Jul 10, 2013

Remembering the 1973 N.L. Champion Mets: The Release of Jim Fregosi

Remembering the 1973 N.L. Champion Mets.  This another post in a series on the fortieth anniversary of that pennant season.

July 11th 1973: the Mets were struggling, twelve games out of first place & under .500. Injuries were a big problem but so was their third base situation.

After the 1971 season the Mets had made the disastrous trade of Nolan Ryan to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi. Fregosi was a former All Star & one of the first true All Stars in the Angels history. Not only did the Mets send Ryan, but also outfielder Leroy Stanton, pitcher Don Rose & catcher Frank Estrada.

Nolan Ryan went on to his spectacular Hall of Fame career, in 1972 after the trade Ryan went 19-16 leading the league with 329 strike outs & nine shut outs. In 1973 he would break Sandy Koufax's single season strikeout record with 383, a record that still stands. Ryan would go 21-16 with a 2.87 ERA, and become a star on the West Coast. He would pitch his first of seven career no hitters on May 15th in Kansas City.

This would haunt the Mets forever especially in those days, imagine a staff of Seaver, Ryan Koosman & Matlack all in their prime!

As for Fregosi he never fit in New York, in 1972 he hit just .232 with five HRs 33 RBIs & a .311 on base % in 101 games. At third base (85 games) he made 15 errors with a .935 fielding %. The trade hurt more & more.

Wayne Garrett who was a rookie in the 1969 Championship Season, played 82 games at third, making nine errors with a .960 fielding %. But he only hit .232 with two HRs 29 RBIs but posted a .374 on base %.

The Mets didn't believe in Garrett from the start, in 1970 they acquired, who flopped after another horrible trade that sent Amos Otis to Kansas City. In 1971 they acquired Bob Aspromonte who had a decent year but wasn't the answer & was gone the next year. Then it was the deal for Fregosi.

In 1973 Fregosi was the Opening Day third baseman, getting a hit in the 3-0 win over the Phillies. By the end of May he was batting .197 without any HRs & just eight runs batted in. Garrett was seeing more playing time & it was clear that Fregosi wasn't going to work out.

He was soon on the bench when not filling in for injured players. On July 1st he got his last two hits, as a Mets player, in a 6-5 loss at Wrigley Field.

On July 11th 1973, his contract was purchased by the Texas Rangers, Fregosi was gone & the Mets had to eat it. The disaster really bothered the egotistical M. Donald Grant, who knew everyone blamed him & he was paranoid over it.

During a July Shea game, he walked by the back row of the press box & got into a heated conversation with sports writer Jack Lang. " I know you blame us for Fregosi, but you're the one that made me make the deal". A confused Lang said "me!?". Grant used the excuse saying you told me I had to make a deal, Lang shot back "but not that deal!".

Broadcaster Lindsey Nelson had to shut the door in the TV booth for fear the argument would go over the air waves. Nelson later went to Lang & joked 'I have to treat you with more respect, I didn't know you had the power to make deals on this club".

Quotes: Fregosi told the press "Oh I'm happy, it didn't look like I'd play here anymore".

Later that week Nolan Ryan threw his second no hitter with the Angels. Wayne Garrett went on to have his best season, hitting 16 HRs with 20 doubles 58 RBIs & a .348 on base % in 140 games.

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