Remembering Mets History (1973 NLCS) Game #3 -The Bud Harrelson Pete Rose Fight

Monday October 8th, 1973: NLCS Game #3

New York Mets vs. Cincinnati Reds 


With the series tied at one game each, as 53,967 paid fans came out to a fired-up Shea Stadium on a beautiful; autumn, Monday afternoon in New York. After everyone filed in it was standing room only.

It had been just four years since the very first NLCS in history was played IN Shea Stadium, as the 1969 Amazing Mets beat the Atlanta Braves to advance to their improbable World Series win. Now in 1973, there was plenty of excitement in the air.

Pre-Game Drama: During batting practice, The Reds Joe Morgan approached Bud Harrelson at
the batting cage, commenting on the remarks Harrelson had made after the Mets Game #2 win, where the Reds were shut out & only collected two hits off Jon Malack. 

Harrelson had told the press "The Reds look like me out there hitting". Morgan grabbed Harrelson by the jersey, saying “If you ever say that about me again, I’ll punch you”.

The Mets Rusty Staub intervened, he knew Morgan since their days together in Houston with the Astros. 

Morgan cooled off after talking with Staub, apologizing, to the Harrelson. Morgan said that Pete Rose is not going to be as forgiving & will use those comments to try to fire up the Reds team.

Before the game the Mets principal owner Mrs. Joan Payson threw out the ceremonial first pitch & it was on to baseball. 

Today's starters were the Mets lefthander; Jerry Koosman (14-15 / 2.84 ERA / 156 Ks/ 12 complete games / 3 shut outs). Since mid-August Koosman was 6-1 with a 1.16 ERA in that time, including setting a Mets record for scoreless innings. 

For Sparky Andersons Reds it was Ross Grimsley (13-10 / 3.23 ERA / 90 Ks / 8 complete games). 

It was to be a memorable afternoon. 

In the top of the 1st, Koosman retired Pete Rose on a fly ball to centerfield, then got Joe Morgan to pop up & ended the inning striking out Tony Perez. 

In the bottom of the 1st Ross Grimsley got Wayne Garrett & Felix Milan for the first two outs. Then Rusty Staub started his big day at the plate by putting the Mets on the board with a solo HR. 

Cleon Jones then singled to right field but was stranded when John Milner struck out.

Koosman struck out Johnny Bench to start the 2nd, then retired Andy Kosco on a fly ball & struck out Ed Armbrister.

In the Mets 2nd, Jerry Grote led off with a walk, then centerfielder Don Hahn singled to right with one of his two hits on the day.

Bud Harrelson then lined out to right for the first out. Pitcher Jerry Koosman dropped a single into centerfield, Jerry Grote was unable to score as the bases were now loaded. 

Wayne Garrett flew out to center for the second out, but Grote scored making & it 3-0 New York.

Felix Millan who had set a Mets regular season record that year with 185 hits, singled to right bringing in Don Hahn with the Mets fourth run. 

Red's manager Sparky Anderson was done with Grimsley & brought in Tom Hall (8-5 / 8 saves / 3.47 ERA) to face Rusty Staub. 

Rusty Staub was the Mets biggest run producer of the regular season & one their most clutch hitters. His 76 RBIs led the team & his 15 HRs were third to John Milner (23) & Wayne Garrett (16). 

Tom Hall delivered the pitch & Staub blasted it down the first base line. The ball hit off the auxiliary scoreboard over the wall for a three run HR. The Shea fans went wild, roaring as Staub quickly rounded the bases & the Mets had a 6-0 lead. 

It was just Staub's third hit of the series, but they were all HRs. He now had Three HRs with five RBIs & was batting .300 in the playoff series.

Tom Hall walked Cleon Jones who reached for the second time But John Milner struck out to end the inning.

In the top of the 3rd, the Reds Dennis Menke hit a solo HR off Koosman putting the Reds on the board. After Darrel Chaney popped out, Larry Stahl, Pete Rose & Joe Morgan all hit consecutive singles. 

Morgan's hit brought home the Reds second run; it was still a 6-2 Met lead. 

