Nov 17, 2020

Tom Seaver (Part Three): 1973 Cy Young Award & Mets Pennant Season

 1973 Pennant Season & A Second CY Young Award: In 1973 Seaver began the year with a five hit shut out on Opening Day beating Steve Carlton & the Phillies at Shea Stadium. In his second start, he beat another future Hall of Famer, Bob Gibson, in a 2-1 Mets squeaker in St. Louis.  


In his next three starts, Seaver took two losses & a no decision, but only allowed five earned runs in 25 innings in those games. On April 17th, he lost a 1-0 game to yet another Hall of Famer, Fergie Jenkins at Wrigley Field.

The Mets dismal offense at that point only scored one run in the three games. 

On May 2nd, he struck out 13 Reds, in a 1973 NLCS preview, but they roughed him up for four runs, including HRs by Johnny Bench & Pete Rose. But from there, Tom Terrific won his next five starts, with four them being complete game victories. In that stretch he only allowing more than two runs (3) in one game.

On May 7th, he was trailing the Braves 2-1 going into the bottom of the 8th inning, as Pat
Dobson 
held the Mets in check. But the bats exploded & ruined former Met Danny Frisella's chance for a save as they scored 8 runs in the inning. Seaver himself drove in a run on a ground out play, stole second & scored a run. 

In May 24th he & Tommy John started out a duel in Los Angeles that went 19 innings before the Mets took a 7-3 victory. 

The Mets went on a west coast road trip at one of their lowest points of the season. They lost seven of nine in California, with the two wins being Seaver's. First he beat the Giants on May 29th, as he struck out a season high 16 batters, in the three hit two run victory. 

On June 3rd, he beat the Padres in another complete game win. In that game, Gary Ross had beaned George Theodore with a pitch, breaking his glasses. Seaver was fuming as he thought the pitch intentional. 

He was now 6-3 with 83 Ks & a 1.71 ERA all among the best in the NL.

After taking a 7-4 loss to the Dodgers, on June 13th he beat the Giants & Tom Bradley (who had won 15 games in the previous two season with the White Sox) allowing just one run on nine hits, with just 4 Ks. On June 24th, he beat the Pirates for the third time of the year, in a complete game win at Three Rivers. 

Over the next three weeks, he took three no decisions before losing another 2-1 heart breaker to the pesky, rival,  on July 13th, at Riverfront Stadium. Jack Billingham out dueled Seaver,  pitching a complete game, while earning his 13th win of the young season. Joe Morgan homered off Seaver & Pete Rose drove in the other run. 

The Mets scored 12 runs in Seaver's next outing, giving him his 10th win of the year. From this point on he would win six of his next seven decisions.

On July 22nd, he out dueled Houston's ace, Don Wilson 3-2 at the Astrodome. With the score tied 2-2 in the 7th inning, Seaver's sacrifice bunt scored Wayne Garrett from third base with the games winning run. 

Seaver finished the first half of his second Cy Young season, at 11-5 with a 202 ERA heading into the All Star break. The Mets were in last place at this point (42-52) 7.5  games behind the 1st place Chicago Cubs.



1973 All Star Game:
Tom Seaver & Willie Mays represented the Mets at the All Star Game played in Kansas City. Seaver, pitched the 8th inning, allowing a walk with no hits no runs. NL won the game 7-1.

On July 26th, two eleven game winners, Seaver & Rick Wise went at it in St. Louis. Seaver once again beat out another teams ace pitcher 2-1. The Mets were led by Rusty Staub's two doubles & John Milner's HR. 

On August 1st, the Pirates came to Shea & Seaver shut them out 3-0 while striking out 11 on a four hitter. He was now 4-0 on the year against them & won his 13th game overall.

On August 5th, the red St. Louis Cardinals who were riding high in first place, swept a double header at Shea Stadium, Alan Foster beat Seaver in the first game. On the second Mets West Coast road trip, Seaver beat another future Hall of Famer, Juan Marichal 7-1, striking out seven Giants at Candlestick Park. On August 15th, he won his 15th game of the year,  atwo hit shut out in San Diego, striking out seven.

