Remembering Mets History: (1973) The Brutal George "Stork" Theodore / Don Hahn Outfield Collision

Saturday July 7th, 1973:
A Saturday afternoon crowd of 30,468 filled up Shea Stadium on a beautiful sunny day to watch Yogi Berra's last place Mets (34-45) take on Eddie Mathews fifth place Atlanta Braves (38-49). 

At this point, Braves slugger; Hank
Aaron was chasing the All-Time HR record & was the most famous face in baseball.  Aaron was #2 on the all-time HR list with 694 HRs & the Mets' own Willie Mays was third all-time with 657 HRs.

The Mets were bottomed out in last place at 34-45 on this date, 12.5 games out of first place, their lowest point of the season. There was still a long way to go in their '73 pennant winning season.

The NL East remained tight all year & the Mets made their unlikely comeback in late August on.

This game began with the Mets; Ray Sadecki getting his first start of the year. He had made 15 relief appearances on the year. He would get 11 starts in 33 appearances that season going 5-4 with a save posting a 3.39 ERA. The veteran left hander spent six years with Mets 30-25 making three saves with a 3.36 ERA, in 165 appearances he made 62 starts. Sadecki spent eight years in St. Louis (1960-1965) winning twenty games in their 1964 Championship Season.

His opponent was the 1970 NL Rookie of the Year, Craig Morton. Both pitchers would be long gone before this one was decided. Morton would go 15-10 on the season. In an eight-year career he won 15 or more games four times.

The Braves helped the Mets with sloppy play in the 1st inning. Dohn Hahn got to second base on a two base error from left fielder; Mike Lum. Felix Millan attempted to sacrifice, but Brave third baseman Darrell Evans made a throwing error allowing Hahn to score. 1-0 Mets

In the top of the 2nd, Dusty Baker drew a leadoff walk, stole second & got to third on Ron Hodges throwing error. The Braves tied it on catcher; Dick Dietz's sac fly scoring Baker. 

In the top of the 3rd, The Roadrunner- Ralph Garr singled to left field. Marty Perez then tripled to right giving Atlanta the 2-1 lead.

In the home 3rd, three Mets singles by Felix Millan, Rusty Staub & Ken Boswell tied it up again at two. The Braves came right back in the top of the 4th, when future Mets manager; Davey Johnson hit a his 21st HR of the year. 

The Stork & Don Hahn Collide in the Outfield
Trivia: Davey Johnson would hit 43 HRs that season. His fellow teammates Hank Aaron & Darrell Evan also hit 40 plus HRs.

In the Mets 6th, George "the Stork" Theodore was playing left field for an ailing Cleon Jones. Stork drew a leadoff walk. 

Don Hahn then doubled & the Stork ran his way around the bases scoring the Mets third run to tie up the wild game.

Thise two players were about to make the Mets headlines of the day, but not because of their hitting. In the 7th the Braves got to the Mets reliever Phil Hennigan.

Atlanta's Mike Lum led off with a base hit & was sacrificed over by Johnny Oates. Pinch hitter, Long Island's own Frank Tepedino, cane through with a pinch hit single. The ball was misplayed in leftfield by Stork Theodore & Lum scored the go ahead run, as Tepedino advanced to second.

Next up "the roadrunner" Ralph Garr, who would steal 35 bases on the season & win a batting title in 1974 (hitting .353) hit a screaming shot in the gap to left center field.

George Theodore who was upset that he had misplayed the last hit, allowing a run to score, was determined to make this catch.

He ran full speed ahead staring down the shot hit by Garr. At the same time center fielder Don Hahn was chasing the liner, running hard too. The two crashed in to each other head on, in one of the worst collisions in Mets history. 

At first the two players lay motionless in the Shea outfield. The ball rolled all the way to the wall. Frank Tepedino scored & the speedy Garr, had himself an inside the park HR, before Rusty Staub could get the ball in.

The Shea crowd held it's breath as did the players. The Mets trainer; Tom McKenna came running out to the outfield.

