Thursday, July 31, 2014

>>>>1974 MFC '73 NLCS- Game Three

 Game three of the 1973 National League Championship Series would be in New York. This is going to be a more personal perspective than usual post season entrees.

This was my first ever post season MLB baseball game.
Not my actual ticket :(
I'd like to address a number of things (over the next 3 posts) regarding these games in New York including players, players families, NYC police, and the behavior of us Mets fans who were there.
The Infamous '73 Mets Walk

Much has been said about those days but there is very little video or even photographic evidence available these days to reflect what actually happened. I've looked everywhere for video copies of the entire games and I don't think there are any out there. The voice of the Mets, Gary Cohen, was there and he has touched on it during broadcasts. These are my recollections of game three of the 1973 N.L.C.S.

 Game three was on a Columbus day, October 8th 1973. And so it was a Monday and school was closed, saving me from having to cut school again.

I don't recall if I got to the game early or what. I know I was very excited about being there. Sometimes I would arrive early and enjoy batting practice if I had the time, and for the playoffs I would think I would have if I could have. But I have no recollection of arriving at the game. I know I got there, and I know I wasn't late (I'm late for everything...
except baseball).

Where I sat^
Of course I remember my seats. I went to the N.Y. games with my buddy Patrick K. We sat right above the auxiliary scoreboard in left, first row in mezzanine box. I sat up in this area of the mezz before, for a Jets game and had a godawful time. Freezingly frigid does not even describe it. But I was very happy with these seats for the NLCS.

It was windy off and on with a touch of chill, still balmy compared to that Jets game. It was the kind of day where you felt nice and warm in the sun, but in the shade you felt the slight bite of cold.

The NBC broadcast booth at Shea
Taking my seat at Shea the weather was soon forgotten. There was something here that was not in the forecast. There was electricity in the air. It was palpable. This was do or die baseball. The long bumpy, injury riddled , late summer surging season was over. The Mets were in the post season.

It was a dream come true. If you told me 2 months earlier that I'd be sitting at a Mets post season ballgame I'd have been concerned for your state of mind. Yet, here I was. Being a Mets fan can be wacky like that.
Met southpaw Jerry Koosman would get the game 3 start for New York. There were important decisions that had to be made during these days. We all ran into them. Beatles or Stones? Ginger or Mary Ann? Yankees or Mets? DH or no DH?  Seaver or Koosman?

Kooz was my favorite Mets starting pitcher back then. I knew that Seaver was magnificent most of the time and Koosman had a more erratic time of it showcasing his brilliance, but all the more reason to root for him. He needed it.

Jerry's '73 season did not reflect how much we needed him. Like Jon Matlack (14-16), he had a losing record at 14-15. But his performance down the stretch in August and September was all that mattered to us.

Kooz was our big game pitcher and even with Seaver on the staff there was no one else I'd rather see on the mound in a big game.

At this point in time he had pitched in 3 post season games (1 '69 NLCS,2 '69 WS) and won them all.

The game started out on a great note. Kooz got the Reds 1-2-3 in the first. In the Mets half of the inning Reds starter Ross Grimsby got two quick outs, but couldn't hold Rusty Staub down.

Staub just seemed so energized during these games. Playing for the expansion Houston Astros & Montreal Expos for so many years without even a wiff of post season play had made Rusty all the more appreciative of the stage that was set before him. He thrived. He played his heart out. A healthy and hot Rusty Staub was one of the foremost things New York needed in this series. And he was rising to the occasion.

Staub homered in the first inning, a solo shot, and homered again in the 2nd, a three run blast that made the score 6-0 Mets.

I would not call it a laugher, nor thought that Staubs second bomb put it away at 6-0. This was the Big Red Machine and this was the playoffs. Nothing could be taken for granted. But as a fan I could relax.

Ex Met Stahl
Koosman gave up a long ball to Reds third baseman Denis Menke leading off the 3rd and a string of singles by ex-Met Larry Stahl, Pete Rose, and Joe Morgan plated a 2nd run.

Rose was on both 2nd base and 3rd and could have chatted up Bud Harrelson, but he didn't. A grounder to Buddy ended the inning as he forced Morgan at second without incident.
 Kooz would then settle down, scattering 4 hits over the last 6 innings.

In the meantime New York had tacked on 3 more runs highlighted by a Kooz RBI single and a Cleon Jones RBI double.

The Mets were up 9-2!

