Friday, March 31, 2017

1974mfc/'73 WORLD SERIES-A's vs. METS/Game 7

The story of the series so far, 
told with the aid of the 73 mfc WS fantazy Fleer sticker back collection:  
(Links to full pages on each game provided)
GAME 1:  
Oakland Coliseum / October 13, 1973
 Felix Millan's  3rd inning error costs Jon Matlack and New York the game as they lose to the A's, 2-1.

GAME 2:  
                                                                                                                                                    Oakland Coliseum / October 14, 1973
In an extra inning nail-biter A's second baseman Mike Andrews trumps Millan, making two crucial errors in the 12th inning, leading to a 10-7 Mets win . 

 Shea Stadium / October 16, 1973
In another extra inning affair Mets catcher Jerry Grote's passed ball allows the A's to capture game three.

...wait for it!
GAME 4: 
Shea Stadium / October 17, 1973 
Jon Matlack was majestic and Rusty Staub led the offensive charge as the Mets beat the A's 6-1, evening up the series at 2 games a piece.

 GAME 5: 
Shea Stadium / October 18, 1973 
Jerry Koosman, big game pitcher, tames Oakland and wins the big game, like he always did in the post season.

                                                                                                                                                           GAME 6:
             Oakland Coliseum / October 20, 1973
Reggie Jackson finally comes alive and makes some noise with his bat as opposed to his mouth. Jax would lead the A's past the Mets 3-1.

Oakland Coliseum / October 21, 1973

And that brings us to game seven of the 1973 World Series, the ultimate showdown in sports. This was the 70th World Series in MLB history. It was the 23rd World Series to go to 7 games.

As far as the pressure goes, I wasn't worried about these Mets. The '73 NLCS went the full five games and New York beat out the Big Red Machine. Like Reggie Jackson, I thought the Reds were a better team than the Mets. I also thought Cincinnati was better than Oakland, and we beat the Reds. So we were gonna beat the A's. There's some baseball logic for ya.

The Athletics had become World Champs a year before by winning a game 7. They also would not be intimidated. No matter how it played out, this was going to be an excellent game.

Well, that's how I felt going in.

Yogi's plan to take the series in six games by using Seaver the day before did not pan out. Tom didn't have his good stuff. But the Mets were still in great shape in the pitching department. In game 7 he would go with Jon Matlack who pitched so superbly in games 1 & 4.

Once again Berra passed over starting pitcher George Stone, who had pitched so well down the stretch for the Mets. Many will hang this around Yogi's neck like an albatross in the years to come, but I didn't. As good as George Stone was, as a die hard Mets fan I did not yet consider him part of the inner core of the teams pitching. Not due to anything he did, but more because he was the new kid in town. I had known Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack for some time now. I had complete faith in them. All three should have been Rookies Of The Year, and two of them did indeed win the award.

I don't have to tell you all Tom Terrific has accomplished up to that point in his career. Koosman was an experienced post season player who was on the mound in '69 when New York won it all. This was Matlack's first time to the big show (and it would unfortunately be his last) but his performances through-out 1972 & '73 showed him to be one of the best southpaws in the game.

Stone was very good in 1973 but in my eyes he was a supporting player. That was my mistake. I don't know exactly how Yogi perceived him, but it was his reluctance to use Stone as a starter at all that may have been his mistake. We'll never really know. As I've said in retrospect it's easy to second guess. But we had Seaver, Koosman, & Matlack.

The most amazing thing for me about this series was that the Mets had not allowed a home run to Oaklands powerful lineup. New York had smacked 4 dingers. Rusty and Cleon had one each and Wayne Garrett had two.

On the field before the game, Mets relief ace Tug McGraw approached A's relief ace Rollie Fingers and said," If we don't win, I hope you do."

 The game started late that Sunday. A late afternoon game scheduled for after the football games at half past four. It was another beautiful day at the Oakland Coliseum. The place was packed to the gills with 49,333 in attendance.

Things started off well enough for the Mets. Jon Matlack was again looking masterful in the first and second inning. A's starter Ken Holtzman was throwing darts, only allowing 1 hit through three.

One thing a Mets fan is very familiar with is the feeling of doom. It's only baseball doom, but none the less, it's doom. The feeling starts in your stomach and works its way up your body. Your heart starts to sink a bit. Lil' bit. Next it reaches your arms and you just hope no ones sitting next to you. It never gets to the brain, because then you could process it. So it goes up your body until it reaches your mouth and and then you scream something like, "Oh shit, we're done!".

On Sunday October 21, 1973 it happened in the 3rd inning, seventh game of the World Series. At the time I could not remember the last time I felt this kind of doom following the Mets. It may well have been the very first time because the Mets weren't doing to much between 1970 and 1973. I had never experienced a game where so much was at stake. I mean, where EVERYTHING was at stake. In 1986 I experienced this doom prematurely in game 6, which made the ball through Buckner's legs such a rush of an experience.

So here in 1973, I slowly began to feel this feeling of doom for the first time with my Mets. Aside from a walk to Joe Rudy in the opening frame Jon Matlack was pitching great. He had two strikeouts and his first batter in the 3rd, Dick Green, K'd leading off. And then the wheels fell off. We've all seen many pitchers wheels come off, but this was so quick and unexpected, it has to be one of the worst ones in my book.
The A's pitcher Ken Holtzman was up. We learned Holtzman could hit in game one when he slapped a double to left. Did Jon Matlack forget? I doubt it. He just ran out of gas earlier than anyone expected, including him. Matlack tried to beat Holtz inside and the tall pitcher turned on it, roping a drive down the left field line for a double. 