On August 20th at Shea Stadium, Seaver
pitched 12 innings, striking out 12 Cincinnati Reds on two runs & two hits, but earned no decision, as the Mets went on to a 8-3 loss in 16 innings. The Mets, Reds rivalry continued.

As August ended, Seaver took two straight losing decisions, both 1-0 losses to the Giants &
Cardinals. As the month ended, the Mets were in last place but only 6.5 games behind the Cardinals & just four games behind the second place Pirates. But they were 10 games under .500 & the fans & the media were getting restless. But from here on in, the Mets turned it around. 

Many of their key players who were out with injuries were back. Tug McGraw who had struggled all year became the leagues best reliever & the starting staff were nothing but Amazing. Seaver no exception.

On September 4th, The Mets knocked out the Phils Jim Lonborg in the 3rd inning, leading to
Seaver's 16th win of the year. He allowed just one run & struck out 13 batters, for the second time of the season, The 13 Ks were his second highest strike out total of the season as well. 

He would beat the Phillies again on September 13th at the Vet, pitching 11 innings while fanning 12 more. On the two games he struck out 25 Phillies in 19 innings. 

On September 17th, he took a loss in an important game at Three Rivers Stadium. The Mets were now just 3.5 games behind Pirates who had taken over first place, as they beat Seaver for the first time on the year in five tries. 

But on September 21st, Seaver returned to form
beating the Pirates 10-2 at Shea Stadium, putting the Mets in first place, to overtake Pittsburgh. The Mets put up ten runs for him, as he allowed just two runs on five hits, striking out eight. 

The Mets incredible September stretch saw them go from last place to first, on their way to another pennant, as New York went nuts. Amazing once again.

On September 26th, a possibly tired Tom Seaver made his earliest exit of the year. The Montreal Expos roughed him up for four earned runs after two innings. He exited the game a bit sore getting no decision & ruining a chance for another twenty win season. 

On October 1st, he pitched his most important game of the regular season. After two rain outs, on a cold rainy weekend in Chicago, the Mets & Cubs had split a Sunday doubleheader. All the Mets needed to do was win one game of the scheduled Monday doubleheader in order to clinch the NL Eastern Division. The ball went to the Mets ace, the Franchise, Tom Seaver as he faced off against Burt Hooton in front of just 1913 fans, at a cold rainy Wrigley Field.

The Mets put up five runs, behind the hot hitting Cleon Jones, as he homered & RBI hits from Jerry Grote, Rusty Staub & John Milner. Seaver was not at his best form, but still good. 

He got to the 5th inning then allowed two runs as Don Kessinger & Billy Williams collected RBI hits. The Mets had a 6-2 lead going into the 6th inning, Dave Rosello singled off Seaver & Rick Monday blasted a two run HR. 

Manager Yogi Berra had seen enough & with the
leagues best reliever ready in the pen, Seaver was taken out of the game.  Seaver went six innings, allowing four runs on 11 hits with just two Ks. He did not walk anyone. Tug McGraw came on to save the game & clinch the Mets NL Eastern Championship of 1973.

Tom Seaver finished the 1973 season winning his second Cy Young Award while leading the league in ERA (2.08) strike outs (251) & complete games (18). 

He went 19-10 (2nd most wins in the NL) with 3 shut outs in 290 innings pitched (3rd in the NL). Evidence shows that with a little more run support he could have easily won 25 games.

1973 Post Season- NLCS:
 The Mets went on to play the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS. In the 1973 NLCS opener Seaver got the ball on just four days rest. Seaver went up against the Reds top pitcher, Jack Billingham. Billingham also won 19 games on the season (19-10) he led the league with seven shut outs, 292 innings pitched & 40 starts.