Pete Rose was the only Red with more than one hit, and it will be on events surrounding his second single that we shall focus.

where we take a microscopic look at the fight of the century
  An exact quote, Bud Harrelson in regards to Jon Matlacks performance, N.L.C.S. game 2 post game interview:
"He had the Reds hitting defensively off their back foot all the time."
                          Pete Rose in response to the comment by Harrelson:
"Nobody hits off their heels unless they're scared...And we're not scared. You tell Harrelson to worry about playing his position and I'll worry about my hitting."

The story has been embellished to say this one said that, and that one said this, but the quotes above are what was actually said by both players following game two in Cincinnati.

 Pete Rose hit a homer off Tom Seaver in game one. In game two Matlack shut him and everyone not named Kosco down. 

Pete was having a decent game three. He already had one hit when he slapped a one out single in the 5th inning of a 9-2 game ( he would get 5 more hits in the series and bat .381).

Peter Edward "Charlie Hustle" Rose had a sensational year at the top of Cincinnati’s batting order, scoring 115 runs and topping the circuit with 230 hits and a .338 batting average.
He was a guy you loved to hate. Or hated to like. Something like that.
"He played the game the way it was meant to be played"
I thought that classic phrase suited no other player better in those days. He was the Ty Cobb of our time. And he was an asshole aggressive player just like Ty.

At this point in his career Rose had just passed 2000 hits (2054 total from 1963 to 1973) and I figured he'd reach 3000 hits in 5 or 6 years if he stayed healthy and productive.
As you know, he did. Pete played until 1986 and ended up the all-time hit leader with 4256 hits, an amazing record. Show me one baseball fan who doesn't know the name Pete Rose.

He was one of those players whose baseball card I'd put aside with my other favorite players. Who wouldn't want a Pete Rose on their team?

Joe Morgan was up next after Petes lead off single and Joe hit a sharp ground ball to Milner at first.

I had not heard anything about Pete Rose and Joe Morgan taking issue with Bud Harrelson's remarks after game two in Cincinnati at that point in time. I hadn't even heard about Bud's remarks yet. Nor about a later report that Joe Morgan accosted Harrelson during batting practice and Rusty Staub had to step in and calm things down.
    So what happened next came as a complete surprise.

My view of the fight was a good one. It all developed right in my line of sight. Reds second baseman Joe Morgan hitting the grounder to John Milner at first and his throw to second. It was a good throw. I could see the force at the bag and followed Harrelson's throw back to Milner to complete the double play and end the inning. Milner tossed the ball toward the mound and started off the field.

The action between Rose and Harrelson was noticed but didn't register right away. A little dust cloud had formed around second base and I figured that was Rose sliding, trying to break it up the double play. 

Something else caught my eye. It was Wayne Garrett and Jerry Grote. As New York was coming off the diamond suddenly those two made a bee line towards second base at high speed. Other players were also turning to second base. Looking back by the bag I could see Harrelson and Rose tangling, and then saw Rose lift Buddy up and throw him to the ground. I took to my feet with a shout of dismay.
The entire stadium followed suit and Shea became a mad house.
Literally a house a of very very angry people.
 I've collected photos of the fight over the years because, basically, the fight was so fast if you were there it looked like that^.
An incredible simulation
Or maybe more like that.>>>

Actually, to me, exactly like that.>



These are all the pictures out there (as far as I know) and provide a better look at the incident than the filmed footage available.The things that occurred in these photos happened very fast.

The opening blow occurred as it was reported by Harrelson in a number of interviews. Pete Rose comes up out of a force play at second and intentionally elbows Harrelson hard in the jaw. A dirty shot but no doubt the message Rose had wanted to deliver.

Buddy makes the throw to first successfully, then stands his ground and has some words with Pete ("That was a cheap shot!"), who already has taken an aggressive stance, posturing like a bull ready to charge.

Rose responds by grabbing Harrelson by the uniform jersey and starts to push him. Umpire Bruce Froemming, at first heedless of the bout, turns to see Harrelson and Rose locked in battle. He makes no move to intercede.
This was really a lot of nothing as Rose pushed Buddy pretty violently. Harrelson was trying to push him back or just get out of his way but Pete just overpowered the Mets shortstop and Buddy was swept away.

This is when I realized I was seeing a real fight. Through the dust I could see Pete lift Bud and throw him to the ground. Ump Bruce Froemming yells in their general direction and then becomes a spectator with a great view.

I have this photo but not at such good quality. This has been added on 1/29/17 thanks to a contribution by Charlene Juliano Worker

-Coutesy of Charlene Juliano Worker‎, Queen of the Mets fans on facebook. There are others,  Like David Rosenthal, King, imo, who drops Mets facts, figures, & incidents and puts it in a nice lil nutshell that capture the topic completely. This stuff you guyz share on facebook has been many times priceless to me during this project, and I thank you so much for sharing.

