George Heard Stone was born on July 9, 1946 in Ruston, Louisiana. The tall six foot three inch left hander, attended Louisiana Tech and was a top pitcher there as well. In 1966 he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the fifth round. He came up to the Braves staff the following year, pitching in only two games.
In 1968 he began the year in the minors but was brought up into the rotation on July 2nd. On the season he went 7-4 with a 2.76 ERA. His best season for Atlanta came during their 1969 NL West Division title year. He went 13-10 with 102 strikeouts & a 3.65 ERA in 165 innings pitched over 36 games. In the 1969 NLCS against the New York Mets he pitched one inning in relief in the final Game #3. He allowed a run on two hits in the 7-4 Braves loss.
In Atlanta his team mate was his cousin, relief pitcher Cecil Upshaw. Upshaw would save 12 games in relief of his Cousin George in their five seasons together as team mates. Stone fell to 11-11 the following season, as the Braves dropped to fifth place in the NL West. In the next two seasons he would win six games each time, but post losing records both seasons.
In June 1972, Stone was pitching against the New York Mets when he hit Rusty Staub on his right hand with a pitch. Staub would suffer a fracture & miss 90 games crashing the Mets pennant hopes. Stone struggled with the Braves, having his worst season in 1972, going 6-11 with a 5.51 ERA. That November he was sent to the New York Mets along with Felix Millan in exchange for pitchers Gary Gentry & Danny Frisella. It was one of the better trades in Mets history, up to that point.
Stone debuted on April 13th pitching the 5th inning in relief of Jon Matlack. Stone started out the season in the Mets bullpen, and earned his first victory pitching six shutout innings in a 19 inning win at Dodger Stadium on May 24th. Stone got the win as the Mets scored four runs in the top of the 19th inning. He ended up being a great surprise, still posting an ERA under one at the end of May.
The Mets starters were struggling & Stone was put into the starting rotation by June 2nd. He joined a pitching staff, behind Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman & Jon Matlack, when they were all healthy, they made up one of the best staffs in the game. Stone made his first start in San Diego allowing three runs on five hits pitching in six innings. He lost his first two starts but didn’t allow more than three runs in either game, pitching six innings both times. From that point on Stone was incredible, from mid June through the end of the season he went 11-1, while winning his last eight decisions from August through the end of the regular season.
He threw three complete games & pitched into the 8th inning or beyond seven times.
On June 22nd in Pittsburgh he pitched his first complete game, beating the Pirates 5-4. On July 2nd he pitched nine innings in Montreal giving up just one run, but he got no decision as the Mets lost the game 2-1. On August 1st he pitched into the 9th inning beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 at Shea Stadium. He pitched well in three of his next four tarts but didn't have another decision until the end of the month. On August 27th he beat the Padres at Shea allowing three runs in seven innings of work.
Stone played a huge role in helping the Mets capture the Eastern Division.
On September 1st he allowed just one run in seven innings of work beating the Cardinals in St. Louis. Then on September 9th although he scattered 11 hits he pitched 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball beating the Expos 3--0. On September 15th he allowed just one run in the first game of a double header at Wrigley Field pitching into the 7th inning. On September 19th he pitched six innings, before getting relieved by Tug McGraw beating the first place Pirates 7-3 getting the Mets within 1 1/2 games of first place. On September 23rd he pitched just two innings giving up two runs but was relieved in a game the Mets went on to win 5-2 over the Cardinals.
Stone finished the year at 12-3 (with a .800 winning %) posting a 2.80 ERA. He had one save, striking out 77 batters while only walking 31 in 148 innings pitched. Strangely he did not pitch any games from September 23rd on, which was the final week and a half of the season. He would not make another appearance until Game #4 of the 1973 NLCS.
Post Season: In Game #4 of the 1973 NLCS, Stone was terrific for the first six innings, throwing shutout ball against the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed only two hits, striking out three & walking two. Then in the top of the 7th, he surrendered a solo HR to Tony Perez tying the game. The Mets lacked any offense to support Stone that day and the Reds won the game in the 12th inning on a Pete Rose HR.
In the 1973 World Series against the Oakland A's, Stone relieved Tug McGraw in Game #2 at Oakland. He entered the game in the 12th inning after McGraw had pitched six innings of relief. He inherited a runner on first base & third base with nobody out. He allowed an RBI single to Jesus Alou, then retired three of the next four batters earning the save and allowing the Mets to tie the Series up at one game each. Stone did not appear again until the 7th inning of Game Seven.
