Sep 19, 2013

Remembering the 1973 N.L. Champion Mets: "The Ball On The Wall" Game

Remembering the 1973 N.L. Champion New York Mets: Thursday September 20th, 1973- "The Ball On the Wall Game"

Tonight's game between the Mets & Pittsburgh Pirates was certainly one of the most important games of the 1973 season & one of the most remembered in Mets history. 25,000 fans filled Shea that night to see Jerry Koosman (12-15) go up against the Pirates Jim Rooker (9-5).

Jerry Koosman
In the 4th inning the Pirates scored the first run, Koos walked Willie Stargell & Many Sanguillen singled. Then sloppy play led to a run, when Bud Harrelson threw wildly to first base on a Dal Maxvill groundball, the error scored Willie Stargell.

Rooker rolled along to the 6th inning, when he walked Jerry Koosman to start the inning. Koos was forced at second by Wayne Garrett's grounder, then Felix Millan continued his hot hitting & got a base hit. With two outs, one of the hottest months of September; Cleon Jones came through with a single to left field scoring Garrett. The game was tied 1-1 & as Bob Murphy would say was "getting to be a real nail bitter".

In the 7th Richie Hebner took a Koosman curve ball over the fence for a 2-1 lead. Rooker kept the Mets down until the 8th, pinch hitter Jim Beauchamp came through for manager Yogi Berra once again, with a base hit. Teddy Martinez came in to pinch run & Wayne Garrett laid down a successful sacrifice bunt. Once again it was Felix Millan coming through with a base hit to tie the game. Rooker got out of the inning with two men on getting John Milner to pop out to short.

In the 9th Harry Parker came in to pitch for the Mets. Parker had been a solid reliever throughout the year out of the bull pen. In the top of the 9th tonight, he walked Bob Robertson to lead off the inning. Pinch runner Dave Augustine was brought in to run. Dal Maxvill sacrificed him over to second. Harry Parker then fanned rookie slugger Dave Parker for the second out. With Hebner up again, after homering earlier, Berra wasn't taking any chances, he was given an intentional pass. But Dave Cash. an All Star himself, then doubled past Cleon Jones in left field bringing in Augustine with the go ahead run 3-2.

In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Pirates made three defensive changes & brought in Bob Johnson to pitch. Yogi Berra sent another one of his top pinch hitters in the '73 season up, veteran of the 1969 Amazing Mets; Kenny Boswell. Boswell delivered with a base hit to right field. Dohn Hahn then laid down a beauty of a bunt, advancing Boswell.

The return of "the Stork"
George Theodore
The Shea Faithful were now on their feet chanting "Lets Go Mets". As Ed Kranepool was announced as a pinch hitter, Pirates Manager Danny Murtaugh changed his pitcher, bringing in Ramon Hernandez.

George the Stork Theodore was brought in to pinch hit, it was The Stork's first appearance since early July, after going on the DL after his outfield collision with Don Hahn. Stork was still not at his best & went down swinging.

The Shea crowd still cheered Theodore for his bravery of coming back. He would remain a folk hero in Mets history forever & was honored in the Last Game at Shea in 2009.

Duffy Dyer
Now with two outs & the tying run on second base, Berra put up Duffey Dyer to pinch hit for the pitcher Parker. Dyer doubled to left field scoring Boswell, as the Mets dug out went wild, the Shea fans went wild & Yogi Berra once again made another right move.

Into the 10th inning & it was a whole new ball game. Ken Boswell stayed in the game & took over third base, as Wayne Garrett moved to short replacing Harrelson. The new catcher brought in was rookie Ron Hodges & what a key figure he would turn out to be in this classic game.

Pinch Hitter Ken Boswell
Ray Sadecki was brought in to pitch for New York & Jim McKee for the Pirates. Sadecki was fired up & struck out the side in the top of the 11th. He would pitch four innings, through the 13th, strike out six, allow no runs & two hits. In the bottom half of the 11th, the Mets threatened, John Milner walked & Boswell sacrificed him over to second.

Luke Walker was brought in to pitch & gave Don Hahn an intentional walk. But Walker got catcher Ron Hodges & Sadecki to both ground out.

In the op of the 13th inning, Richie Zisk singled with one out. Catcher Manny Sanguillen flew out to right field for the second out. Then, with the next play, the Mets fans really started to "believe" in Tug McGraw's mantra "You Gotta Believe".

Dave Augustine drilled a fly ball over the head of Cleon Jones in deep left field, the ball was headed to be a HR. But miraculously, it bounced off the top of the wall into Cleon Jones' glove. Jones played it perfectly, he then turned & fired to short stop Wayne Garrett.

From the moment the ball was hit, Pirates runner Richie Zisk took off from first & was rounding the bases. Wayne Garrett took the relay & made a perfect throw to home plate to catcher Ron Hodges. Hodges took the throw, blocked the plate held his ground & tagged out Zisk who was trying to score on the play. "Out at home plate". This play became known as "the Ball off the Wall Play".

The fans still amazed at the great play they witnessed were on their feet shouting "Lets Go Mets". Pirates pitcher; Luke Walker walked John Milner to lead off the inning. Next Ken Boswell walked as well, sending Danny Murtaugh to the mound to replace Walker with Dave Giusti. Giusti got Don Hahn to pop out for out number one.

Then Ron Hodges came through with a base hit to left field, scoring Milner with the walk off Mets win in dramatic fashion.

The win brought the Mets to within a half of game of first place of the Pirates. The Pirates fell to .500 which yes, was the best record in the NL East. The Mets were now 76-77 & had one more game against the Pirates tomorrow night.

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