Remembering Mets History (1973): NLCS Game #5 - The Mets Win The Pennant !! The Mets Win The Pennant !!

Wednesday, October 10th, 1973: NLCS Game #5- Shea Stadium, New York

Cincinnati Reds vs. New York Mets

Now with the Series all tied up at  two games each, in a best of five series, it all came down to one game, the decisive Game #5 for the NL Pennant.

 The Mets long season took them here & an official crowd of 50,323 filled into Shea Stadium for a chance to see their team get to the World Series.

It was a beautiful fall day for the afternoon game which took two hours & forty minutes to play. The winning club would earn $14,000 & the losers would earn about $6000.

The Mets had to play without their main RBI man, Rusty Staub. Staub had injured his shoulder crashing into the outfield wall making a spectacular catch in Game #4. Ed Kranepool was in the line up playing in left field & Cleon Jones moved over to play right field.

Starting Lineups

Cincinnati Reds
New York Mets
1Pete RoseLF
1Wayne Garrett3B
2Joe Morgan2B
2Felix Millan2B
3Dan Driessen3B
3Cleon JonesRF
4Tony Perez1B
4John Milner1B
5Johnny BenchC
5Ed KranepoolLF
6Ken GriffeyRF
6Jerry GroteC
7Cesar GeronimoCF
7Don HahnCF
8Darrel ChaneySS
8Bud HarrelsonSS
9Jack BillinghamP
9Tom SeaverP

For the Mets, the 1973 Cy Young Award winner, Tom Seaver (19-10 / 2.08 ERA / 251 Ks) took the mound, but soon found out his fastball was not at it's best. 

Seaver who may have been fatigued, working on three days rest, after pitching nine innings in Game 1, would struggle all afternoon, without the use of his fastball. He would have to work hard today, using other pitches in his arsenal.

Seaver said "Jerry Grote realized that right away, he made me change my whole game. He made me change my speeds."

In the Top of the 1st, Pete Rose, now public enemy number one in New York, walked to the plate to a tremendous chorus of boo's & obscenities. He grounded out to Felix Millan at second & the Mets fans cheered. 

Seaver then walked Joe Morgan, served up a single to Dan Driessen & then tossed a wild pitch advancing the runners. Tony Perez was the batter, 

Seaver later explained the at bat "I had to get Perez out, so I would have to put Johnny Bench on. I got Perez on a sinker, a good pitch. And God Bless Jerry Grote, he made a hell of a play in the first inning that might have changed the whole game".

Grote held on to a foul tip for out number two. Bench was walked intentionally & a young Ken Griffey flew out to center field.

The Reds, sent Seaver's same opponent from Game #1 to the mound for the finale, Jack Billingham (19-10 / 3.04 ERA / 155 Ks).

After Wayne Garrett grounded out, Billingham ran into trouble. 

The steady Felix Millan singled & Cleon Jones followed with another base hit to right field. John Milner then drew a walk to load the bases. 

Eddie Kranepool, in the lineup for the injured Staub, had said with a smile before the game "I'll be in left field today in Pete Rose's; Rose Garden, I hope I bloom."

He sure did, as Steady Eddie delivered with a base hit to Rose in left field. Millan & Jones scored, as Shea Stadium erupted in a wild roar. Billingham retired Jerry Grote & Don Hahn but New York was up 2-0.

In the Reds 3rd inning, Rose grounded out weakly to Seaver, and left the field to more boos. Then Joe Morgan doubled & advanced to third, on an E9 error in the outfield. Dan Driessen hit a sac fly to Kranepool in left putting the Reds on the board, 2-1 Mets. 

In the top of the 5th the Reds tied the game, as Rose led off with a double & scored on Tony Perez's single to right field. The game was tied & everyone held their breath until the bottom of the inning.

This was a Mets team with a lot of heart. They were use to being counted out & coming from behind. It's core also had members of the 1969 Amazing World Champions & knew how to win. They quickly responded to the Reds tying the game.

Wayne Garrett led off with a double to right field, getting the Mets fans to start it's "Lets Go Mets" chants

Next up, Felix Millan who was second in the NL in sac hits on the season (18) was called on to do the same thing. He laid down a bunt fielded by Billingham, who was instructed by Bench to throw to third base.

At third, rookie Dan Driessen fielded the ball & stood on the base. Driessen a natural first baseman in a different position, had a mental lapse. 

