Remembering Mets History (1972): First Place Mets Ride On Eleven Game Win Streak
background: The 1972 New York Mets had started the season without their beloved manager Gil Hodges. Hodges had died of a heart attack at the end of Spring Training. The season also began late due to the first ever Players Union strike.
Yogi Berra the popular choice, was named manager. The better baseball choice may have been Whitey Herzog, the Mets head of minor league player development. But all in all the Mets spent 49 days in first place & at one point had a 6 1/2 game lead. Thy remained in first place as late as July 1st. It looked like they have had the horses for another pennant run.
That year they cut ties with fire baller Nolan Ryan, he was traded to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi. Fregosi was brought in for power but was past his best years & by the summer of '73 was gone.
The most important hitter brought in was Rusty Stuab, but he went down with injury playing in just 66 games. The Mets gave up three good future players to get him, Ken Singleton, Tim Foli & Mike Jorgensen.
Rookies John Milner & the NL Rookie of the Year Jon Matlack were both brought up in regular roles that year. The Mets also brought in one of the most popular players of all time, as Willie Mays came home to New York to finish up his Hall of Fame career.
Coincidently, Mays was traded to the Mets officially on May 11th just one day before the win streak began. How was acquiring The Say Hey Kid for motivation. What a time for Met fans.
The usual cast of Tom Seaver (fresh off his 1971 Cy Young season) Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw, Bud Harrelson, Cleon Jones, Ed Kranepool, Tommie Agee, Ken Boswell, Duffy Dyer & Jerry Grote were all there as well.
Starting on May 12th, the Mets had an eleven game winning streak. It tied their mark for longest winning streak in history up that point, last done in the 1969 Amazing Mets Championship season. The Mets did not win eleven game in a row again until the 1986 Championship season.
Friday May 12th 1972: The Mets hosted Charlie Fox's San Francisco Giants, after just acquiring Willie Mays from the Giants the day before. The Mets Gary Gentry went up against future broadcaster Steve Stone. After matching zeros through five, Gentry served up a HR to Giant short stop Chris Speier. The score stood at 1-0 until the home 8th. Pinch hitter John Milner walked, and Kenny Boswell doubled him in to tie it.
In the bottom of the 9th, Giants reliever Jerry Johnson walked Cleon Jones. Jim Fregosi singled & Eddie Kranepool was walked intentionally. Catcher Jerry Grote delivered the walk off game winning base hit, as the Mets won a 2-1 squeeker.
Saturday May13th 1972: This day was another great pitchers duel, as Hall of Famer Juan Marichal went up against young Buzz Capara. In the 2nd,Cleon Jones & Duffy Dyer both singled, Capra helped his own cause with an RBI base hit. It was the only run Marichal gave up in seven innings.
Capra was even better, shutting out the Giants while striking out seven (to Maricahl's four) through eight innings. Tug McGraw saved it, his fifth save as Capra went to 2-1.
Mothers Day, Sunday May 13th 1972: This was a historic day in Mets history, as it marked the first game for Willie Mays in a Mets uniform. (search centerfieldmaz for a more in depth post on this game).
Willie Mays led off to a standing ovation from the Shea crowd & walked. Bud Harrelson & Tommie Agee also drew walked from Giants starter, Sudden Sam McDowell. Rusty Staub then connected for a grand slam HR.
Although the Giants tied it, in the 5th inning Willie Mays hit one of his biggest HRs as a Met. His lead off shot off Don Carrithers proved to be the game winner, sending the Mays / Mets fans into a frenzy. Quite a historic day at Shea on a rainy Mothers Day.
Monday May 15th: Gene Mauch's Montreal Expos came to town with the young cast that had been traded for Rusty Staub, as well as veteran Ron Hunt. Hunt was the first Met to start in an All Star Game, back in the Mid Summer Classic of 1964 at Shea Stadium.
Jon Matlack went into the 9th inning, allowing two earned runs along the way. The Mets offense was led by a two run HR from Tommie Agee & a three run shot, breaking the 2-2 tie in the 8th by Jim Fregosi.
