Saturday, September 13, 2014

1974 mfc/ '73 WORLD SERIES- A's vs. METS/Game 1

A 1980 mfc fleerstickerback

1973 New York Mets Fantazy Team Picture
1973 was a wacky year for the Mets. After finishing in 3rd place in 1971 & '72, I wasn't expecting much from the team.

Even with the addition of Rusty Staub and Felix Millan I figured I was looking at another 3rd place finish. Maybe second. Good for 80- 85 wins, like the two preceding seasons. I don't know why I was so
pessimistic. With our pitching I should have been more confident, but I wasn't feeling it. I was totally amazed when the team made its run and ended up in the World Series.

I was wrong and yet I was right. In an N.L. East full of struggling teams the Mets made a run and succeeded in grabbing the pennant with 82 wins, the lowest amount by any divisional winner in a full season. Wacky stuff.

Now the Oakland Athletics, on the other hand, were another story. They were the defending World Series Champions. I become somewhat familiar with them from watching the 1972 playoffs and World Series.

The Mets/Reds weren't the first teams to get into a fight in a divisional championship series .  
 From Wikipedia: 
The year before the Athletics played in the 1972 American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. One of the Series' most memorable moments came in the seventh inning of Game 2.

Oakland's Bert Campaneris was known for being a scrappy shortstop. Drafted in 1961, he became the A's regular shortstop in 1964. He hit a home run on the first MLB pitch he ever saw! In 1965 he became the first player in MLB history to play all nine positions during one game. 

In the 1972 ALCS Bert led the attack on the Detroit Tigers.

 Campy already had three hits, two steals and two runs scored when he faced pitcher Lerrin LaGrow in the 7th inning of game 2.

Tiger manager Billy Martin ordered a hit on Campy. After the pitch popped him in the ankle, Campaneris staggered for a moment, glared at LaGrow and then flung his bat toward the mound. 
The bat spiraled five feet off the ground like an errant helicopter blade, flying towards LaGrow's head, but the pitcher ducked and the bat narrowly missed him. The benches cleared, with Detroit manager Billy Martin going after Campaneris with a vengeance.

Both Campaneris and LaGrow were ejected. The two players were fined and suspended for the rest of the ALCS, as well as the first seven games of the next season, but Campy was permitted to play in the 1972 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

 The early 70's Oakland A's possessed a formidable lineup headed by  Reggie Jackson.

Reggie did not play in the World Series the year before due to a serious injury he suffered in the 1972 ALCS. Their series with the Tigers went five games, and Jackson scored the tying run in the clincher on a steal of home. In the process, however, he tore a hamstring and was unable to play in the World Series.

But I had heard about him, and was well aware of his legendary home run in the 1971 All Star Game.

His numbers (.293, 32 HR, 117 RBI, 22 stolen bases) would net him the A.L. MVP Award for his 1973 season.
Reggie changed with the times

 Jackson was joined in the lineup by standouts like third baseman Sal Bando, the fine defensive outfielder Joe Rudi, the speedy hotheaded shortstop Bert Campaneris, and the A's catcher and 1972 World Series hero, Gene Tenace.

Tenace's performance in the '72 World Series caught my eye and my imagination. He became the first player ever to hit two home runs in his first two World Series at bats. He would go on to smack out 4 dingers in the series. This was the stuff of childhood fantasies. I remember thinking who the hell is this guy? And that's something I've always loved about the post season. Even little guys, even obscure and unknown players, could rise up and be counted, make a difference, and be remembered.

 Another thing I wouldn't forget: Joe Rudy's great catch on the wall in the ninth inning of game two. The As had a 2-0 lead and that grab would help keep it that way. Always a fan of the glove, I especially enjoy big catches in big games.

The A's pitching was as strong & maybe even better than the Mets, with three solid 20 game winners in 1973.

Jim "Catfish" Hunter (21–5),Vida Blue (20–9), and Ken Holtzman (21–13) led a powerful rotation.

 Their bullpen was deeper. Rollie Fingers (22 saves, 1.92 ERA) and his famous mustache served as the A's ace reliever.

Darold Knowles, Horacio Pina and Paul Lindblad combined for 19 more saves. Both Knowles and Pina won 6 games each.