 I mentioned how the Mets had amazingly held Oakland to no home runs. If they had continued this and won game 7 (maybe even if they continued it and lost as well) this would have been historic. Has there been a 7 game World Series without a home run being hit by one of the two teams? I mean since the days of the Babe and the livelier ball?

Well, any dreams of the Mets making any kind of history were dashed by that little gnat Bert Campaneris. I shouldn't call him names, he was a great player, but I'm still a little upset about it, even today. Lil' bit. Campy's not supposed to hit home runs! And he breaks the homer-less streak! Back then there weren't issues like steroids (in baseball, as far as I knew). But there were corked bats and I was lividly yelling at the TV to check that bat for cork. I was ignored.

Well, a record for holding the mighty A's to no long balls would have been nice, but it was only a 2 run shot. The Mets were going to have to score to win and 2 runs was nothin'. I wasn't about to start feeling like...CRACK! A's outfielder Joe Rudi ripped a single to center. Uh-oh, there's that feeling in my stomach. But I was easily able to keep it from going up my body. I stifled it.  It helped that Matlack got Sal Bando to pop out. This brought up Reggie Jackson, the Goliath who had awoken in game 6. One more out Jon. You can do it. Keep it a 2 run deficit. Don't give in. Reggie got lucky yesterday- 

He wasn't quite Mr. October yet. That wasn't the case until his fantastic performance in the 1977 World Series.
Reggie launched his first home run of the series, another two run job. I went from hope to doom in the time it took between the crack of the bat and Yogi's trip to the mound.

Jackson's joyful leap at home did not help matters much. With me it went: stomach,heart, arms, mouth-*%^@$&*# YOU REGGIE JACKSON! Jon Matlack would not get through 3 innings! Woe was me and all National League New York fans. The feeling of impending doom had not yet fully manifested. We can get four across the plate.
And we could hold them to four.

Yogi called on right hand reliever Harry Parker, who had a very nice season out of the pen for the Mets in '73. Parker won the Mets John J. Murphy award for his excellent performance in spring training.  Without his contributions we would not be where we were. That was the thing about the 1973 Mets squad. Everyone was in on the act. All made a difference. And they had made it to the very end of the road. After a free pass to Gene Tenace, Parker got pinch hitter Vic Davalillo to pop out to center and end the inning. But Matlack only lasted a few innings and this was a major downer.

A Jerry Grote single was wasted in the 5th as Holtzman continued to control the New York offense. He scattered three hits through five innings and the Mets couldn't put anything together. Cleon Jones misplayed a Bert Campaneris single into a double. Before Ray Sadecki could settle down Joe Rudy liined another base hit and drove him in making the score 5-0 Oakland.

I was almost out of hope. I believed in comebacks. I believed in the team, like Tug told us to. But my heart felt heavy. Each inning sucked more hope out of me until I was left a husk of a fan. I wasn't quite there yet though.

Felix Millan was having a dismal series. The All Star second baseman was only batting .179 coming in to this game and committed the error that lost game one. With one out in the 6th Felix roped a looper that perfectly split the gap in left-center and pulled in with a stand up double for the Mets fourth hit. He was only the second Met runner to reach second base in the game.

Rusty Staub had an excellent series, especially with the fact that he was injured throughout. In game one he was announced as a pinch hitter, but never batted. So the record has him playing in all seven games. He did start game two, still all banged up from his collision with the wall in the NLCS, and it wasn't promising as he looked visually hampered at the plate and had one hit, a single, in five at bats.
Returning to New York charged Rusty up. He smacked two hits including a double in game three. Then in game four he broke loose going four for four with a three run homer in the first. He had five RBI by games end. Staub peaked there but still contributed another two hits and a walk before the start of game seven. And in the deciding game Staub had two hits, a single and double, and wrapped the series with a very respectful .423 batting average. No other New York player came anywhere near his 11 total hits. Rusty slugged .615! Only one other player had driven in 6 runs, series MVP Reggie Jackson. La Grande Orange led all regular players with his .464 on base percentage.

Staub would get the last RBI for a Metropolitan in 1973. New York would score again, an unearned run in the 9th. And that was it. My Mets lost game seven by the score of 5-2.

The 1973 World Series was really a great one for Mets fans. At least I felt that way. Some might not agree, because we lost, but we had taken it to seven games. A fan couldn't possibly get anymore baseball out of it's team. We would contend in the very last major league baseball game of  '73. This was much more than we ever expected at the all star break. We weren't even sniffing post season baseball at that point.

1973 was a special season that made me the Mets fan that I am. I knew then that I would never quit on this team. Because they never quit on us.

How depressing I have to show these celebratory photos of not the Mets.

Willie Mays in the clubhouse after the game: "The only thing I'm sad about is I'm not gonna play anymore."

Tug McGraw: "I believed until the final out. If we had to lose I'm glad we lost to some super relief pitching. We saw relief pitching at it's best."

A's 2nd baseman Dick Green: "It's time to quit."

A's 3rd baseman Sal Bando: "If we play up to our capabilities, we'll win the World Series the next three or four years."

The Oakland Athletics made history in 1973 by becoming the first team ever to win back-to-back 7-game World Series, and are still the only team ever to accomplish that feat.

Bert Campaneris, who won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award (The Babe Ruth variation). Reggie Jackson won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award (Sport Magazine variation).

"I got nothing."


I know one Mets fan who is going to say,
"It's about freakin' time!"

1 comment:

  1. "It's about freakin' time!"
    Oh no they lost, Lol
    looking forward to the Mets in 2017
    and celebrating the past with your sight and of course seeing
    your versions of the classic Topps of the 70's & 80's.

    Patrick S