Tuesday May 16th 1972: This one had Tom Seaver up against the 1970 Rookie of the Year Carl Morton. Seaver wasn't at his best exiting in the 6th inning after walking in two runs, with a 5-3 lead.
The Mets got to Morton in the 2nd, sending nine men to the plate with just four hits, but two walks & a balk helped bringing in four Mets runs. Bud Harrelson had a two run single, Fregosi an RBI single & Morton's balk brought in the other run. Later Rusty Staub homered & Milner & Fregosi added more RBI hits.
Wednesday May 17th 1972: Tonight, Gary Gentry cruised to an easy win, as the Mets collected 17 hits scoring 12 runs, romping the Expos 12-2. Genrty went to 3-1 with one of the leagues top ERA's at 2.25.
Montreal's Ernie McNally struggling at 0-3 with an ERA over six, walked the first three Mets he faced in the 1st inning. Staub's sac fly made it 1-0. John Milner's double made it 3-0.
In the 3rd, the Mets sent 12 men to plate, scoring six runs, collecting six hits, with two walks highlighted by John Milner's three run HR. Milner had a big five RBI day. Harrelson & Boswell added RBI singles to go up 9-0. Later Teddy Martinez drew a bases loaded walk to make it 10-1. Jim Fregosi some how tripled, bringing in another run & Duffy Dyer brought him in with a base hit.
Thursday May 18th 1972: The Mets completed the sweep as Jim McAndrew & Tug McGraw out dueled Mike Torrez 2-1. Backup infielder Teddy Martinez two run single was the difference.
Friday May 19th 1972: The Mets went down to Philadelphia for a weekend series, with the lowly Phillies who would lose 94 games that year. On this night Rusty Staub collected three hits, his 5th HR of the year & three RBIs. Jerry Grote connected for a three run HR, his third of the year. Buzz Capra won his third game beating former Met & Tom Seaver's high school friend, Dick Selma.
Saturday May 20th 1972: A double header sweep saw Jon Matlack beat Woodie Fryman & Jerry Koosman best Mike Champion.
In the first game Matlack went the distance allowing one run on five hits, getting his record to 5-0. The Rookie was also racking up strike outs & posted a 2.22 ERA of his own. It seemed the Mets kept pulling top pitchers out of their minor leagues, like it was easy. Tommie Agee's two run double off Fryman, in the 8th was the difference. Willie Mays also had an RBI double earlier.
In the night cap, three Mets pitchers & four Phillie pitchers went at it, as the Mets pulled out another one run squeaker 2-1.
Ed Kranepool & pitcher Ray Sadecki drove in the runs. Jerry Koosman earned his first win of the year, after a bad 0-3 start. This win came in relief.
At this point the Mets were 24-7 with a 6 1/2 game lead their largest of the season. They did remain on top of the East until June 13th, but Unfortunately they fell out of first for good ending the year 13.5 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in third place.
Sunday May 21st 1972: The classic pitching matchup of two Hall of Famers, Tom Seaver & Steve Carlton highlighted the bill today. Carlton would win 27 games in 1972, strike out 310 batters & lead the league in ERA 1.97, winning the pitchers triple crown as well as that years NL Cy Young Award. Seaver & Carlton would always seem to match up in these years of the early to mid seventies.
Not either ace's best day, Seaver went seven innings allowing three runs 7 Carlton went the distance allowing four runs. In the 2nd, Carlton's personal catcher Tim McCarver doubled. He was brought home by The Bull, Greg Luzinski. The Phillies got a two run HR from Tommie Hutton in the 4th.
Willie mays doubled & scored when Tommie Agee blasted a two run HR in the 5th. Mays was the hero once again, when he hit career HR #647, a two run game winner in the top of the 8th inning.
Seaver got the win getting to 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA. The Mets no doubt were showcasing one of if not the best staff in all of the big leagues in 1972.