Gil's passing was a shock to the entire world of sports. Us Mets fans felt it the hardest. Hodges had taken us so far. And he had more to do. It wasn't supposed to end this way. Gil was gone.
A very sad time in Mets history. Most definitely one of the saddest.
New York would play the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 15th, 1972, the first time the Mets took on a defending World Champion to start the season.
The seasons start was delayed due to a player strike. This was my first experience with such things. It was short and with the loss of Hodges it became a nice cushion between the shock and the season. The eventful news that Yogi would be taking the helm and that the team had traded for Rusty Staub came down during the delay.
After going 0-8 on opening day since their inception, the Mets had now run off three opening day wins in a row ('70,'71 and '72). Tom would go six innings to start the season, allowing 5 hits and striking out six.
Tug McGraw came on in relief, pitched the 3 final innings and earned the save.
Speaking of Tugger, this an observation worthy of note:
McGraw relieved Seaver to start off the 7th. The Mets were up 4-0 and he was scheduled to lead off for the 8th inning.
Tug went all three innings to get the save, as the rules stipulated. He didn't allow a hit and struck out 3.
In his one at bat, leading off the 8th, he singled.
1) Bud Harrelson would lead off the season at short in 1972.
On this opening day in 1972 Buddy had one hit. He singled and stole a base in the 5th and was left stranded on 2nd. His sac bunt in the 7th moved Tug McGraw into scoring position.
2) Ken Boswell will bat second and play second.
Bozz had a rough start in '72 and never quite recovered. He was benched a number of times and even a late season surge couldn't get his average past .211.
The thing I remember most about Ken was his sideburns. I thought as soon as I can I'm going to grow sideburns like that!
It's forty years later and I still can't grow sideburns like that :(
To start the 1972 season Boswell went oh for 4.
3) Tommie Agee batted third and played centerfield.
Tommie reached twice to open the season. He singled, walked and stole a base.
4) Rusty Staub:
I liked Foli but if he wanted to be a starting shortstop it was going to be somewhere else. And he wanted to and he went and did become a good one.
These were three fine players who would go on to have fine careers. I did ponder if it was worth it.
I had seen Staub play before, knew a little about him. His numbers were very impressive on Monteal. It didn't take long for Staub to allay my fears and forget those departed. Rusty was a vital force who played with a boyish enthusiasm that was contagious. He took right field and made it his. This was new. An every day right fielder who was a proven all-star still in his prime at 28 years old.
In his first official at bat as a Met Rusty singled, starting a second inning rally that plated 2 runs. He was walked intentionally in his second plate appearance, flew out and grounded out his remaining two at bats.
5) Cleon Jones:
After hitting .319 in 1971, '72 was an injury riddled season for Jones, limiting him to 106 games. He hit a dismal .245. Cleon was a hitter though. No offensive player was more important to the Mets in their first dozen years than Cleon Jones. I figured he would bounce back in '73.
Cleon singled in the second and scored on a Kranepool sac fly. He also struck out twice and popped out.
6) Jim Fregosi:
Jim Fregosi started off hot for the Mets. The whole team got off to one of their best starts ever. They played .500 ball in April and then an 11 game winning streak in May found them ahead of the pack. By June 1st the Mets were in first place with a 5 game lead. Fregosi was batting .280 at the end of May. By the end of July it his average was .230. It stayed around there and by the end of August, Fregosi wasn't even starting at third. Good 'ol Wayne Garrett was back in.
R.I.P. Jim Fregosi.
In Jim's first at bat as a New York Metropolitan he lined a double, driving home Rusty for the Mets first run of the season. A promising start for the new third baseman. He also walked and scored when...
7) Ed Kranepool:
...hit the Mets first Home run of the season on opening day.
Kranepool regarded Gil Hodges as the best manager he ever played for.
“Strategically, fundamentally, he was a sound manager, knew the game, taught you how to win,” Kranepool said. “If he would’ve continued and not passed away, we would’ve won more pennants.”
About new manager Yogi Berra, Kranepool mused, “Yogi was a great guy, fun-loving, well-liked by the players. Very easygoing, but not the leadership Gil Hodges had. The inmates can’t run the asylum.”
Kranepool homered and knocked in three against the world champion Pittsburgh Pirates on April 15, the strike-delayed Opening Day of 1972, but by mid-season, he was struggling (and platooning) again. He ended up batting .269 with New York finishing in third place.
Ed drove in a run in the 2nd inning with a sacrifice fly to left as well as going yard for 2 more ribbys in the 6th. In between he struck out once. Ed was the Schaefer player of the game.
8) Jerry Grote:
Grote started the '72 season as the Mets starting catcher. As the season wore on and Grote struggled Yogi Berra went more with backup catcher Duffy Dyer. Jerry had to have surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow in late September and only played in 64 games. Duffy would end up with 94.
Jerry pulled an 0 for 3 in the opener.
9) Tom Seaver:
But ever the professional, Seaver went to work, did his job, and headed to the showers a winning pitcher for his third opening day win in a row.
Which begs the question, why isn't it called the Seaver Spot?
Yikes! I have been remiss. I haven't made any Sadecki cards!
This special Golden Ticket is redeemable for a 1970, 1971 & 1972 Ray Sadecki fantazy card.
The header image is another forced collaboration with the great Peter Max. This time the just as great Bruce Stark joins us with his great portrait of Gil Hodges. Bill Gallo's fantastic Willie Mays portrait adorns the closing image.
>Ed Kranepool's entry was written by Tara Krieger for the SABR.
Baseball 2014 started today with the telecast of Mets spring training baseball. Did they win? Who cares, it's spring.
Travis d ripped a double, Ike homered on a curve, Jacob d and Montero looked fine, I learned there's a Mets player named Cesar Puello, almost nobody got hurt. A good day. Baseball's back baby!