It was the first ever MLB Baseball strike & the dawn of a new era.
The season would be delayed, starting almost two weeks late as the strike lasted 13 days, 86 regular season games were cancelled.
The New York Mets began the 1972 season in the wake of Gil Hodges' death that happened less than two weeks earlier. The team was in shock & for the players that were with Hodges from the Miracle of 1969 it was something they could not get over.
With the organization totally lost, they named former Mets coach & New York legend Yogi Berra the teams manager. Berra had just been named to the Baseball Hall of Fame that off season. Berra was the popular choice although Minor League VP Whitey Herzog was probably the better choice.
1972 marked another huge event in Mets history, that was one of the worst traded ever made when Nolan Ryan was traded to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi. Fregosi a former All Star short stop was brought in to play third base. He arrived out of shape & never started hitting like expected. Ryan went on to be one of the games top pitchers setting all kinds of records on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Another big deal for the Mets that off season was another blockbuster trade. The Mets acquired Rusty Staub from the Montreal Expos. Staub a true All Star would help lead the Mets offensively to the 1973 World Series & become one of the franchises' most popular players. He would return late in his career to become one of the games best pinch hitters as well.
In return for Staub the Mets gave up a young Ken Singleton who would have a fine career in Montreal & Baltimore as well as short stop Tim Foli who also had a long good career in Montreal as well as Pittsburgh. Also youngster & Queens born Mike Jorgensen was also thrown into the deal, he too had a decent career albeit not as big as Singleton & Foli.
Both deals had had Hodges blessing & he was key to getting Staub. Yes, the future was sacrificed but the Mets were looking to win now.
The season opened up on a rainy cold dismal New York Spring Day. Just 15,893 fans came out to Shea Stadium to see the Mets open the season. In a pre game ceremony they honored their former manager Gil Hodges. The American Flag was held at half mass & a moment of silence was observed. The team also wore black arm bands on their sleeve for the entire season. The game was nationally broadcast on NBC's game of the week.
The Mets hosted Bill Virdon's reigning World Series Champions from 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates of the early seventies were awesome winning five NL East titles from 1970-1975, with the Mets breaking the reign in 1973.
The Pirates featured Roberto Clemente in his final season before a tragic plane crash took his life, they also had Hall of Famer Willie Stargell. That day the wild wacky Doc Ellis went up against the Mets future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver.
Seaver started out the game striking out Rennie Stennett looking. After Al Oliver singled he struck out both Clemente & Stargell.
In the home second the new Mets made their debuts to nice ovations. Rusty Staub led off with a single, Cleon Jones also singled. Then new comer Jim Fregosi doubled to right field scoring Stau with the Mets first run of 1972. An Ed Kranepool sac fly made it 2-0 Mets. Kranepool returned in the 6th inning hitting a two run HR off Ellis. The HR scored Fregosi who had drawn a two out walk.
It was all the Mets needed for the somber Opening Day win. Seaver pitched six innings allowing no runs on five scattered hits while striking out six Pirates & walking nobody. Tug McGraw came in for three scoreless, hitless innings of relief.
McGraw was blossoming into one of the games best relievers, a new glorified role at that time. The reliever who closed out games were then known as Fireman.
The Mets started out the year at 8-2 winning six straight in that stretch. They would be in first place until June when things dropped off for them. They returned in 1973 to win the NL Pennant.