Remembering Mets History: (1973) Old Timers Day & Mets Retire Hodges #14

Old Timers Day 1973
Saturday June 9th 1973- Old Timers Day: A big Saturday afternoon crowd of 47,800 filled up Shea Stadium to first witness an Old Timers Day classic between former Brooklyn Dodgers & AL New York Players vs former New York Mets from the sixties.

A full cast of original 1962 Mets were on hand; Richie Ashburn, Ken MacKenzie, Jim Marshall, Rod Kanehl, Frank Thomas & Roger Craig. Other Mets on board included 1969 Amazing Mets Reliever Ron Taylor & pitcher Larry Bearnarth.

It was on this day, the Mets officially retired Gil Hodges #14, as Mets GM Bob Scheffing presented Gil's widow; Joan Hodges with his Mets uniform. Former Brooklyn Dodgers; Carl Furillo, PeeWee Reese, Ralph Branca, Carl Erskine, Sandy Amoros & Cal Abrams were all in attendance.

The Old Professor; former Mets Manager; Casey Stengel was on hand along with AL New York players Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford & current 1973 Mets manager; Yogi Berra.

For the actual game that day, the big Shea crowd saw Yogi Berra's fourth place Mets (23-27) host Walt Alston's second place Dodgers (34-23). 

The Dodgers were still attracting big crowds when they came to New York, just 15 years removed from Brooklyn.

The Mets were beat up with injuries at the time, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Grote & Cleon Jones were all on the DL.

The line up that day consisted of Ted Martinez 3B/ Felix Millan 2B / Willie Mays CF / Rusty Staub RF/ Jim Fregosi SS / John Milner 1B/ George Theodore LF & Duffy Dyer behind the plate.

Today a struggling Mets Jon Matlack (2-8) took on Dodger hurler; Al Downing (5-2).

Trivia: In 1974 Downing would give up Hank Aaron's historic #715th HR.

In the bottom of the 1st, with the Mets down 1-0, third baseman Teddy Martinez singled to lead off for the inning. After Felix Millan grounded out, veteran Wille Mays, getting a start in center singled to put two aboard. Rusty Staub stepped in & doubled to left field bringing in both runs, making it 2-0 Mets.

In the bottom of the third, the score was tied at 2-2 after Bill Buckner had driven in a run with a sac fly.

The 42 year old Mays, who was older than some of the old timers in the first game, put on a show himself. First he made a classic Willie Mays circus catch during the game, saving a run .

Then in the bottom of the 3rd, Mays hit his first HR of the year, #655 of his Hall of Fame career. At this point in time, he was third on the all time HR list. It was a real thrill for the large Shea crowd & they gave "the Say hey Kid" a standing ovation.

In the Dodger 7th, Tom Paciorek led off with a double & Davey Lopes singled to right field, moving Paciorek to third. Mets lefty pitcher; Jon Matlack, who always had a great pick off move, threw to first & caught Lopes off balance. He was caught in a run down, as Mets first baseman John Milner & second baseman Felix Millan threw back & forth trying to tag him out. Short stop Jim Fregosi also got in the mix as did right fielder Rusty Staub. 

Jon Matlack
Rusty came running in from right field, took Milner's throw & finally tagged out Lopes. At third base Paciorek broke for home & tried to score, Staub after making the tag, alertly threw home to catcher Duffy Dyer who tagged Paciorek out for a most unusual 1-3-6-3-4-3-4-7-2 inning ending double play.

Matlack & Downing pitched to the tie game until the bottom of the 7th inning, when Doug Rau came on for the Dodgers.

In the bottom of the 8th, with Doug Rau now pitching for the Dodgers, Felix Millan plunked a one out single to right field. After Mays went down looking, Staub came up & capped off  his big day with another RBI double, putting New York up for good 4-2.

Matlack went the distance, allowing just one earned run on seven hit, striking out four batters. The win had the struggling Mets at 23-27 now 7.5 games behind the first place Chicago Cubs.

Trivia: The 1973 Mets went on to win the NL Pennant & fall one game short of a World's Championship. Rusty Staub was one of the main reasons the Mets went so far that season. He led the team in batting (.279) RBIs (79) doubles (36) walks (74) & on base % (.361).

In the post season he hit a combined .341 with 4 HRs 11 RBIs & 5 walks posting a .413 on base.


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