Remembering Mets History (1973) The Release of Jim Fregosi

July 1973:
In the Summer of 1973, the eventual NL Champion Mets were struggling badly. They were twelve games out of first place & ten games, or more at ties, under .500. Injuries were a big problem but so was their ongoing third base situation.

The Mets were famous throughout the sixties for changing third baseman never seeming to find the right guy, until veteran Ed Charles came along in 1968. But he was at the end of his career & retired after the 1969 Championship season.

The Mets had rookie Wayne Garrett but felt he didn't hit enough, especially for power. They traded Amos Otis for Joe Foy prior to 1970, that trade was a disaster. Foy lasted one season & Amos Otis went on to an All-Star career in Kansas City. In 1971 the acquired veteran Bob Aspromonte for a season but he wasn't their answer either.

After the 1971 season the Mets had made on of the worst trades in their or any history, they traded the fireball throwing Nolan Ryan to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi. Fregosi was a former All Star short stop & one of the first true stars in the Angels team history. 

Not only did the Mets send Nolan Ryan to California, but also outfielder young outfielder Leroy Stanton, pitcher Don Rose & catcher Frank Estrada. 

It must be said, Nolan Ryan was not happy pitching in the big city. His wife Ruth did not like living in the big city atmosphere either. Also, while still with the Mets although Ryan had some brilliant outings, he was very wild & was not the pitcher he was yet to become. 

After the Mets, Ryan went on to his spectacular Hall of Fame career, in 1972 after the trade Ryan went 19-16 leading the league with 329 strike outs & nine shut outs. In 1973 he would break Sandy Koufax's single season strikeout record with 383, a record that still stands. That year he went 21-16 with a 2.87 ERA, He became a star on the West Coast & would pitch his first of seven career no hitters on May 15th in Kansas City.

This trade would haunt the Mets for years especially in those days, imagine a pitching staff of Nolan Ryan with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman & Jon Matlack all in their prime!

As for Jim Fregosi he never fit in well New York, in his first season, 1972 he hit just .232 with five HRs 33 RBIs & a .311 on base % in 101 games. At third base (85 games) he made 15 errors with a .935 fielding %. The trade hurt more & more.

Wayne Garrett who was the rookie in the 1969 Championship Season, played 82 games at third, making nine errors with a .960 fielding %. Although he only hit .232 with two HRs & 29 RBIs he posted a .374 on base %.

But the front office of the Mets didn't believe in Garrett from the start although he ended up being their answer. He may not have been an All Star but is still the only Mets third baseman to get to two World Series with the team.

In 1973 Jim Fregosi was the Opening Day third baseman, getting a hit in the 3-0 win over the Phillies. By the end of May he was batting just .197 without any HRs & just eight runs batted in. Garrett was seeing more playing time & it was clear that Fregosi wasn't going to work out.

When Fregosi wasn't filling in for injured players, he found himself on the bench. On July 1st he got his last two hits as a Mets player, coming in a 6-5 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

On July 11th, 1973, his contract was purchased by the Texas Rangers. Jum Fregosi was gone & the Mets had to eat it. The disaster really bothered the egotistical Mets chairman M. Donald Grant, who knew everyone blamed him for it & he was very paranoid about the situation.

During a July Shea Stadium game, he walked by the back row of the press box & got into a heated conversation with legendary sportswriter Jack Lang. " I know you blame us for Fregosi, but you're the one that made me make the deal". 

A confused Lang said "me!?". Grant used the excuse saying you told me I had to make a deal, Lang shot back "but not that deal!".

Mets Broadcaster Lindsey Nelson had to shut the door in the TV booth for fear the argument would go over the air waves. 

After the game Lindsey Nelson went over to Jack Lang & joked "I have to treat you with more respect, I didn't know you had the power to make deals on this club".

Quotes- Jim Fregosi: "Oh I'm happy, it didn't look like I'd play here anymore".

Later that week Nolan Ryan threw his second no hitter with the Angels. Wayne Garrett went on to have his best season, hitting 16 HRs with 20 doubles 58 RBIs & a .348 on base % in 140 games.


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