With two men still on Koosman retired Tony Perez & Johnny Bench to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the 3rd, Reds left hander Dave Tomlin (1-2 / one save /4.88 ERA) replaced Tom Hall on the mound. Jerry Grote started the inning with a base hit. He would advance when Don Hahn grounded to short. Bud Harrelson flew out for the second out. Then Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman singled to right field scoring Grote with the Mets seventh run. 

Trivia: Koosman had hit .103 in the regular season with three RBIs. In his 12-year Mets career he batted .121 with 2 HRs & 39 RBIs in 807 at bats. 

Next Wayne Garret went down on strikes to end the inning.

In the home 4th, Felix Millan drew a walk & with one out, Cleon Jones doubled to right field bringing Millan home. Next, the Hammer-John Milner drove a base hit to right field scoring Cleon Jones to make it 9-2 Mets in a wild, crazy Shea Stadium. 

The Mets were on the verge of pulling ahead in the Series & being one game away from the World Series. This wasn't sitting well with the Big Red Machine, who were getting very frustrated, especially one Pete Rose.

From the dugout, Tom Seaver was keeping a close watch on Pete Rose. Jerry Koosman claims he also got Rose fired up earlier in the game. Rose knew Koosman was a hard thrower at times, but he was trying to keep the ball down & away with slow curveballs.

After his first at when he popped out, Rose got back to the dugout yelling at Koosman, "throw the ball you big, dumb donkey". Koosman heard him over the noisy crowd but never looked over.

When Rose came up later, Koosman tried to drill him with fastballs four times, but Rose got away each time. 

Quotes- Tom Seaver: "You knew somehow, somewhere Pete was going to do something. Now Koosman almost hits Pete with a pitch, and I thought to myself; he's going to go to the mound after Jerry. He started on the grass, and then he came back to the baseline and went directly to first base."

In the top of the 5th inning, Koosman started the inning striking out Roger Nelson. Next Pete Rose got aboard with a single into centerfield. The next batter was Joe Morgan who grounded to Felix Millan at second base, the official scoring was a 3-6-3 double play completed by John Milner at first base.

But at second base Pete Rose went in hard, with a pop up, cheap shot slide into shortstop Buddy Harrelson. The two exchanged words as Harrelson called him a "cheap shot @#$% sucker". 

It was just what Rose needed, as he grabbed the skinny Harrelson by the top of his jersey & threw him to the ground, jumping on top of him.

In the word of Mets announcer Bob Murphy-"Rose outweighs Harrelson by about thirty-five pounds..." The overall reaction was that Pete Rose was acting like a big bully, picking on the much smaller shortstop. 

The first person nearest the action was third baseman; Wayne Garrett. He ran over to second base & jumped on top of Rose to try to pull him off of Harrelson. Then all hell broke loose at Shea Stadium.

It was the third out of the inning, so players were on their way to the dugout, focused on jogging away from the field.

When everyone realized what was going on, both benches emptied, as well as the teams respective bull pens. Johnny Bench & some of his teammates were trying to pull back Pete Rose.

 Some of the Mets attended to Bud Harrelson. There was a lot of pushing & shoving around as well. Then some milling around in the infield for a bit.

In short center field words were exchanged & Red's pitcher Pedro Borbon, landed a sucker punch to the head of Mets pitcher Buzz Capra. 

Capra attacked Borbon, as another brawl started up. Mets backup catcher Duffy Dyer, got in some retaliatory punches of his own, before being pulled out of the melee by Willie Mays.

As Borbon left the field, he picked up a cap & put it on his head, thinking it was his. 

To the crowd's delight, it was a Mets cap. When Borbon finally figured it out, he pulled it off his head and took a bite out of it then threw it down to the ground. 

The cap belonged to Buzz Capra who held on to it all these years & claims to still have it to this day. 

When order was finally restored on the field, Pete Rose returned to his position in left field. But the game could not continue.