I said it then and I'll say it now:

Already at this point three Mets on the field were running towards the two. Don Hahn was approaching from center field on the way in. Jerry Grote, behind the plate, wasted no time when he realized what was going on and galloped out to the pair. Mets third baseman Wayne Garrett, the closest to the scene, took off immediately towards the ruckus and was the first to arrive, hurling himself on the duo. Both teams poured from the dugouts and ran towards the fray. Pitchers from both bullpens charged across the outfield like the light brigade.

Those images above were the actual fight between Harrelson and Rose. Not really much of a fight, but to me, the fight of the century.
                                      Don't question it.
There was a lot of pushing and pulling, hemmin' and hawin'.  Look at Buddy above. It looks like he's being steamrolled by The Big Red Machine. That ain't right. Look at Capra beyond the ump, about to clock Borbon. Yep, just when I thought it was winding down a whole new bout broke out.

Reds and Mets relievers Pedro Borbon and Buzz Capra got into more of a fight than Pete and Bud did.
There was some heavy pummeling going on in that one.

And of course the classic tale of how the two players mixed up their caps. All Mets fans know this one. I knew that Capra was
going at it with someone but I was too far away to see the hat biting incident. From what I've learned since I can't describe it any better than Centerfieldmaz so I'll let him do it:

"Then Reds reliever Pedro Borbon landed a sucker punch from behind to the head of Mets pitcher Buzz Capra. Capra attacked Borbon, as backup catcher Duffy Dyer, got in some retaliatory punches of his own, before being pulled out of the melee by Willie Mays.

The Borbon bit Buzz brim.
As Borbon left the field, he picked up a cap & put it on his head, thinking it was his. To the crowds delight, it was a Mets cap, when Borbon finally figured it out, he pulled it off his head and took a bite out of it, then threw it down. It was Buzz Capra's Mets cap & he claims to still have it to this day."

Buddy looked worse off than Rose but it was his flip-down sunglasses that did the damage, not Pete. The hard plastic glasses, banged around in the scuffle, cut Harrelson on the forehead.

The game was delayed for a dozen plus minutes due to the fight, but that was nothing compared to a delay suffered a short time later.

When Rose took the field the stadium had not yet settled down. And think about this: Rose took the field. He was still in the game. Neither he nor Buddy were tossed as a result of the dust-up. This seems unbelievable today.

Should Rose have been tossed? I think Bruce Froemming would have had to see the elbow and I don't think that he did. There was no review system in place to reveal to officials how the altercation began. If any of the other umps saw the dirty move, they weren't saying. If they were going to throw out Rose they'd have to eject Harrelson too.

Us fans were all still on our feet and buzzing like bees. Rose came out to play left field and everyone was screaming for his head.

Not literally, but you know what I mean. I yelled a few choice things to Rose (who I doubted could hear me above the chaos developing), but I was more interested in watching the game then heckling Charlie Hustle.

The manual deluge upon him started almost immediately. Slowly at first. Then loads of fans were throwing cups, hot dog sleeves (some with the hot dogs still in them), fry baskets, programs, all forms of paper products. It almost looked like it was lightly snowing only in left field and just over Rose.

Now there have been reports of other things being thrown like beer cans and batteries. I didn't see any of this. I'm not saying it didn't happen. I just didn't see it.

As far as any Reds player in the bullpen being hit by a beer can, I had no idea. I did not have such a good view of the bullpen. I could just see a slice of it from my perspective. But the way the stands and pen were set up in those days I can easily see it happening. There was nothing in place to shield anybody in the bullpen then. And cans were still being sold at the stadium. And sometimes people can be assholes.

As far as batteries go I didn't see any of those either, but if they were little transistor batteries from radios I may not have noticed. There was a lot of stuff being thrown.

 I recall it raining paper and an odd hot dog or two (or 12) on Rose and it was kinda funny. I'll yell at a player and I did plenty of that, as did the majority of the fans in left, but I am not one to throw stuff at games and I had no interest in doing so. I also knew from years of reading the Shea scoreboard that no throwing of objects was allowed, and I worshiped that scoreboard. But it was a trip to see this happening.

 Don't forget there was an inning going on. Jerry Koosman had grounded out to Morgan at second.

Between pitches Rose started picking up pieces of garbage from the outfield grass and throwing them back. This was not such a good idea.
I thought he was just trying to toss the stuff off the field, into the bullpen. But some thought that Rose was throwing stuff back into the stands. It didn't matter. Seeing him turn to the stands and hurl stuff incensed the entire stadium even more.

Wayne Garrett popped out to left, and Rose was able to make the play.

