Remembering Mets History (1973) Preview of the 1973 NLCS

1973 NLCS Managers: Yogi Berra & Sparky Anderson
Preview of the 1973 NLCS: The NL Western Champion Cincinnati Reds were the heavy favorite going into the playoffs. They were still the reigning NL Champions looking to avenge their World Series loss. They had finished the year with the best record in baseball going 99-63.

The Reds had won the division by 3.5 games over the Los Angeles Dodgers. These two teams were the best of the western division in the seventies, as one or the other finished first in all but one season throughout the decade.

The Big Red Machine were led by Manager, Sparky Anderson. Anderson played just one season in the majors, batting .218 for the 1959 Phillies. He spent a decade in the minors before beginning a coaching & 26-year Hall of Fame managerial career. 

Pete Rose- Joe Morgan - Johnny Bench
Anderson took over the helm for the Reds in 1970, leading the team to a 102-60-win season & an NL Pennant. The Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS then lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Two years later the Red were back winning 95 games, beating the Pirates again in the NLCS then losing to the Oakland A's in the World Series. The loss was an upset, so the Reds entered 1973 with a vision to win it all.

In his nine-year Reds career as manager, Anderson would take the Reds to four World Series', winning two Championships (1975-1976) & five divisional titles. Anderson would then spend 18 seasons managing the Detroit Tigers (1979-1995) winning a Championship there in 1984.

The 1973 Cincinnati Reds known as the Big Red Machine were led by future Hall of Famers; Johnny Bench (25 HRs 104 RBIs .253 average) Tony Perez (27 HRs 33 doubles 101 RBIs .314 average) & Joe Morgan (26 HRs 35 doubles 67 stolen bases 82 RBIs & a .290 average).

The teams' Left Fielder, Pete Rose was that year's batting champion (.338 average 5 HRs 36
doubles 8 triples 115 runs scored & 64 RBIs).

The Reds had lost their main shortstop Dave Concepcion to a season ending injury in July & had the light hitting Darrell Chaney (.181 average) filling in at the position.

Outfielder Bobby Tolan, another base stealing threat saw his average fall to .206 that year & had not played until the final week of September. Tolan was then suspended by the Reds after refusing to take batting practice & for lack of interest. Tolan would test the reserve clause the next year, then play the entire season without a contract, for the San Diego Padres.

A weak spot on the Reds was third baseman Dennis Menke (3 HRs 26 RBIs .191 average) playing out the final years of his career.

But the Reds had a young Dan Driessen (.301 average in 102 games) Ken Griffey (.384 average in 25 games) & George Foster (4 HRs / .282 average in 17 games) all starting to come of age on the horizon.

The Reds pitching staff was led by Jack Billingham (19-10 / 155 Ks / 3.04 ERA). Behind him were Don Gullett (18-8 / 151 Ks / 3.51 ERA) Ross Grimsley (13-10 / 90 Ks / 3.23 ERA) & Fred Norman (12-6 / 12 Ks / 3.30 ERA). The four-man rotation had a fantastic bullpen behind them.

Manager Sparky Anderson known as "Captain Hook "for his fast hook removing his starting pitchers. The pen was led by Pedro Borbon (11-4 / 14 saves / 2.16 ERA) Clay Carroll (8-8 / 14 saves / 3.69 ERA) & Tom Hall (8-5 / 8 saves / 3.47 ERA).

1973 Mets RBI Leader: Rusty Staub
The New York Mets had won the Eastern Division on the final day of the season, finishing up at 83-79 just one 1.5 games over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Mets were in last place at the end of August 8.5 games out of first, in a wild Eastern Division that was up for grabs all year. The Mets were led by Manager Yogi Berra who had taken over in 1972 after the untimely death of legend Gil Hodges. 

Gil Hodges had led the Miracle Mets to the 1969 Worlds Championship & then two third place finishes in 1970 -1971. In Berra's first season as manager (1972) the Mets were 83-73 with another third-place finish. In the off season they acquired Rusty Staub for offense. Staub became the Mets top hitter & led them thru the 1973 season as well as the post season. But in that trade they dealt away Ken Singleton, Tim Foli & Mike Jorgensen, three fine young players who had good careers which may have hurt the Mets future. 

1973 Mets Starting Pitchers: Koosman - Seaver- Matlack
They Mets also dealt away starter Gary Gentry & reliever Danny Frisella for starter George Stone & second baseman Felix Millan. Stone went on to have a 12-3 season with a 2.80 ERA but was not used enough by Berra in the post season which may have cost him the World Series. 

Felix Millan took over for Ken Boswell at second base, a big upgrade on defense & hitting. Millan would lead the team in batting average (.290) & hits in 1973.

But the '73 Mets were all about pitching once again. The staff was led by that years Cy Young Award Winner; Tom Seaver (19-10). Tom Seaver led the NL in strike outs (251) ERA (2.08) & complete games (18) while throwing 3 shutouts & pitching 290 innings.

Behind him were a couple of great left handers, who pitched much better of late & were much better than their records showed. The lack of Mets offense cost the top three starters' losses in ten games by scores of 2-1 or 1-0.

Lefthander Jerry Koosman (14-15 / 156 Ks / 2.84 ERA/ 12 complete games / 3 shut outs). The Mets third starting pitcher star was the previous years Rookie of the Year; lefty Jon Matlack (14-16 / 205 Ks / 3.20 ERA 14 complete games / 3 shut outs).

The Mets bullpen had one of the game's best relievers of the era, Tug McGraw (5-6 / 25 saves / 3.87 ERA) had a rough start to the season & didn't get going until late August. But in that time, he was 6-0 with 11 saves, allowing four earned runs in 41 innings of work in 18 appearances. Tug also coined the phrase "You Gotta Believe" & was the team's biggest cheerleader.

Also in the bullpen were Harry Parker (8-4 / 5 saves / 3.35 ERA) veteran Ray Sadecki (5-4 / 3.39 ERA / 87 Ks in 116 innings) who also served as a spot starter. Jim McAndrew (3-8 one save / 5.38 ERA) & Buzz Capra (2-7 / 4 saves / 3.86 ERA).

'73 Mets HR leader "the Hammer" John Milner is greeted
by Bud Harrelson, Willie Mays & Felix Millan
The Mets regular players had suffered through a lot of injuries during the regular season but were healthy for the post season.

John Milner led the team in HRs (23) drove in 72 runs & hit .239. Rusty Staub was the main run producer & clutch player (15 HRs 76 RBIs 36 doubles .361 on base % & .279 batting average.

Cleon Jones (11 HRs 13 doubles 48 RBIs & .260 average in 92 games) Wayne Garrett had his best season (16 HRs 20 doubles 58 RBIs .256 average .348 on base %) Felix Millan led the team in hits (185) average (.290) & sac hits (18). Jerry Grote batted .256 (10 doubles & 32 RBIs in 84 games) & Bud Harrelson (.258) was an outstanding defensive shortstop.

The Mets bench was also solid with Ed Kranepool (.239 average 12 doubles & 35 RBIs) able to play at first base & in the outfield (100 games). Veteran Jim Beauchamp (.279 average) & Kenny Boswell (.227 average) who now became a top pinch hitter & would set a World Series record.

The Mets also had the legendary Hall of Famer; Willie Mays (6 HRs 10 doubles 44 RBIs .211 average in 66 games) who was at the end of his Hall of Fame career. Mays certainly way past his prime was always a dangerous hitter & had a few key hits in the post season. More importantly his presence & baseball knowledge certainly inspired the young ballclub.


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