By now it was chaos in the stands, especially in the areas overlooking left field. The Shea Faithful let Rose know how they felt about picking on their short stop & they weren't nice about it. The scene got very ugly & dangerous, as the Mets fans really let Rose have it.

A variety of objects showered down from the upper deck, anything from papers, programs, hot dogs, beer cups, batteries, and finally a whiskey bottle or two. 

The bottle landed just a few feet away from Rose, just missing his head during Felix Millan's at bat.

In a classless effort Pete Rose hit another career low on a personal level. He began throwing stuff back into the stands. Never thinking he could have hurt an innocent child or innocent bystander. But times were different in 1973 & no disciplinary action was taken against him.

But he did call time out & walked toward the infield, informing left field Umpire Ed Sudol & his manager Sparky Anderson what was taking place. 

Anderson, went to the umpires to stop the game, claiming it was too dangerous for his team on the field. The Reds were pulled from the field.

Quotes- Sparky Anderson: “Pete Rose gave too much to baseball to die in left field at Shea Stadium”.

The umpires met with NL President Chub Feeney, who was in attendance at the game & came to a decision that the game may have to be forfeited unless order was restored in the stands.

 Yogi Berra was informed of the decision, he talked things over with Feeny & the umpires. At risk of losing a playoff game in which the Mets had a seven-run lead, it was decided that the Mets send a peace delegation to left field to plead with the fans to stop interfering with play.

Tom Seaver, Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones, Yogi Berra & then Willie Mays walked out to left field, pleading with the rowdy fans to calm it down. The New York fans cheered, as their team walked out to left field & responded to their request. 

Quotes- Cleon Jones: " the fans hadn't seen Willie in quite a while & were happy to see him". 

It was actually Willie's first appearance on the field since announcing his retirement a week ago.

At first the team thought Berra & Mays would have been enough to settle down the fans. NL
President Chub Feeny agreed, h
e thought if he went out there that they'd throw things at him too. Feeney even considered sending Tom Seaver's wife Nancy Seaver out there as a peace maker, since she was so loved in New York, but didn't know where she was sitting.

Order was eventually restored enough to continue the game. Pete Rose was booed mercifully, upon his return to the field. From that day on it he would get verbally abused & booed forever in Shea Stadium. Met fans like me, still haven't forgiven him. 

The Mets Bud Harrelson quickly became Americas favorite little guy, he would always be remembered as the underdog hero.

Bud Harrelson was already an All-Star short stop because of his outstanding defense. This was in an era when short stops were little guys who were not known for their hitting. 

Harrelson was among the best of the lot. Mets pitcher of his era always said Harrelson stopped many hits from getting through the infield. He was the anchor of the infield for the 1969 World Champs as well as in 1973 NL champs. 

The rest of the game was uneventful as Jerry Koosman blanked the Reds allowing just two hits the rest of the way. The Mets rolled along to the 9-2 victory. 

Jerry Koosman went the distance in another fine post season performance, as he earned his third career post season win without any loses.

Kooz allowed two earned runs, on eight hits without any walks. Along the way he struck out nine Reds, including rookie Ed Armbrister three times.

Offensively it was Rusty Staubs day, he collected two hits both of them HRs with four runs driven ins. Cleon Jones & Don Hahn both had two hits each. Wyne Garrett, John Milner, Felix Millan & Jerry Koosman all drove in runs as well.

The Mets took a 2-1 lead in the best of five, championship series with the next two games scheduled at Shea Stadium as well.

Quotes- Bud Harrelson: "They've been coming in hard all year. I thought he came in hard & I didn't like it. I said something, he turned & asked what? Suddenly it became a shoving match".

Quotes- Johnny Bench: "Here we are, it was a small battle but we're losing the war."

The Reds left the ballpark on a chartered bus with a police escort to their Manhattan hotel. The fans shouted & tossed things at them as they left Shea's parking lot in right field.


Anonymous said…
Maz, an absolutely priceless recounting for a then 12 year old kid who was sitting up in the nosebleeds that day with his father and brother, watching the entire thing unfold before his eyes.
Thanks for stirring my memories of that day --- Kenny.

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