So I don't recall seeing any beer cans. Nor batteries. But I do remember the bottle. The infamous whiskey bottle.

Felix Millan was at the plate and the garbage shower was starting to let up out in left. I figured people were running out of things to throw. Then, from behind me came what looked to be a huge JD bottle, which presumably, at this point, was empty. Because whoever threw it had to be impaired. Talk about assholes.

It went flying over my head, and it was like slow motion how it sailed down and bounced on the turf. The bottle then shot past the back of Rose, coming to rest a bit beyond him on the outfield grass. It didn't miss him by much. So I went from thinking how funny it looked to a moment of sheer horror.

There was a collective gasp followed by an audible groan from the crowd. Some went very quiet, some went rabid. I was a quiet one. It was bad enough that people were throwing things. But those people were just trying to be a nuisance, and they were very good at that. The bottle business was way over the line.

I looked back, some people were jumping and pointing to the person who threw it in the upper mezzanine behind me. I could not see the specific person. Only heads as everyone was up on their feet. I don't know if anything was done to the person who threw it. It was bedlam at that moment and I was more interested in what was happening on the field.

Rose raised his hand calling for time and began to walk in. Left field line ump Ed Sudal met up with Pete and proceeded to escort him off the field. Reds manager Sparky Anderson came out of the dugout and gestured to the rest his team.

Anderson stood there, at the edge of the infield dirt and waved them in, and the Reds walked off the field. Now this was another something I had never seen before.  (1) A flying bottle at a ballgame and (2) a fleeing MLB ballclub. This was wacky stuff.

Sparky feared for their safety and I didn't blame him. The damn bottle changed everything. Many of us were trying to calm down everyone else. The throwing of objects stopped but the decibel level of the crowd was off the charts. This created the second game delay which lasted over 20 minutes.

I had no idea how this would play out. I had never seen a MLB team forced to leave the field before. And they left with good reason. I knew baseball rules from little league. I knew that the Mets had a 9-2 lead and suddenly they were in danger of losing this game at the snap of someone's fingers. Fortunately that someone was attending the game.      

The president of the National League Chub Feeney was there at Shea. He called for a conference with the six umpires, the commissioner, and both managers. In a most interesting move he decided to send fan favorites and living legends Yogi Berra and Willie Mays out to left field to calm the crowd. If order could not be restored New York would be forced to forfeit the game.

Mays and Berra were joined by Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub, & Cleon Jones, and they walked out to left field. Rusty was on deck so he strolled out with his bat.

Now this was surreal. Five Metropolitan favorites (three of them now in the Mets Hall of Fame) were walking right up to the left field stands where I was sitting. They were pleading with and gesturing to the fans to get under control. I couldn't hear anything they were saying. We weren't yelling in anger anymore. We were cheering the fantastic five on the field, making more noise than when we booed the Reds off. The crowd was still boisterous but in a more positive way and things were starting to simmer down.

Eventually the stadium became as in control as a New York playoff crowd could be. And the anger with Rose had dissipated. The Met star players returned to the dugout and the game was resumed.

Pete Rose's momma didn't raise no fool. He returned to left field wearing a batting helmet, and IIRC he wore a helmet when playing the field for the remainder of the series.

              Oh yea, the game.

Jerry Koosman went all the way for the win, the 3rd complete game by New York pitchers in the series (even Seaver's game one loss was a complete game). 

 Rusty Staub had a magnificent game, somewhat overshadowed in Mets history by The Fight.

After the game everyone wanted to talk about the fight. I had something else on my mind. If the Mets could win one more playoff game we were going to the world series! And it would be here at Shea!

Game 3 ticket donated to the MFC museum by Steven Goldleaf

                       1973 National League Championship Series Game Three
                                            Shea Stadium, New York
 Umpires: HP - Chris Pelekoudas, 1B - Bob Engel, 2B - Bruce Froemming, 3B - Jerry Dale, LF - Ed Sudol, RF - Ed Vargo.
Time of Game: 2:48.
Attendance: 53,967
The Internet
Questions to consider:
> In todays game with the use of replay would things have gone differently? How so?
> Was Chub Feeneys solution to the problem a good one?
> Should Rose have been tossed from the game after the fight?
> Should they have thrown out both Rose and Harrelson after the fight?
> Should the ban on Pete Rose be lifted and should he be allowed into the Baseball Hall Of Fame?


  1. Nice work putting this together...I was 15 that summer of 73...remember being lost in last place thru July, wondering if they would ever start playing again. They had some September...I've never been to a Mets post-season game, been to Shea numerous time though...guess I was like most kids at that age, a lot of wants, and never enough money...I still love this 1973 team. Thanks for posting this page...