There may have been no series bigger than this weeks against the first place Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets had just left Three Rivers Stadium, and split a series and were now just 2 1/2 games out of first place. The two teams moved to New York to play a three game series.
Wednesday September 19th 1973: In the first game 29,240 came to Shea Stadium, as George Stone & Tug McGraw beat the Pirates with good run support 7-3. Stone allowed a lead off HR to Pittsburgh's Rennie Stennett. But in the 3rd inning, the Mets Cleon Jones answered with a two run HR, putting the Mets ahead 2-1. In the 3rd, Stennett tripled & Dave Cash brought him in with a base hit to tie it.
In the home 3rd, George Stone singled & was moved over to second. Felix Millan then singled putting New York ahead, as Stone scored. Stone grounded out but brought home a run in the 6th inning making it 4-2. Willie Stargell hit his league leading 41st HR in the 6th for the final Pitaes run.
In the 8th inning, the hottest hitter on the planet; Cleon Jones, connected for a three run HR sealing the 7-3 Mets win. Tug McGraw came on in the 7th, and completed the three inning save, his 22nd of the year.
Tonight's game between the Mets & Danny Murtaugh's Pittsburgh Pirates was certainly one of the most important games of the 1973 season & one of the most remembered games in Mets history. 24,855 fans filled Shea Stadium that night to see Jerry Koosman (12-15) go up against the Pirates Jim Rooker (9-5).
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. Kooz 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.
|The return of "the Stork" |
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.
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|
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 was the best record in the NL East. The Mets were now 76-77 & had one more game against the Pirates tomorrow night.
Friday September 21st, 1973: On this night the Mets were going for first place & 51,381 came out to Shea to watch that years Cy Young Award winner; Tom Sever (17-10) go against Steve Blass (3-8).
It was all Mets tonight as the offense provided Seaver with ten runs. Seaver pitched the complete game allowing two runs on six hits while striking out eight.
In the 3rd John Milner "the hammer" hit his 23rd HR of the year off a young Pat Zachary. Cleon Jones, Grote & Bud Harrelson all singled making it 6-2 Mets.
Wayne Garrett & Rusty Staub both hit HRs later in the game & Felix Millan added an RBI single to cap off the 10-2 win. The Mets were now in first place. They would hold on to their lead & win the Eastern Division on the last day of the season.