He never tagged Garrett & since there was no force play, all runners were safe. Reds Manager Spark Anderson told the media it was just inexperience, defending his player. 

Next, Cleon Jones delivered with his second hit of the game, a double off the left field wall, scoring the go ahead run. 

Anderson yanked Billingham, bringing in Don Gullett (18-8 / 3.51 ERA / 153 Ks / 2 saves). John Milner drew a walk & then a very special moment happened at Shea Stadium.

Yogi Berra then sent up the great Willie Mays, to pinch hit for Ed Kranepool.

As he walked to the plate the Shea Stadium crowd gave him an incredible standing ovation, in what may have been his last time at bat in New York City. He would get one final at bat in Game #3 of the World Series. 

It was a very touching moment, Even Reds catcher; Johnny Bench, gave Mays a tap on his back as he stepped into the box.

The Reds manager; Sparky Anderson changed pitchers again, bringing in Clay Carroll 98-8 / 14 saves / 3.69 ERA). 

The national NBC television broadcast cut away to report that Vice President Spiro Agnew had resigned. They later had to apologize to the public for cutting away.

Mays who batted just .211 on the season, came through in his first at bat of the NLCS. He bounced a high Baltimore Chop toward third base, reaching safely with an infield hit.

 It was enough to score Millan & make it a 4-2 Mets lead, as Shea Stadium gave Mays another standing ovation.

Quotes: Willie Mays after the game- "I wanted to do something for this team, they've taken care of me all year. I mean they didn't bother me about playing. You always want to play but when you get older..... " 

After Jerry Grote grounded out, center fielder Don Hahn grounded to short, but John Milner came in to score from third base. 

Bud Harrelson, New York's latest favorite underdog hero, stepped in to a huge ovation & amp; singled to Rose in left field. 

Mays crossed the plate & the Mets had a commanding 6-2 lead & never looked back.

In the home 6th, Tom Seaver led off with a double to left field. With two outs, the hot hitting Cleon Jones brought in Seaver with a single up the middle, making it 7-2 New York.

On the mound, Seaver allowed just one hit over the next three innings & amp; a very tense atmosphere led us to the 9th inning.

At this point in time, although the Reds threatened a bit, most people were more concerned about what was going on around Shea Stadium. 

Many of the younger fans, had made their way from the upper deck to the box seats area, in order to charge the field after the final out was made. The lower level was overflowing with fans who wanted to be a part of the action.

In the 9th, Cesar Geronimo lined out to Millan for the first out. Then Seaver began to tire, he gave up a base hit to pinch hitter Larry Stahl & amp; then walked Hal King.

On the first base side, the temporary seating area collapsed from the weight of the fans making their way. 

The game had to be halted for ten minutes when Pete Rose was at bat. Tom Seaver himself walked over to the area & told the fans to calm down, they still had to finish the game. 

A wife of the Reds team doctor fell down & was stepped on. She was escorted away in tears. Reds coach Alex Grammas knew what was coming & urged the players wives section to leave the box seat area. 

They were escorted out into the Reds dug out to the clubhouse. Reportedly, a rowdy fan pulled Mrs. Phil Gagliano's hair as she climbed in to the Reds dugout. Phil then punched the fan & he got off the top of the dugout area. 

Quotes: Reds Manager Sparky Anderson: "It's unbelievable to me, I just can't believe they don't have better control over the people. It makes me ashamed I am in this country.

But I am not too sure New York is in this country. Not after this week. Normal fans don't act that way, they must be on dope or something".

Harsh words for a whole city, because of a few out of hand fans, especially since Mr. Rose was the one who started a fight with a much smaller guy two days prior, stirring things up. Those words certainly would not be tolerated in today's politically correct times.

When play resumed, Pete Rose had an 0-2 count & took a close pitch. Seaver & Jerry Grote thought it was strike three, but umpire Bruce Fromming thought differently. Rose then drew a walk to load the bases.

Yogi Berra went to his bullpen, bringing in one of baseball's top relief pitchers; Tug McGraw. Seaver left to a tremendous ovation & McGraw entered to the exact situation he wanted to be in.

He walked into the Mets infield meeting on the mound & got the ball from Yogi Berra, everyone knew the World Series was awaiting the Miracle Mets. McGraw got Joe Morgan to pop up to the infield, as Harrelson made the grab for out number two. 

