Sunday, August 10, 2014

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

Bud Harrelson jokes around before game 4 of the 1973 NLCS

Game 4 of the National League Championship Series was on Tuesday October 9th, 1973 at Shea Stadium.

The Mets only needed to win one more playoff game and we were going to the World Series. We had two chances to do it.

New York  was buzzing about the fight in game three.
Pete Rose meant to pump up his team but instead he pumped up the city, and pumped it up good.

Mets fans continued their barrage of anger at Rose before and during the game, this time with our more normal flair for banners of which we were well known. Overall Shea was well behaved and Pete Rose played left wearing a batting helmet for his own protection.

In the left field corner we got on Rose at some points. Just for the sake of it. There was no more throwing of objects, but we weren't letting up on Pete vocally. He heard us. Unfortunately he fed off such stuff. He'd look up, wave, and smile.

The Mets had George Stone on the hill to start game four. Stone was a nice surprise for Mets fans. He came over from the Atlanta Braves and gave us some excellent pitching in 1973.
mfc '74 Felix Millan

mfc '72 Gary Gentry
The Mets got Stone in one of the best trades the team ever made. New York sent Gary Gentry and Danny Frisella to Atlanta for the left-hander.

And he wasn't even the main piece in the deal. The Mets primarily wanted Felix Millan, an all-star second baseman who would serve the team well for many years at second base. And they got him and did one better with George Stone.

mfc '74 George Stone
I felt very confident with Stone on the mound. He didn't lose a game in the September stretch run going 5-0. Imagine a Metropolitan team where you had complete confidence in all four of your starters in the post season. We had this during the tail end of the '73 season. Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, Stone. They weren't firing on all pistons the entire season but when they came together in the second half we marched up the division.
mfc '74 Ray Sadecki
mfc '71 McAndrew

 Ray Sadecki, Harry Parker and even Jim McAndrew picked up 5th slot spot starts during the long season. Both Sadecki and Parker did admirably. Harry Parker even more so out of the bullpen.
Harry Parker

But those four: Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, Stone....
no N.L. team had it better in the fall of 1973.

mfc '73 NLCS Game 4- #1

New York drew first blood in game four. Reds starter Fred Norman was perfect until he began the 3rd inning by walking Don Hahn. One out later he walked the pitcher Stone. Norman was able to get Wayne Garrett to pop up for out # 2 but he could not contain Felix Millan. The slappy second baseman lined a single to left and Hahn came around to score the games first run.

               Stone started off the game in fine style, retiring the first 9 Cincinnati Reds to face him. Pete Rose led off the 4th with a single but was soon erased in a 4-6-3 double play that ended the inning.

The Mets lefty hit a few bumps in the 5th and again a double play bailed him out. Stone settled down and got the Reds 1-2-3 in the 6th but with one out in the 7th Cincinnati's Tony Perez tagged him for a solo homer that tied the game at 1-1.
mfc '73 NLCS Game 4- #2

Stone would make way for Tug McGraw who closed out the 7th inning. The game was deadlocked as the Reds had pulled starter Fred Norman to open the 6th and Don Gullett was now on the mound matching goose eggs with McGraw through the 6th, 7th and 8th innings.

After the 8th it occurred to me that this thing could end very suddenly with a walkoff in the bottom of the 9th. Tug was on the mound and I just knew he wasn't going to give in.
Where I sat^

Considering this I realized I didn't want to be up here in the corner of the mezzanine level when it happened. I wanted to be down there, in field box. I wanted to be part of it, celebrate on the field like they did back in '69. 
mfc '70- 69 WS Celebration

I told my friend of my plan to move down to box, or at least try. I knew my way around Shea. I knew the best ways to move down for later inning box seats during the seasonal games. But this was the post season. There were police all over the place as well as extra ushers. I didn't know if we would make it or not but I knew I had to try. I told Patrick not to worry, that the worst scenario was we would have to return to our seats.

Turned out it was easy, just like during the season.

The infamous right field ramp.
I always used the same ramp when moving down. This ramp led to the little corner of the stadium by the Mets bullpen where my friends and I used to sneak in to games when we couldn't afford tickets. From there it was a short walk to the standing room only area in right field.

I knew there was no real logic to this but I had never gotten busted going down that ramp. And I moved down a lot (there were no fences and gates separating levels back then). Other ramps were always a risk for some reason and many times I was turned back. Never in the right field corner. 

So we trekked the distance around Shea's outer innards at a jog, hit the ramp and headed down at a fast pace. I told Pat the secret was to look like you knew what you are doing. I don't know how a 15 yr old does that, but I did then. And I needn't have bothered. There was no resistance. All eyes in that stadium were glued on the game.

We arrived in the standing room area, watching and waiting for a break in the action. Then we flowed from the concourse into field box as others flowed out to the concessions. I knew if we just roamed around we would get busted by an usher, so I headed down the first isle we encountered and went half way down to the rail.

