. "Here for the game?" he asked.
"You bet," I responded eagerly. He smiled and left me alone, going about his business. Before he left he changed a few more TVs to channel 9, and I thanked him.

I don't remember much of the game itself. I know I watched it all. I do remember the last out. It was such a dreary day there was not much a color TV could do to liven it up. Wrigley Field looked empty (there were 1,913 scattered fans).
The TV salesman returned and watched a few innings with me. He wasn't a real old guy, probly late 30's. We talked a bit, he might have said something like,"I'm not even going to ask why you're not in school," and that's all that came up about the subject.

I remember a small crowd had grown as the innings progressed, and by the time Beckert popped to Milner there had to be over a dozen people gathered. When Bob Murphy announced the Mets had won the pennant the group began to applaud, with a few hoots and hollahs. I clapped and shook Mr TV salesman's hand and thanked him for his company. He said " Lets go Mets!" and I was off on my next Met adventure. This would be to get tickets for the 1973 playoffs (NLCS) which would no doubt go on sale in the next few days. I was going to be at those NYC games, however many there would be. I was determined. And you know how determined I can be.
_________________________________________________________________

We lost Frank Cashen today, who was only one of the best general managers that the Mets ever employed. Condolences to his family and friends. RIP Mr. Cashen.


___________________________________________________________
Stay tuned for the MFC '73 NLCS cards, coming next.