It remains one of the most asked questions in Mets history; Why Did’t Yogi Berra choose to start Stone in Game #6? Would the Mets have won? Nobody knows. Met manager Yogi Berra started Tom Seaver on three days’ rest for Game #6, even the Mets players thought Stone should have gotten the call. It's not as if Berra made a bad choice, Seaver was the 1973 Cy Young winner & the Mets were leading the Series, 3-2.
But Stone was the hottest pitcher New York had in the second half of the season and if he had lost Game 6, Berra would have had Seaver on full rest, as well as Jon Matlack and probably Jerry Koosman for Game #7. Stone's overall 1973 postseason ERA was 0.93.
1973 World Series Game #2 Win at Oakland
Quotes: George Stone-"A lot of people have asked me that over the years. I thought I had a chance to start and I was disappointed that I didn't. He decided to go with the three main starters, but I was a control-type pitcher, the kind of pitcher that gave Oakland trouble. I thought I deserved a chance to start. And even if we lose, we still have Game 7 and everyone on an extra day of rest. Some of the players begged Yogi to start me. I even talked with the opposing players and manager, and they had a scouting report ready for me because they thought I was going to start. But it's best to get over it. Yogi might have had orders from above."
Cleon Jones -"We can all second-guess Yogi. We talked to Yogi about it, and a bunch of us wanted him to start Stone. He was our best pitcher in September. And when we asked Yogi to start him, he said if he did that the writers would eat him alive. But if you win it's different. Good managers take chances and don't worry about what the writers say. If we needed to go to the seventh game, we had four great pitchers. If we couldn't beat Oakland with those four, we didn't deserve to win. I felt that way then, and I feel that way now."
Not everybody on that Mets team agreed, at least not publicly. Jerry Grote never debated Berra’s decision: "It was his decision, and we were not in a position to question the manager's decision, we didn't have a choice. If Seaver had won, no one would have said a word. I'm not about to second-guess him."
So Tom Seaver started Game #6 and scattered six hits and three runs over seven innings. Unfortunately the Mets managed only four hits off Catfish Hunter as the A's eked out a 3-1 victory. Jon Matlack started Game #7 and got shelled early on; the Mets couldn't get to Oakland's Ken Holtzman, whom they had beat in Game #4 at Shea Stadium. Oakland won the game 5-2, and won the World Series. Stone ended up pitching two scoreless innings of relief in the seventh & eighth innings of that game, while striking out two batters. Stone's overall 1973 postseason ERA was 0.93.
In Stones first outing of 1974 he pitched eight innings allowing only one run, but got no decision. He started out 0-3 until he won his first game in St. Louis pitching into the 7th inning. He had his best day on May 21st when he threw a complete game victory, against the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium. He struck out six batters although he allowed five runs on twelve hits. He helped his cause by getting two hits of his own & driving in a career high four runs.
Unfortunately he was never as effective as he was in 1973 again.
Stone went on to lose four straight decisions through the end of July. By the start of August his season was over, as he suffered with arm troubles. It was discovered he needed rotator cuff surgery. He was told not to pick up a baseball until Spring Training the next year.
Overall he went 2-7 with a 5.03 ERA in 1974, striking out 29 batters walking 21 in 77 innings pitched in 15 games. The Mets chose not to release Stone and welcomed him back in Spring Training 1975.
He attempted to throw but was in severe pain. His determination was never ending; he worked hard & was back to pitching by mid June. History seems to forget Stone was one of the first pitchers to ever come back from rotator cuff surgery. He won his first start beating the Padres in San Diego, allowing one run over seven innings of work on June 13th. He would win two of his first four starts, including a complete game one run performance on June 30th. In that game he beat the Chicago Cubs 5-1 and the run he allowed was unearned. Stone was 2-1 & had an ERA at 1.84 by the All Star break. He struggled after the break and was back pitching in the bull pen, finishing the year 3-3 with an ERA of 5.05.
In February 1976 he was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Bill Hands but never made the staff. Although he made a brief comeback, the rotator cuff issues ended his career at age 29.
Stone finished his nine year career, going 60-57 with five saves & a 3.89 ERA. He struck out 590 batters in 1020 innings pitched, in 203 games.
Retirement: After his playing days George Stone became a physical education teacher.