In July of 1973 there still wasn't much going right for the New York Mets. Injuries were to the starting players were killing them; the teams biggest HR hitter; John Milner had been down with a hamstring injury.
Catcher Jerry Grote was out with a wrist injury. Shortstop Bud Harrelson had hurt his left hand when the Reds Bill Plummer crashed into him trying to break up a double play. He missed almost all of June then went down again with a fractured sternum after crashing into Rennie Stennett of the Pirates at the end of July.
Left Fielder Cleon Jones, suffered a wrist injury diving for a ball & then in June was placed on the DL after he was hit in the elbow with a pitch. Willie Mays was showing his age in center field, he could not be in the line up on a steady basis. George the Stork Theodore suffered an eye injury when he was hit with a ball in June, then he had the brutal outfield collision with Don Hahn fracturing his hip.
Jon Matlack missed a small amount of time after getting hit in the head with a line drive back in May. The bullpen was struggling as Phil Hennigan went 0-4 & was sent to the minors in July. But the biggest problem was Tug McGraw, he struggled through the first few months not getting his first win until August.
Quotes: It was then that manager Yogi Berra said "If you ain't got a bullpen, you ain't got nothin'".
With the Mets in last place and 12.5 games back in early July, New York was getting restless. This was a team that had expectations, especially with one of the game's elite pitching staff's & just four years after an Amazing Worlds Championship.
The New York Post ran a readers poll asking who should be held responsible & be fired. The three candidates were Manger Yogi Berra, General Manager Bob Scheffing or Chairman M. Donald Grant. 4000 fans responded voting Scheffing take the fall & Grant be right behind him. The popular Yogi Berra, always an icon in New York, received just 611 votes & his job was safe. When asked if Berra would be fired, Grant responded he wouldn't unless the public wanted it.
Berra was a legend but as a manger, he wasn't the most respected guy in the dugout. His leadership was questioned, because of his lack of discipline, totally opposite of Gil Hodges style.
Berra was laid back but maybe too much for his players to respect. If a player made a mental error he'd say "next time it's gonna cost ya", but he rarely followed up with a fine.
During one summer game Tom Seaver had pitched a fine game but was tiring. Berra sent his pitching coach; Rube Walker out to the mound. Seaver respected Walker & told him, I want to finish this game, make sure you go back & tell Yogi not to come out here.
Seaver probably would not have sent Hodges the same message when he was manager. But Yogi did believe in his team, he knew he had an awesome pitching staff. He knew McGraw would come around & he felt when his players were healthy it would get better.
When they lost a close game or had a bad break he said a streak was on the way; "we still got ours coming". Not everyone believed him.
When a reporter asked him "Is it over Yogi?" he made his famous quote that lives on forever "It ain't over, till it's over".
The Mets turned it around, won the NL East, upset the mighty Big Red Machine in the NLCS & came with in one game of beating the Oakland A's in the World Series.