Monday, November 17, 2014

1974 mfc/ '73 WORLD SERIES- A's vs. METS /Game 4

...................................................................wait for it.

Rusty's shoulder was just getting better when Mr. Met hit Staub with some card text. It was a setback, but La Grande Orange came to play and insisted on being in the line-up.
Of course, that's in Fantazyland. In real life Mr. Met didn't get a pogo stick until the very late 1970's.

Reality was a tense affair.
Sal Bando, A's team captain, discussing the Andrews fiasco with the press before game four.
Night in the city. 51 degrees and windy. 54,817 fans pack Shea Stadium. The Mets down two games to one. All the NY Press want to talk about is will Mike Andrews play?
Jon Matlack vs Ken Holtzman, both excellent southpaws, get the start.
With the wind chill it's bone cold.

 "I grew up pitching in this weather. We didn't see a lot of it this season, but it didn't bother me."
Mets starting pitcher Jon Matlack, a native of Westchester, Pa.

A's owner Charlie Finley was directly involved in every facet of team management from contracts and trades, uniform design, PR work (in his case,publicity stunts), the color of the urinal cakes in the stadium,...everything.
After the 1971 season he traded outfielder Rick Monday to the Cubs for Holtzman, an excellent move. Joining a staff that featured Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter, he won 19 games in 1972 (7th in the AL). In 1973 he was an All-Star, going 21–13 (4th-best in the AL) in 40 starts with 157 strikeouts. 40 starts and 297.1 innings!, an amazin' total. Over the next 33 years only two other left-handers had as many starts in a season.

Anyone know who those 2 lefties were?

New York got things started right away in their half of the first. Lead off batter Wayne Garrett started the game with his first hit in the series that wasn't a home run. He singled to right. Felix Millan followed with what was just a perfect bunt. He dropped at the last second and rolled one to Sal Bando at third, who seemed to have misplayed everything hit his way in this series.

With Mets on first and second Rusty Staub was coming up. I've mentioned times we wished Rusty was up but due to injury he wasn't, and what a loss that was. Staub showed us why such thinking was justified. With a bad shoulder that seriously impeded his batting, he was able to adjust and launch a high liner to left that cleared the bases in a single, one armed swing, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead after three men had come to the plate.

"I hit a fastball. I hit the ball perfectly so it could carry that way [to opposite field]. I knew the wind was gusting out there. I thought, though, that it would fall between the fielders.

 I was kind of surprised when it went over the fence. 
I was running as hard as I could because I wasn't sure it was out. 
It was the first ball I've hit out since the shoulder injury, and obviously, the wind helped." Rusty Staub after game four.
I love these kinds of diagrams. This one is trying really hard to show the trajectory that the ball went on it's way over the left field fence. Unfortunately, it looks more like a low liner to the warning track that Dick Green should have snagged.
The Mets, 11th in the National League in regular season homers, now had four World Series homers. The powerhitting A's had none.

"Even though we're not a team that plays for the big inning, the fact that we have no homers is important." 
                                                                      Manager Dick Williams
Rusty's blast was the beginning of the end for Ken Holtzman. The A's lefty was victorious in the first game of the series, but tonight he wouldn't get out of the first inning. After Staubs long ball Holtzman walked big John Milner, gave up a single to Jerry Grote, and was off to the warmer climes of the clubhouse showers.

In the fourth the Athletics tapped the Mets on the shoulder with a run, and in the bottom of the inning New York answered right back with a 3 run slap in the face. Staub drove in two more with a single. It could have been worse but an aggressive Jerry Grote was cut down at the plate to end the inning.

 Joe Rudi continued to do his thing, which fortunately (for the Mets) only involved playing a fine left field in game four. In the fifth inning Don Hahn got a hold of one and it looked to make it into the visiting bullpen for a homer, or at worst, off the wall for extra bases.

 But Rudi had this habit of getting between balls and walls, and as he did in the 1972 World Series, he went up against it and put some leather in the way.

It's deja vu all over again!


Ya know, I could write a whole post about the Oakland Athletics owner, Charlie O. Finley. What a character of the game. Sometimes a brilliant innovator, sometimes a complete jackass, the old coot influenced baseball in more ways than you know.

In 1967 Charlie's Kansas City A's (they moved to Oakland at the end of 1967) internal workings were rumbling. It started with an incident on a A's team flight, some maligned discipline, and ended with Finley firing his manager Alvin Dark (RIP). 

