Remembering Mets History (1973) The Ball On The Wall Game

Thursday, September 20th, 1973: Yogi Berra's Mets (75-77) had been in last place, 12 games under .500 & 6.5 games out of first place at the end of August. 

But in that year's NL East, no team ever dominated play long enough to take control. The division was very competitive with five of the six teams still in contention, no more than three games back at this point late in September. 

The Mets had suffered with injuries to most of their regular players but at this point had everyone back & healthy. Since that low point in late August, they got hot & were playing good baseball. 

They became one of the league's best teams, going 17-6 in that time, finding themselves just 1.5 games out of first place, behind the Pirates.

Tonight, they hosted Danny Murtaugh's Pittsburgh Pirates (75-74) in what was certainly one of the most important games of the 1973 season. It would also become one of the most remembered games of that season & in Mets history. 24,855 fans filled Shea Stadium that night to see Jerry Koosman (12-15) go up against the Pirates Jim Rooker (9-5). 

Jerry Koosman started off the 1st inning with two strike outs. In the 2nd, he issued back-to-back walks to Don Robertson & Dal Maxvill but struck out Jim Rooker to end the inning. He retired the side in order in the 3rd inning.

In the 4th, Koosman walked Willie Stargell to start the inning. After retiring Richie Zisk, Manny Sanguillen singled. Koosman then got Bob Robertson to look at a third strike.

Then sloppy play led to a Pirates run, as Stargell scored when Bud Harrelson threw wildly to first base on a Dal Maxvill's  grounder.

The Pirates Jim Rooker rolled along, shutting the Mets out up to the 6th inning. Rooker walked Jerry Koosman to start the inning. Kooz was then forced at second by Wayne Garrett's grounder. Felix Millan continued his hot hitting with a base hit. Rusty Staub flew to center for the second out. 

But next one of the hottest hitters in the month of September, Cleon Jones came through with a single to left field scoring Garrett. The game was tied 1-1 & as Bob Murphy would say was "getting to be a real nail bitter".

In the 7th, Richie Hebner took a Koosman curve ball over the fence for a 2-1 lead. 

Jim Rooker kept the Mets down to one run until the 8th, pinch hitter Jim Beauchamp came through for manager Yogi Berra once again, with a base hit. Teddy Martinez came in to pinch run & Wayne Garrett laid down a successful sacrifice bunt.

Once again it was Felix Millan coming through with a base hit to tie the game. Rooker got out of the inning getting John Milner to pop out to short, as the Mets stranded two. 

In the 9th Harry Parker came in to pitch for the Mets. Parker had been a solid reliever throughout the year out of the bull pen.

 In the top of the 9th, he walked Bob Robertson to lead off the inning. Pinch runner Dave Augustine was brought in to run. Dal Maxvill sacrificed him over to second. 

Harry Parker then fanned rookie slugger Dave Parker for the second out. Richie Hebner who had homered earlier was due up again, Yogi Berra wasn't taking any chances & intentionally walked Hebner. But Dave Cash, an All Star himself, then doubled past Cleon Jones in left field bringing in Augustine with the Pirates go ahead run 3-2.

In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Pirates made three defensive changes & brought in Bob Johnson to pitch. Yogi Berra sent another one of his best pinch hitters up, veteran of the 1969 Amazing Mets, Kenny Boswell.

The return of "the Stork"
George Theodore
 Boswell delivered with a base hit to right field. Dohn Hahn then laid down a beauty of a bunt, advancing Boswell.

The Shea Faithful were now on their feet chanting "Lets Go Mets" as Ed Kranepool was announced as a pinch hitter. Pirates Manager Danny Murtaugh responded & changed his pitcher, bringing in Ramon Hernandez.

George the Stork Theodore was brought in to pinch hit, it was The Stork's first appearance since early July. He had been on the DL after an outfield collision with Don Hahn. Stork was still not at his best & went down swinging.

The Shea crowd still cheered Theodore for his bravery of coming back. He would remain a folk hero in Mets history forever, he would be on hand in the Last Game at Shea in 2009.

Now with two outs & the tying runs on second base, Berra put up Duffy Dyer to pinch hit for the pitcher Harry Parker. 

Duffy Dyer
Dyer doubled to left field scoring Boswell, as the  the Shea fans went wild. The Mets dugout was also excited & manager Yogi Berra once again had made the right move.

It was onto the 10th inning & a whole new ball game. Defensively, Ken Boswell stayed in the game & took over third base, Wayne Garrett moved to short replacing Harrelson. 

The new catcher brought in was rookie Ron Hodges & what a key figure he would turn out to be in this classic game.

Ray Sadecki was brought in to pitch for New York & Jim McKee for the Pirates. Sadecki was fired up, he struck out the side in the top of the 11th. Getting Dal Maxvill & Jim McKee looking.

Pinch Hitter Ken Boswell
Sadecki would pitch four innings, through the 13th, strike out six, allow no runs & two hits. 

In the bottom half of the 11th, the Mets threatened, John Milner walked & Boswell sacrificed him over to second.

Luke Walker was brought in to pitch for the Pirates & he walked Don Hahn intentionally to set up the double play. Walker got catcher Ron Hodges to ground out, nut no double play. Although he ended the threat getting Sadecki to ground out to short.

In the top of the 13th inning, Richie Zisk singled with one out. Catcher Manny Sanguillen flew out to right field for the second out. Then, with the next play, the Mets fans really started to "believe" in Tug McGraw's mantra "You Gotta Believe".

Dave Augustine drilled a fly ball over the head of Cleon Jones in deep left field, the ball was headed to be a HR. But miraculously, it bounced on the top of the wall into Cleon Jones' glove. Jones played it perfectly, he then turned & fired to short stop Wayne Garrett.

From the moment the ball was hit, Pirates runner Richie Zisk took off from first & was rounding the bases. Wayne Garrett took the relay & made a perfect throw to home plate to catcher Ron Hodges. 

Hodges took the throw, blocked the plate held his ground & tagged out Zisk who was trying to score on the play. "Out at home plate". This play became known as "the Ball on the Wall Play".

The fans roared & still amazed at the great play they just witnessed were on their feet shouting, "Let's Go Mets". 

In the bottom of the 13th, Luke Walker walked John Milner & Ken Boswell to start the inning. 

Pirates' manager Danny Murtaugh went to the mound replacing Walker with Dave Giusti. Giusti got Don Hahn to pop out for the first out.

Then third string rookie catcher, Ron Hodges came through with a base hit to left field, John Milner scored with the walk off run, as the Mets won it in dramatic fashion.

The win brought them to within a half of game of the first place Pirates. The Pirates fell to .500 which was the best record in the NL East. 

The Mets were now 76-77 & had one more game against the Pirates tomorrow night.


BERT said…
It's unfortunate this game wasn't preserved in its entirety. SNY does a poor job overall in honoring the pre-86 Met teams, they could do more to show the existing playoff and world series games from 73. There is also a 1973 post season special that aired on Channel 9 that I would hope they have in their archives. It was up on youtube about a year or two ago. Do any of the 1969 NLCS games exist in their entirety, have only seen snippets in the 50 years I've been watching the Mets.

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