Jul 6, 2016

Remembering Mets History: (1973) The Brutal George "Stork" Theodore / Don Hahn Outfield Collision

July 7th,1973  was one of the lowest points of the '73 N.L. Champion Mets' season, but it can also be looked at as a turning point as things slowly turned around from this day on. 

 
 


In 1973 Willie Mays & Hank Aaron were #2 & #3
on the all time HR list
Saturday July 7th, 1973: A crowd of 30,468 filled up Shea Stadium to watch the last place Mets (34-45) take on Eddie Mathews fifth place Atlanta Braves (38-49). Braves slugger; Hank Aaron was chasing the All Time HR record at this point & was the most famous face in baseball.

The Mets were bottomed out in last place at 34-45 on this date, 12.5 games out of first place, their lowest point of the season. It was still a long way to their '73 pennant winning performance.

 The game began with the Mets; Ray Sadecki going up against the 1970 Rookie of the Year; Craig Morton. Both pitchers would be long gone before this one was decided.

Starting Lineups


The Braves helped the Mets with sloppy play in the 1st inning. Dohn Hahn got to second base on a two base error from left fielder; Mike Lum. Felix Millan attempted to sacrifice, but Brave third baseman Darrell Evans made a throwing error allowing Hahn to score.

The Braves tied it on catcher; Dick Dietz's sac fly in the second. In the 3rd, three Mets singles by Millan, Rusty Staub & Ken Boswell put New York ahead tied it up. The Braves came back when future Mets manager; Davey Johnson hit a his 21st HR of the year. (Johnson would hit 43 HRs that season).

In the Mets 6th, George Theodore was playing left field for an ailing Cleon Jones, he drew a leadoff walk. Theodore "the Stork" scored on Don Hahn's double as the Mets tied it once again. 

The Stork & Don Hahn Collide in the Outfield
The two would players would make headlines of the day, but not because of their hitting. In the 7th the Braves got to Mets reliever Phil Hennigan & a famous play that is vividly remembered today took place.

Atlanta's Mike Lum led off with a base hit & was sacrificed over. Pinch hitter, Long Island's own Frank Tepedino, got a pinch hit single. The ball was misplayed in leftfield by Stork Theodore & Lum scored as Tepedino advanced to second.

Next up "the roadrunner" Ralph Garr, who would steal 35 bases on the season, & win a batting title in 1974 (hitting .353) hit a screaming shot in the gap to left center field. Theodore who was upset that he had misplayed the last hit, allowing a run to score, was determined to make this catch.

 He ran full speed ahead staring down the shot hit by Garr, at the same time center fielder Don Hahn was chasing the liner as well. The two crashed in to each other head on, in one of the worst collisions in Mets history. 

At first the two players lay motionless in the Shea outfield. The ball rolled all the way to the wall. Frank Tepedino scored & the speedy Garr, had himself an inside the park HR, before Rusty Staub could get the ball in.

The Shea crowd held it's breath as did the players. The Mets trainer; Tom McKenna came running out to the outfield.

Hahn was able to get up holding his stomach, as it seemed he had the wind knocked out of him. He was replaced in center field by veteran Willie Mays, but returned to the line up three days later.

Theodore was unable to get up, as everyone feared the worst. The Stork, had a thin six foot four, 190 pound frame & took the worst of the hit. He fractured his hip, and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. 

Stork Theodore Removed From The Field on Stretcher
He would be out for the rest of the season, making just one pinch hit appearance on September 20th, striking out. He did get into the post season, making two World Series pinch hit appearances, against the Oakland A's, but was hitless.

Back on June 3rd 1973, Theodore had been hit in the eye by a pitch from the San Diego Padres; Gary Ross. At the time it was feared he would lose his eye sight, but the Stork was back in the line up five days later.

After this outfield collision, at a New York hospital, Theodore told reporters he had a dream two weeks earlier that he was being removed from the field on a stretcher carried by Jerry Koosman & Tug McGraw.

Theodore in the Hospital with his guitar
He would spend a few days in the hospital, getting photographed playing his guitar, adding to his legacy of a Mets folk hero. In just two brief seasons, Theodore made himself a most popular Mets player. He is always remembered with affection, even though he wasn't the best of players on the field.

In May of 2011 he told the Daily News: "I did play two more years, but I was never the same. It changed my life, put me in a new direction, but it's all been good. That's the way it is." 

Hahn would be back in the line up three days later, finishing up the year as the Mets main center fielder. He played in 93 games batting .229 with 2 HRs 10 doubles 21 RBIs & a .989 fielding %.

Back to the game on July 7th 1973- Cleon Jones who was not at 100% himself after an injury plagued season so far, had to fill in at left field for the Stork. 

In the bottom of the 8th the Mets were now down 6-3. Cleon Jones led off with a walk. Then Duffy Dyer & Jim Fregosi, both coming in as pinch hitters, both walked. Hall of Fame legend, Willie Mays' singled to left field bringing in two runs cutting the Braves lead to a run (6-5).

Braves Manager Eddie Mathews brought in veteran reliever Joe Hoerner. Felix Millan reached on a force play &Wayne Garrett greeted new pitcher; Joe Hoerner, with a double scoring Millan & Mays. The Mets were ahead 7-6.

But the struggling Tug McGraw couldn't hold them down, McGraw was having problems all season up to this point admitting he had forgotten everything he knew about pitching, saying he didn't know what to do with the ball. He served up three singles & a walk which tied up the game.

Harry Parker came in but a force play & two more walks made it 9-7 Braves. The Mets got one back in the 9th but fell short 9-8 in a wild close heart breaking loss.

With Stork out indefinitely & Hahn possibly out as well, adding to the other injuries the '73 Mets reached rock bottom.

Turning Points of 1973: Today's game was the last for relief pitcher Phil Hennigan, after coming over from Cleveland in November in exchange for Brent Strom & Bob Rauch, he had gone 0-4.

After today's game his ERA was over six, at 6.43 & he was sent to AAA Tidewater, never returning to the majors again.

This would also be the last Mets game for Jim Fregosi, who would have his contact sold to the Texas Rangers.

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