New York had the pitching but was not the offensive threat that Oakland was. Especially with Rusty Staub's potent bat out of the lineup, who injured his shoulder on a play in the NLCS.

Like the NLCS with the Reds, 
this would not be an easy assignment.

Heres your ticket to the game, my treat! :)
1973 World Series/Game One: Mets @Athletics
There would be five future Hall Of Famers playing in this Fall Classic. Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, and Rollie Fingers.

 Game one was on a beautiful day at the Oakland Coliseum, October 13, 1973.  The California sun was high and blinding, and this would play a part in the proceedings.

Hank Aaron, who had ended the '73 season just one shy of Babe Ruth's long standing home run record with 713, became the first active player to ever throw out a first pitch at a MLB game.

Willie Mays was no stranger to the Oakland fans. He played most of his career right across the bay on the San Francisco Giants. Willie received a huge standing ovation during player introductions.

Ken Holtzman, the tall lefty starting game one for the Athletics, was compared to the great Sandy Koufax when he first arrived on the scene in 1965. Ken went head to head against Sandy in 1966 and beat him 2-1.

Holtzman started out with the Chicago Cubs and pitched two no-hitters. He took down the Braves, 3-0, on August 19, 1969, and threw a 1-0 masterpiece on June 3, 1971, in Cincinnati.

Nevertheless, he wasn't happy in Chicago, believing that manager Leo Durocher was holding him down. He asked for and was granted a trade to the Oakland Athletics of the American League. In 1972 he won 19 games with the A's with an ERA of 2.52.
Another great year followed in 1973 as Ken won 21 games.

Holtzman pitched for 15 years in the majors. He won 174 and lost 150 with an ERA of 3.49. In the end he won nine more games than Koufax did. 

Jon Matlack was on the mound for the Mets. New York ace Tom Seaver had pitched 8 plus innings two days before in the NLCS and would not be available for the first two games in Oakland.

But one thing Mets fans had developed over the long season was confidence in their pitching staff. Matlack was a great pitcher when he was "on", which was most of the time. He had a tough gig, especially since the media was spinning the story that Matlack was the first pitcher in MLB history to have a losing record (14-16) and start  an opening game of a World Series.

With two out in the opening inning the legendary Willie Mays delivered the first hit of the 1973 World Series. He would be stranded at first base.

This was Willies fourth World Series. He played in the Fall Classic in 1951, 1954 (making his famous catch off Vic Wertz), 1962 and here in '73.

I entertained fantasies of World Series game heroics from Mays. I knew he was old and all, and not the player he was in the 1960's, but part of me felt it was no accident that Willie found himself in a World Series in his final year. This was fate! The Gods Of Baseball must be involved. It was his destiny to end his career by having a World Series for the ages. Big hits, great catches, walk off HRs. Or any one of those things. But it was not to be. In 1973 I found out that Willie Mays was only human.
As I was writing this up I thought a 1955 World Series card of Willies great catch off Vic Wertz would be a cool thing to include. There were no World Series cards in the '55 Topps set. They introduced World Series cards in 1960, covering the 1959 Fall Classic.

I was torn two ways in my design. One is influenced by the actual 1955 card design. Which isn't saying much because there was only one type of card in that set, the player card. No other type of cards were included. No team cards, no rookie cards, no highlight cards, etc.

The player card format would not suit the World Series cards so the first card shown was designed from scratch, but with an eye towards "what would Topps have done if they made a World Series card in 1955?" 

One thing I loved about the 1955 cards were the use of actual team logos on player cards. Topps used team logos in many of their early sets, then from 1964 to 1984 not one card design included the logos on player cards. I didn't really notice this when I was a kid, but I did notice when they were reintroduced in the '84 set.

The second card is influenced by Topps first World Series card design in the 1960 set. Some changes have been made to make it singular but you can still see the similarities.Instead of AL and NL logos I've chosen the team logos for use, like in the 55 set.