Hahn was able to get up holding his stomach, as it seemed he had the wind knocked out of him. 

He would have to leave the game & was replaced in center field by Willie Mays. Amazingly, Hahn returned to the lineup three days later. 

Stork Theodore Removed From The Field on Stretcher
But "Stork" Theodore was unable to get up & everyone feared the worst. The Stork, had a thin six foot four, 190 pound frame, he had taken the worst of the hit. He was taken off the field on a stretcher by the Mets grounds crew. X-Rays showed he had suffered a fractured his hip. 

Theodore would be out for most of the rest of the regular season, making just one pinch hit appearance on September 20th, striking out in that at bat. 

He did get into the post season, making two World Series pinch hit appearances, against the Oakland A's, but was hitless.

Back on June 3rd 1973, Theodore had been hit in the eye by a pitch from the San Diego Padres pitcher Gary Ross. At the time it was feared he would lose his eye sight, but the Stork was back in the line up five days later.

Theodore in the Hospital with his guitar
After this outfield collision, at a New York hospital, Theodore told reporters he had a dream two weeks earlier that he was being removed from the field on a stretcher carried by Jerry Koosman & Tug McGraw.

He would spend a few days in the hospital, getting photographed playing his guitar, adding to his legacy of a Mets folk hero. In just two brief seasons, Theodore made himself a most popular Mets player. He is always remembered with affection, even though he wasn't the best of players on the field.

In May of 2011 he told the Daily News: "I did play two more years, but I was never the same. It changed my life, put me in a new direction, but it's all been good. That's the way it is." 

Don Hahn would be back in the line up three days later, finishing up the year as the Mets main center fielder. He played in 93 games batting .229 with 2 HRs 10 doubles 21 RBIs & a .989 fielding %.

Back in the game on July 7th, 1973- Cleon Jones who was not at 100% himself after an injury plagued season so far, had to fill in at left field for the Stork. 

In the bottom of the 8th the Mets were now down 6-3. Cleon Jones led off with a walk. Then pinch hitters Duffy Dyer & Jim Fregosi, both walked. Hall of Famer Willie Mays singled to left field bringing in Jones & Dyer cutting the Braves lead to a run 6-5.

Braves Manager Eddie Mathews brought in veteran reliever Joe Hoerner. Felix Millan reached on a force play & then Wayne Garrett doubled to right field scoring Millan & Mays giving the Mets the lead 7-6. 

But the struggling Tug McGraw couldn't hold the Braves down, McGraw was having problems all season up to this point admitting he had forgotten everything he knew about pitching, He even said he didn't know what to do with the ball.

He served up three singles to Johnny Oates, Hank Aaron & Marty Perez scoring pinch runner Sonny Jackson. McGraw then walked Davey Johnson, as Perez moved up to second.
Harry Parker came in relief, but Dusty Baker hit into a force play scoring another Brave run. Parker then walked Davey Johnson & Norm Miller bringing in Perez making it 9-7 Braves. 

In the 9th, Adrian Devine came on for Atlanta, Ken Boswell led off with a triple. Cleon Jones grounded out but Boswell scored. Devine then struck out Duffy Dyer & then pinch hitter Ed Kranepool lined out to short to end the game.

The Mets fell short 9-8 in a wild close heart-breaking loss. The Mets had been struggling with injuries to most of their main players all year, now with Stork & Hahn out they lost two more outfielders, this adding to the other injuries had the '73 Mets reach rock bottom.

Turning Points of 1973:
Today's game was the last for relief pitcher Phil Hennigan, after coming
over from Cleveland in November in exchange for Brent Strom & Bob Rauch, he had gone 0-4. 

After today's game his ERA was over six, at 6.43 & he was sent to AAA Tidewater, never returning to the majors again. 

This would also be the last Mets game for Jim Fregosi, who would have his contact sold to the Texas Rangers. Fregosi had come over in 1972 in one of the worst trades in Mets history, he was traded for Nolan Ryan. In 45 games he was batting .234 with no HRs & ten RBIs.


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