Approximately where I ended up (circle)
There was no chance that we'd find two empty seats down here in a playoff game. Concrete slabs formed stairs in these box field sections, and I stopped my buddy Pat and said,"Let's sit here." And I'm sure he must have gone "WHA!?", but we did. Sat down right there, single file, a few slabs apart. I was hoping if we didn't get in anyone's way no one would bother us.

Fortunately no one was going anywhere if they could avoid it, especially during New York at bats. This was a 1-1 tie in the 9th inning of a playoff game. We were all in this together now. In no time at all I was talking with the guy in the seat next to me like I knew him forever.

mfc '73 NLCS Game 4- #3
More fans were moving down to box from above and soon there were kids filling in the empty spaces throughout field level. A good number wanted to be part of the scene should the Mets win the game. In game 5 this would become a major issue, but in game 4 the amount of kids who came down was not as ridiculous a number.

 So there I sat in the isle, and that is how I came to sit there, and this is why I had such an amazin' view of Rusty Staubs great game saving catch.

mfc '74 Rusty Staub
I've said this before about Rusty in this series, and I want to stress it again. Staub was charged up. He wanted to be in a world series, just like any ballplayer would, but being this close to the achievement spurred his drive and determination. He felt great at the plate and was ready to go. And as far as he was concerned, nothing was going to drop in out in right field.

I don't recall hearing him say anything about being extra pumped up, but you could just see it.  

Besides his actual playing performance (he only had 3 hits, but all were home runs, driving in five during the first 3 games) you could see Staub hustling around the bases, gunning the ball back to the infield, and going out of his way to back up plays with gusto. When the Mets were at bat he went up and down the dugout making like a cheerleader, keeping everyone loose. Rusty was as electric as the atmosphere at Shea.

Staub made a very nice catch earlier in the game. If I recall correctly pinch hitter and ex-Metropolitan Larry Stahl hit it, a deep drive that Rusty corralled with a nice over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track. While gliding back the right fielder took one peek to see where the outfield wall was. He had plenty of room and after the grab came to rest up against the plexiglass partitioned bullpen barrier.  
Rusty came off the field to a rousing ovation.

Ace reliever Tug McGraw was still on for New York. He took over with two out in the 7th and stayed on for a 1-2-3 eighth.
The New & Improved mfc '74 Tug McGraw

In the 9th Tug ran into trouble right off the bat as Pete Rose led off with a single. Joe Morgan then attempted a bunt but he couldn't get it past the Mets reliever. McGraw thought he could get Rose, and that was a mistake. Both were safe and McGraw was charged with an error.

                 After getting Tony Perez to pop out Tug pitched around Johnny Bench and walked him to fill the bases with Redstockings. He then got Andy Kosko with a HUGE strikeout and handcuffed Denis Menke, who popped out to Wayne Garrett at third to end the 9th. Crisis averted.

bfc '74 Don Gullett
Leading off the bottom of the 9th for the Mets Felix Millan stroked his second single of the game but got no further as Staub, Jones, and Milner were retired by Reds lefty Don Gullett.

I'd rather not, but I will note that Gullet also pitched four magnificently crucial innings for the Reds, holding the Mets to no runs on two hits during his stint.

As Tug took the mound again in the 10th I was worried if he had enough left in the tank. It's rare thing to feel worried when McGraw was on the mound. But it's not rare for a Mets fan to worry. This was his third inning of work in this game and he was awfully shaky in the 9th.

bfc '74 Pete Rose
He was no better in the 10th. McGraw again loaded the bases, this time mixing in a wild pitch and an intentional walk between outs. The wild pitch put a Red in scoring position. The free pass assured that Pete Rose would not drive it in. And that was good because the one Reds player we fans didn't want to beat us at this point was Rose.

bfc '71 Tony Perez
    McGraw now had Joe Morgan to contend with, and Tug tried to keep the ball away from the all-star second baseman, walking him as well.

     Tony Perez came to the plate with the bases juiced and 2 outs. Perez's 7th inning homer was still a fresh image in my mind and I detected sweat on my brow. But McGraw got him, having him pop out to Staub in right. Another crisis averted. 

In the bottom of the 10th Reds reliever Clay Carroll was in to pitch for the Reds. He set Grote, Hahn, and Harrelson down in order and things were getting tense.

Tug came out to pitch the 11th and I thought Yogi was pushing it now. The Mets ace reliever was not at his dominating best and had been struggling. After he got Johnny Bench to roll over for a grounder to Garrett at third, Tug surrendered back to back singles to Andy Kosko and Denis Menke. It was first and third with only one out.
After retiring Reds centerfielder Cesar Geronimo, McGraw needed one more out to get out of this jam. He knew it was his last inning. His spot was due up to lead off the 12th. Tug reared back and went after the Reds Dan Driessen with everything he had left. It wasn't much.

Driessen crushed Tugs 3rd pitch and launched it to deep right center. Off the bat I thought this one was gone. It was hit so high. But that's what enabled Staub to do what he did.