I really like the way both came out. But if I was to make a set of 1954 World Series cards ( I have no plans to but if there are suitable pictures available I'd certainly like to) I would have to settle on one design. Which card looks more likely to be a Topps '55 WS card if they made one?
If you are interested please let me know in the comments section.
I'm leaning towards the second because it's actually based on an existing Topps design. The first is just an imagined one I pulled out of my ass. But the more I see the first the more I like it. What do you think?

Which of these two designs looks more like it could be a 1955 Topps World Series card?

Back to the 1973 World Series:

Things went smoothly for both starting pitchers up until the 3rd inning. Matlack had retired the first seven batters in a row thanks to a fine catch by Buddy Harrelson on a short pop over the infield. After getting Ray Fosse to foul out on the first pitch of the 3rd, Matlack walked Dick Green on 5 pitches.

With Green on first A's pitcher Ken Holtzman was called on to bunt him over.

 He squared but the pitch was low and inside, hitting the dirt and getting away from Mets catcher Jerry Grote. Jerry was able to keep the ball in front of him by blocking it with his body.

Green took off for second but Grote pounced on the loose ball and fired a perfect bullet to Buddy Harrelson at the bag. Green was out by a New York mile.

With no one to bunt over, Holtzman was set to swing away.

The designated hitter was introduced to the American League starting this year, 1973 (the DH was not used in a championship series until 1976). As a result Holtzman batted only once during the season. He walked.

 So it was a bit of a surprise when the Oakland pitcher lined a grounder down the 3rd baseline and motored to second for a double.

With two out and Bert Campaneris at the plate Matlack gathered himself and induced a nice easy grounder to second base. It looked like he would get out of the inning, but then something unbelievable happened. The ball went right through Felix Millans legs.

Millan was one of the best fielding 2nd basemen in the majors. He had only 8 errors all season long. But he came up on a very important grounder and the error extended the inning, allowing Holtzman to score.

An errant pick off throw from Matlack put Campy on second base. Joe Rudy followed slapping a single to right and Campaneris scored making it 2-0.

That was all the scoring the A's would do, and that would be all they'd need.

New York answered right back. Cleon Jones doubled into the gap in left-center in the 4th and John Milner drove him in with a line single to center. Milner took 2nd on Reggie Jacksons overthrow to the plate and it was up to Jerry Grote to bring him in.

The Metropolitan catcher squared one up and socked a fly ball to deep center. If it dropped in it was a double for Jerry and the Mets would tie the game. Reggie Jackson was playing centerfield for the first time in the '73 season. The A's regular in CF, Bill North, was out due to injury. Reggie was not known for his fielding but here in October he took off after the drive and tracked it down at a full sprint, keeping the score at 2-1 A's.

In the bottom of the 4th Cleon Jones almost lost a ball in the bright light of the sun. The NBC broadcasters thought the shot by Jesus Alou was gone for a homer. Cleon ran back to the wall as if it was outta there but had to correct himself when the ball fell out of the sun short of the wall, on the warning track. His quick reflexes enabled him to make a fine recovery and catch the fly just inches before the ball touched ground. You won't see this play on any "best catches by Mets" highlight reels but this was an excellent grab.

 The Mets had another chance to tie up the game in the 5th. Jon Matlack led off with a walk but was doubled off first when Wayne Garrett popped up on a sacrifice bunt attempt.

Felix Millan followed with a powerfully deep sky shot to left. The brilliantly blinding California sun would come into play again as Joe Rudy lost it long enough that he couldn't recover.

The ball ticked off his glove and the usually suave outfielder fell on his face. On top of that, while getting up he booted the ball away from him and had to chase it down. Millan ended up on third base.

That brought Willie Mays to the plate, and if my wishes and dreams were to come true he would have hit a two run homer here and given the Mets the lead. But they didn't and Willie lifted a long fly out to right that ended the threat.

 In the A's half of the 5th Buddy Harrelson flashed his trademark leather, making a great diving catch on a soft liner off the bat of Angel Mangual.

Jon Matlack had settled down and would put in 6 full innings before making way for Tug McGraw.

The A's bullpen ace Rollie Fingers would take over for Ken Holtzman in the 6th and throw shut-out ball for three and a third, matching Tug McGraw's 2 frames.