One of the teams best hitters, Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, was quoted saying "Finley is a menace to baseball". Hawk was unconditionally released. Harrelson was immediately snatched up by the first place Boston Red Sox, signing for $75,000.

The ramifications of Harrelson's free agency so disturbed major league owners that they amended the rules so that, in the future, a released player had to pass through waivers before becoming a free agent.

Flash forward to 1973. Although it wasn't official, it was no secret that Dick Williams would be quitting as manager of the Oakland Athletics due to the owners harsh treatment of his veteran 2nd baseman after game 2 of the World Series.

 You've read in game two and game three what Mike Andrews went through. 
He would return to pinch hit in game four of the '73 series to a standing ovation at Shea. Mets fans loved underdogs. This story almost trumped the New York games themselves, and did in some circles.

  Andrews grounded out and the ovation continued as he came off the field. It would be his last major league at bat.

 Unbelievably the very next year yet another player relations nightmare dominated the 1974 post-season. This time it involved not a backup infielder but the contract of a 25-game winner, Jim "Catfish" Hunter.

Card from WhenToppsHad(Base)Balls

In January 1974, Hunter had signed a two-year contract for a salary of $100,000 per year. The arrangement included a wrinkle: half his salary was to be paid into a life insurance fund as a form of deferred payment.

Hunter had a great season in 1974, receiving both The Sporting News's "Pitcher of the Year" award and the American League Cy Young Award after going 25–12 with a league leading 2.49 earned run average. The A's also won their third consecutive World Series.

 On the day before the '74 World Series began in Los Angeles, the story broke that Finley had not paid the mandated $50,000 to the insurance company, even after receiving written notice in mid-September. Hunter reportedly planned to ask for his release from his contract as soon as the 1974 World Series was over. Like Dick Williams the year before, he had had enough.

Finley, obviously more worried than he admitted, went into the clubhouse with American League President Lee McPhail to present Hunter with a check for the amount due. Hunter refused to accept the check and told Finley that they would discuss it after the Series was over.

Hunter's statistics while he was with the Athletics were impressive: four consecutive years with at least 20 wins, and in World Series play he was undefeated at 4-0.

Catfish @ Shea!
After a month of rumors in the press, a hearing was held on November 26 in New York City in front of arbitrator Peter Seitz. On December 13, 1974 Seitz found for Hunter and declared him a free agent.

Catfish's first, personal reaction was fear. After years of being one of Charlie O's head of cattle, he said to his wife,"We don't belong to anybody now."

 The baseball world went berserk--never before had a player of Hunter's caliber been available to the highest bidder at the height of his career. A three-week bidding war ensued among nearly every team in baseball.

The Yankees landed Hunter with a five-year deal totaling $3.75 million, more than three times the annual rate for the top stars in the game. The players could not help but notice what they could make on the free market. Baseball would never be the same.

How ironic that it was Charlie O's stinginess and stubbornness that would play a part in the upward explosion of player salaries.

And that's just one story. 
Also a great read about ol' Charlie O. here at  Roger Launius's Blog.

I'll have some more to say about Mr. Finley. He was just such a brilliantly insane person.

"I learned a little about the A's in game one and I used it to my advantage tonight."  Matlack considered this game more important than the opener, which he lost in a close contest, 2-1.  
"We were down two games to one going into this game and would have been just about out of it with a loss."

Jon was right and the Mets would win to even up the series at two games a piece. 

Rusty Staub had such a great game four. It was really a pleasure to see, although I didn't see very much of the game at the time. I was up a tree outside Shea. I could see a part of the field but that was about it. I don't even think I stayed til the end. It really was freezing up there in the wind. I'm pretty sure I headed home after the 3 run 4th.

"Under the circumstances, my performance was unbelievably satisfying. When you've been playing in the big leagues for about  11 years and always wanted to play in a World Series, well, this is a great, great feeling."
 So this game turned out to be a much needed semi-blowout. Factor in Jon Matlack firing on all cylinders and you can remove the semi.

Rusty Staub, playing more on adrenalin than anything and batting at about 60% of his potential, goes 4 for 4 and drives in 5! Imagine what Rusty could have done,...would have done, if he was a  100% healthy...

In Fantazyland we get to find out.

Okay, this might be pushing it...

I should probably save the crazy insane alternate universe fantazy cards for when we need a win.


 Segments of the section about Charlie Finley were written by Mark Armour. of the SABR

Jim Catfish Hunter "Nicknames of the 70's" card-  from  Giovanni Balistreri's excellent card blog  When Topps Had (Base) Balls.