Remembering Mets History (1973 NLCS) Game #1: Johnny Bench's Walk Off HR Spoils Tom Seaver's Good Outing


Saturday October 6th, 1973: NLCS Game #1
New York Mets vs. Cincinnati Reds

The 1973 National League Championship Series opened up on a cloudy rainy Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati, Ohio. Luckily the weather did cooperate as the rain stopped & the sun broke thru a few times during the game.

A standing room crowd only of 53,431 paid fans attended Riverfront Stadium, that afternoon.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Louis Crosley, the son of Powell Crosley 

The game was aired locally on WOR Chanel 9 in New York with legendary Mets broadcasters Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy & Ralph Kiner. The national broadcast was on NBC Sports with legendary sportscasters, Curt Gowdy & Tony Kubek calling the play by play. The game took just two hours to play. 

Game #1 had the two teams' top pitchers going at it, as the Mets sent Tom Seaver, the 1973 NL Cy Young Award winner (19-10) to the mound with his league leading 2.08 ERA 18 complete games & his 251 strike outs 

For the Reds, it was Jack Billingham who was 19-10 with 155 Ks & a 3.04 ERA. Billingham led the league in shut outs (7) starts (40) & innings pitched (293). It was quite a pitching matchup.

Trivia: Earlier in the season, A tom Seaver Jack Billingham matchup lasted just one hour & thirty-seven minutes to play.

In the top of the 1st, the Mets threatened as Wayne Garrett led off with a base hit off the first base bag. He was quickly sacrificed over to second by Felix Millan. Rusty Staub then drew a walk off Billingham & John Milner ripped a single to centerfield.

The ball flew off the turf quickly into center & with the arm of Cesar Geronimo, Garrett was held up at third base by coach Eddie Yost. 

Tom Seaver drives in the Mets only run.

Next with the bases loaded & one out, Cleon Jones grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the Mets threat.

Seaver put the Reds down in order in the bottom of the 1st. 

In the top of the 2nd, Bud Harrelson drew a two out walk. Then Mets pitcher, Tom Seaver drilled a line drive double into left center field, scoring Harrelson with the first run of the series. 

It was the only run Billingham was to give up on the day & Seaver was the only Mets runner to get as far as second base.

In the top of the 3rd Billingham issued a two out walk to John Milner, but he then retired the next 14 Mets batters in a row, getting his team to the 8th inning. 

On the afternoon, Jack Billingham pitched eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits while striking out six & walking three.

As for Tom Seaver, he had held down the Reds scoreless until the 8th inning. In the 2nd, Johnny Bench doubled & Seaver hit Ken Griffey with a pitch, but he then struck out Cesar Geronimo & Darrel Chaney to end the inning.

In the 4th Dan Driessen led off with a bloop double into short left field. But Seaver got Tony Perez to fly out then struck out Bench & Griffey to end the inning. 

In the 5th Cesar Geronimo started the inning with a base hit but Seaver fanned Chaney, got Billingham on a sacrifice attempt & struck out Pete Rose to end the inning. 

In the 7th, Johnny Bench led off with an infield base hit off to the left side of Seaver that he slowed down but couldn't stop. Bud Harrelson made it a close play at first but Bench was safe. Then Ken Griffey was robbed of a base hit as Bud Harrelson snagged a liner to the left of short for the second out.

 Then Seaver struck out Cesar Geronimo & pinch hitter Larry Stahl ending the inning with his 11th strike out of the day.

In the bottom of the 8th, Seaver started the inning by striking out Hal King. But then Pete Rose tied the game with a HR. Next Joe Morgan struck out & Dan Driesen flew out to Cleon Jones in left field.

In the top of the 9th, Red's reliever Tom Hall (8-5 / 8 saves / 3.47 ERA) started the inning but walked Rusty Staub to start the inning & Captain Hook, Sparky Anderon saw enough. 

He brought in the Dominican right hander; Pedro Borbon. Borbon had a spectacular regular season, going 11-4 with 14 saves & a 2.16 ERA. He retired John Milner & Cleon Jones on fly balls, then got Jerry Grote to ground out to short. 

In the bottom of the 9th inning, Tony Perez started the inning grounding out to short. Then with one out catcher Johnny Bench hit the game winning walk off HR. 

It was a devastating blow to the Mets as they fell behind in the series, one game to none. For Tom Seaver, he struck out 13 Reds on the afternoon, which is a post season franchise record that still stands today. 

He gave up six hits on the day, while walking no one. It was a fine performance, but the lack of offensive support created the end result.

Trivia: Prior to the game Tug McGraw's father-in-law passed away. Tug's wife left Cincinnati, but Tug stayed with the team.


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