MFC All-Time Mets Set-Rusty Staub
Staub took off for the warning track like a mighty wind was pushing him, almost tripping over his own feet. Somehow he remained steady, tracking the shot and picking up speed as he went. He never took his eyes off the ball this time. Staub knew the wall was there, and how close he was to it, but it didn't matter. That ball was not going to drop.

He was going full tilt when he caught it, and with no time to brace himself he smashed violently into the outfield wall.

From where I was sitting I could see the force with which he struck that wall, and it was unbelievable. I was a bit above ground level and from my vantage point I had a perfect view. He hit the wall solid, at full speed, so hard that it rippled- no exaggeration- I could see the full length of the top of the outfield wall- and it rippled out from the area of impact. The wooden wave carried in both directions, and I could see the vibrations carry almost all the way to the 396 sign in deep center.
Shea erupted in both joy and dismay.
mfc '73 NLCS Game 4- #5
Rusty collapsed at the foot of the wall and lay motionless. In my memory he was down for a while, but in the MFC card above you can see Don Hahn got there pretty fast and is helping him up.
Yet again, a crisis averted in game four.

If you thought Rusty got a big ovation for the nice catch he made earlier, that was nothing. The Mets right fielder eventually got up and jogged in to the dugout, and the entire stadium stood and cheered wildly, saluting his fearless effort. It possibly saved the game and the pennant. The catch was humungous. But it would cost us, and the cost was almost as big.
Shea was still hummin' when the Reds came to bat in the 12th. Everyone was talking about the catch. Was Rusty hurt? How bad?
He looked fine coming off the field but I did see him grimace at one point, just for an instant. The way I saw him smash against that wall there was no way he could not have gotten hurt.

mfc '73 Harry Parker
I was yakkin' so much with the folks around me that I didn't notice at first that Harry Parker was in to pitch for New York. I liked Harry. He put in some masterful performances in relief during the season. I felt that Parker could hold the Reds for another four innings if he had to. I really did.

But my bubble burst pretty quickly.

I had just pretty much calmed down from witnessing Rusty rob Driessen when Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Sr. flew out to Cleon in left for the first out of the 12th inning.
I relaxed and craned my neck to see who was up next.

Pete Rose. Batting lefty, his more powerful side. But I really didn't feel Rose was a home run threat. I knew he took Seaver out in game one of the series but that was his once in a blue moon home run. Rose was a slap hitter if there ever was one.

mfc '73 NLCS Game 4- #6
And what does he do?

He gets hold of a Parker pitch and parks it under the scoreboard in right.

Staub ran back for Rose's rocket and for a second it looked like he would scale the wall to get the ball this time. But it was too far gone and all Rusty could do was lean up against the 'lil green monster that damaged his throwing arm and hang his head. The stadium fell silent.

Pete ran around the bases holding his arm up with a pronounced fist pump that was nothing but a big fuck you to the Shea faithful who had hounded him ever since he took a fist to one of our own.

And I just know that he must have been tempted to complete the gesture, and actually flip us the bird, but thought better of it.

If I ever meet Pete I'll have to ask him.
mfc '73 NLCS Game 4- #7

I'll tell you this much. Rose beat us. He beat the team and the crowd. He beat us on the field with his bat. That's the way it's done. There would be no more yelling at Rose in this NLCS to inform him that he was a bum. From now on we were no longer going to feed that little red machine the fuel that just makes him excel all the more. And in that sense, Pete Rose had regained our respect.

bfc '74 Pedro Borbon
So now the Shea crowd had gone from buzzing to bumming. Parker got the next two outs but Rose had sucked all the life out of us. We tried to re-group- we had the heart of the line-up batting in the bottom of the 12th. Rose's homer was just a cheap solo shot. We were still in this!

But we weren't and we knew it. We couldn't get up any steam. Pedro Borbon (the Mets cap muncher) set New York down quickly in order to end the game.

Odd to say that it felt right, that Pete Rose (who I figured would be a shoe-in for the hall of fame some day) should mummify the crowd and kick us in the collective nutz, taking the series to a fifth and final game where the winner would take all the marbles.

1973 N.L.C.S. Game 4- Boxscore & play by play.
 Game Information:
Tuesday, October 9, 1973, Shea Stadium
Attendance: 50,786, Time of Game: 3:07
HP - Bob Engel, 1B - Bruce Froemming, 2B - Jerry Dale, 3B - Ed Sudol, LF - Ed Vargo, RF - Chris Pelekoudas.
Time of Game: 3:07


Coming August 22nd:
1973 N.L.C.S. Mets vs Reds GAME 5


  1. I can't tell you how badly I want those '73 playoff cards in my Reds binders. Excellent job as always!

  2. I don't like cards with a landscape orientation and I prefer the ones you make not to break the borders. But man, that '74 Rose one is a sweet card. Well done!

    1. Thanks Brian.
      For me it's all about the picture. I let the photo tell me how to lay it out.
      I think going "outside the lines" is becoming a signature of my stuff. I only do it when it best suits the player image: getting as much of the photo as possible on to the card.
      It's all about the photo.