The Mets had traded away fireball pitcher Nolan Ryan who would go on to Hall of Fame success in California with the Angels. The Mets received Jim Fregosi who they thought was their new slugging third baseman. It didn't turn out that way, as Fregosi was gone by summer.
Opening Day 1973 brought a crowd of 27, 326 to Shea Stadium, on a Friday afternoon April 6th to see the Mets host the Philadelphia Phillies.
Two future Hall of Fame pitchers went against each other that day, as they did so many times in the early to mid seventies. The Mets sent Tom Seaver to the mound & Phil's manager Danny Ozark sent "Lefty" Steve Carlton to face the Mets.
Carlton was coming off his incredible 1972 Cy Young season where he was 27-10 with 310 strike outs & a 1.97 ERA. That year the dreadful Phillies won just 59 games.
|Philadelphia Phillies||New York Mets|
|1||Larry Bowa||SS||1||Bud Harrelson||SS|
|2||Del Unser||CF||2||Felix Millan||2B|
|3||Willie Montanez||RF||3||Willie Mays||CF|
|4||Tom Hutton||1B||4||Rusty Staub||RF|
|5||Greg Luzinski||LF||5||Cleon Jones||LF|
|6||Jose Pagan||3B||6||John Milner||1B|
|7||Mike Ryan||C||7||Jim Fregosi||3B|
|8||Denny Doyle||2B||8||Duffy Dyer||C|
|9||Steve Carlton||P||9||Tom Seaver||P|
Seaver & Carlton matched zeroes until the bottom of the 4th inning. Felix Millan led off with a double but Willie Mays & Rusty Staub were both retired. Cleon Jones then blasted a HR over the left field fence to put New York up 2-0.
In the bottom of the 7th inning, Jones connected off Carlton once again for his second HR of the day. The solo shot gave the Mets all they would need for the 3-0 victory.
Tom Seaver cruised along allowing just four hits into the top of the 8th inning, striking out eight batters along the way, while walking just two. In the 8th he allowed a pinch hit double to (future Mets 1986 coach) Bill Robinson & then a walk to another future Met; Del Unser.
Mets Manager Yogi Berra went to the bullpen, calling on his reliable reliever Tug McGraw. McGraw got Phils pinch hitter Deron Johnson to fly out to end the 8th. McGraw then retired the Phillies in order in the 9th, to complete the shut out while earning his first save of the year. He would save 25 games on the year & become one of the leagues top relief pitchers, as well as one of the positions first stars.
The Mets only had five hits themselves that day, with Cleon Jones gathering up three of them.
Felix Millan & Jim Fregosi got the other two hits. In contrast to today's long drawn out games, the 1973 opening day contest only took one hour & fifty six minutes to play.
The Mets would go on to win the N.L. Pennant that year & come within one game of the Worlds Championship.
Trivia: 1973 would be the final season Rheingold beer would sponsor the Mets.