Now the tension really mounted, as public enemy number one in New York; Pete Rose was on first base. The Shea fans, were looking like hungry lions waiting to devour on their prey, everyone in Reds camp were concerned with Rose's safety.

 New York was a rough place in the early seventies & security measures for a crowd this large were not as advanced as in today's times.

On the radio MLB broadcaster; the legendary Vin Scully kept emphasizing over & over his concerns for Rose to get off the field safely, hoping the fans would behave.

Dan Driessen then grounded out to McGraw, he tossed the ball to John Milner at first for the final out. The Mets had done it, they won the pennant & amp; were headed to California for the World Series. 

McGraw held on to his cap & ran for his life as the fans stormed the field. Willie Mays had to fight a fan off to protect his cap, as he ran into the right field bullpen area for safety. 

Mays said it was the only cap he had left & felt it was a good luck charm. He'd rather give up his uniform shirt.

Pete Rose had to make it to the Reds dugout for his safety, he later claimed he was never more scared in his whole life.

After the game he said "I'm still thinking we can win this game & they are scaring me to death". I had 15 guys with bats ready to protect me, but I was never touched. I got out of there fast."

Johnny Bench added: " Our first concern was Pete's safety. I thought someone might try to kill him. If the cops weren't going to stop these maniacs we would".

Quotes- Pete Rose: " New York doesn't deserve a pennant. They let the fans out of the zoo for the game & take them back when it's over."

Quotes : Jerry Grote "He better get the hell out of here in a hurry!"

The Reds were very upset, as they banged the lockers & walls of the visiting clubhouse in disgust. Most of their rage was geared toward the fans to cover up their frustrations of losing the underdog Mets. 

Johnny Bench told the press "We had Seaver on the ropes in the first inning, with another hit & bingo maybe he'd be out of there. We didn't get that hit". 

The Reds boarded their bus home to a long winter. A fan with a bugle stayed by the Reds bus & played "Taps" for over an hour!

The fans did storm the field, but mostly in celebration shouting "we're number one"! Unfortunately they did rip part the turf, making huge craters on the field.

The bases, the pitching rubber & parts of the outfield fence were all gone. The Police estimated that 1/3 of the crowd had jumped onto the field after the game.  It was a bad scene & the organization was embarrassed. 

Tom Seaver spoke out, embarrassed by some of the fans antics. "These fans don't care anything about baseball or us winning. It's just an excuse for them to tear up anything in sight".

Luckily the grounds crew had a full week before the World Series was to be played at Shea. In the Mets locker room, they was a happy, joyous chaos of a victory celebration.

From last place in August to an NL pennant a bit over a month later, was incredible. This was another Miracle Mets finish, not as surprising as 1969 but yet very memorable. 

The Mets were now going to their second World Series in four years & had to be acknowledged as winners.

The players doused each other in champagne, as Tug McGraw was heard yelling repeatedly "You Gotta Believe, You Gotta Believe!!!".

Tom Seaver poured some bubbly on the New York City Mayor; John Lindsay saying "Once again" referring to what he had done in 1969. The Mayor responded "Once again!!!".

Yogi Berra, Ted Martinez, Willie Mays &
Felix Millan Celebrate Pennant Win
Willie Mays said to him" Mr. Mayor you don't know how good I feel. I came in a winner & I am going out as a winner".

Seaver talked about the game: "Of course I was tired but I had a lot of good stuff." 

" Jerry Grote called a great game, he called a lot of change ups on Bench & others that made me more effective than I might have been otherwise. He's been catching me seven years now & knows me."

Willie Mays said he had a lump in his throat when he came to bat as a pinch hitter in the game. 

He was reminded that he as a rookie in 1951 (just 22 years prior), he was on deck when Bobby Thompson hit his famous "shot heard around the world" to win the 1951 pennant for the New York Giants.

Mays said "When Thompson hit I was on deck & scared to death. Today I was hoping to be up when something was happening. I think the pressure was on the pitcher. I like pressure."

He added this team was all about togetherness. Manager Yogi Berra said "whoever figured we'd win it & wind up in the World Series. They really played ball since we got them all together".

The teams owner Joan Payson said "I'm so stunned, I could scream".

..................On to the 1973 World Series........................


jaybags said…
All this excitement (Alonso, deGrom -- the Mets still fighting) has brought me back to 1973 (I was in 6th grade and 12 years old then). Great post. Lots of details I had to be reminded of and lots of things I never knew.

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