In the 8th inning there was some controversy on a unconventional play at first. Bert Campaneris, who seemed to be in  the middle of everything, tried to push a bunt up past the pitcher but rolled it too close to John Milner at first base.

Milner gloved the grounder and reached to tag the A's shortstop, who squirmed like an eel on a hook to avoid him. Somehow it appeared he did just that as he flew by Milner and John flew by him. There was no call by the officials at first, finally getting a safe call from the home plate ump Marty Springstead.

A big argument was mounted by manager Yogi Berra and any Mets player in the area, but to no avail.

There were no review challenges in the game back in 1973. But if there was I feel the replays would have been deemed inconclusive.

New York had one final chance in the 9th to get back in it. With one out reliever Rollie Fingers walked pinch hitter Ron Hodges. A's manager Dick Williams pulled Fingers and went to Dickie Knowles for the final two outs. Yogi countered with pinch hitter Jim Beauchamp who had a decent season pinch hitting wise.

Here Jim roped a liner that would put Mets at 1st and 3rd, the tying run 90 feet away. But A's second baseman Dick Green climbed his invisable ladder and brought it down safely in his glove for the second out. Wayne Garret followed with a fly out to right and the A's had won a very close game, going up 1-0 on the Mets in the '73 World Series.
As a Mets fan game one was exciting and, believe it or not, gave me hope. We held the Mighty A's to two runs with Jon Matlack and Tugger. We had Koosman, Seaver, and Stone lined up to face the Athletics. We missed Rusty's bat but there was some talk that he might be able to return from his injury before the series was over. If we could split here in Oakland we'd be in fine shape.

Umpires: HP - Marty Springstead, 1B - Augie Donatelli, 
2B - Jerry Neudecker, 3B - Paul Pryor, LF - Russ Goetz, RF - Harry Wendelstedt.
Time of Game: 2:26.
Attendance: 46,021.
Field Condition: Dry.
Start Time Weather: Ridiculously sunny.

mfc Colorizations: 
Campy Bat Throw
Reggie Home Steal
Rudy Catch
Willie '54 Catch
Buddy Tag
Green Grab

MLB 1973 Word Series Highlight Film/DvD


  1. For the Rudy card, should it be "robs Mets"? Or is there a reference that I'm missing?

    For the '59 World Series, I like the top card better.

    1. Thanks Jason. That's one for the scratch card. I committed to the other so that makes it :

      Scratch-1 / '60tDesign-1.

      The Rudy catch card captures a play Joe made in the 1972 World Series against the Reds.
      He did make a very identical catch in this 1973 series during game 4 in NY. I'm glad you brought this up. That card was completed a while ago and looking at it the caption reads: " Rudy Robs Hahn". I'm going to change that to "Rudy Robs Mets" and display them side by side.

      Looks like I can't post an image down here in comments. When you see the game 4 card you will notice it's almost the same exact catch but at Shea and at night.

      Thnx for your comment Mr. Carter.

      PS: followed the link at your blog to the custom Reds cards and they are magnificent!

  2. Sorry for the delay in responding... I wanted to take time to read the entire post, and my weekends have been busy...

    I love the Fleer World Series card/sticker back, I'd been toying with the idea of "updating" that set, at least for select years. I'm guessing the Mr. Met image comes from the "Rain Check" part of the old ticket stubs?

    I like the second 1955 World Series card better, myself.

    1. OO, please make that Fleer set. That would be a trip.
      Yes, Mr. Met is the rainout version. I cut out the arm with umbrella and mirrored the other arm. The jackass is right off the A's game ticket, again mirrored.

      Thank you for the comment and vote Joe.

      1955 Willie Mays- fromScratch------------1
      1955 Willie Mays- basedon'60tDesign---2

      No one else want to pick a favorite 55 Mays?

      To anyone reading the MFC blog.

      Sorry for the delay in new posts. I have been involved in other projects.
      And the end of the season is always a drag.
      And if I make a post w/o Jeter in it I'm afraid the media will lynch me for lack of re2pect.

      New blog posts will return in October and I'll pick up on the '73 World Series (game two) during the 2014 post season. There will also be a post on the history behind the Mets classic team logo including some new redesigned versions. Thanks for stopping in :)