In the Mets 2nd inning, Bud Harrelson drew a two out walk. Seaver then doubled with a line drive in the left center field gap, scoring Harrelson to give New York a 1-0 lead. He took the 1-0 lead until the 8th inning, allowing just four hits to that point & striking out 11. But the leagues batting champion of 1973,  Pete Rose then homered to tie up the game. 

 Billingham continued to shut down the Mets, pitching eight innings, allowing just Seaver's run on three hits with three walks & six strike outs.  Pedro Borbon would blank the Mets in the top of the 9th.  


In the bottom of the 9th, Johnny Bench would win the game with a walk off HR. Seaver pitched a fine game but made the costly mistakes that cost him the 2-1 loss. He allowed six hits overall & walked no one, while setting an NLCS record by striking out 13 batters.

The best of five NLCS went the full five games, after the Mets split in Cincinnati, the Mets Game
#3 win at Shea was highlighted by the classic Bud Harrelson vs Pete Rose brawl. The Reds took Game #4 behind Rose's HR & it all came down to Game #5, on Wednesday afternoon October 10th, 1973 at Shea Stadium. Tom Seaver went up against Billingham once again.

Under all the pressure, Tom Terrific was masterful once again, shutting down the Big Red Machine. After a shaky first inning, where he intentionally walked Bench to load the bases, he got Ken Griffey to fly out to end the inning. The Mets picked up two runs in the bottom of the 1st, on Ed Kranepool's RBI single, stirring up a wild Shea crowd.  The Reds tied the game on Tony Perez's single in the 5th. 

But the Mets blew it open in the bottom of the 4th, Wayne Garrett & Cleon Jones both doubled, giving the Mets the lead. Willie Mays came to pinch hit receiving a standing ovation from the New York crowd. 

He delighted them with an infield single scoring Felix Millan. Don Hahn's ground out brought in John Milner & Bud Harrelson's single brought in Mays, making it 6-2 Mets & they never looked back.  

Seaver rolled along to the 9th inning, but with one out, pinch hitter Larry Stahl singled. Seaver tired & walked both Hal King & Rose. Yogi Berra went to Tug McGraw, who got Joe Morgan to pop up & Dan Driessen to ground out to him. The Mets won the pennant,
getting to their second World Series in five years.

For Seaver in Game #5, he went 8.1 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out four & walking five. It was his third post season win at this point in his career (3-2).




1973 World Series: The Mets went on to face the reigning World Champion, Oakland A's in the World Series

The A's featured three future Hall of Famers & some of the games best players during that Era, as well as three twenty game winners. In the World Series, Tom Seaver did not get his first start, until Game #3 at Shea Stadium. 

At this point the Series was tied at one game each. Game #2 ended in controversy after Owner, Charlie Finley forced second baseman Mike Andrews to sign a waiver that he was injured after making two errors in Game #2. 

Game #3: The stage was set for a classic, in the big City with a pitching matchup of Seaver, against future Hall of Famer, Jim Catfish Hunter. Both were tough & in the end neither pitcher would get a decision in the eleven inning Oakland win. 

Seaver pitched eight innings with an incredible fastball that impressed  the national TV audience. Overall he struck out 12 A’s, allowing just two runs on seven hits with one walk. Seaver struck out  five of the first six batters he faced & had at least one strikeout in all but the 3rd inning.  In both the 2nd & 5th innings he struck out the side, blowing the A's hitters away.

 He took the 2-0 lead to the 6th inning, when Sal Bando & Gene Tenace doubled. In that inning he

struck out Reggie Jackson. In the top of the 8th, Bert Campaneris singled & stole second. Joe Rudi singled scoring Campy with the tying run.

The Mets had scored two runs in the 1st, as Wayne Garrett led off the game with a HR, singles from both Felix Millan & Rusty Staub led to a run scored when Catfish threw a wild pitch. The Mets could not capitalize any more & Hunter settled in to keep the score tied, going to extra innings.

In the 11th inning, Harry Parker struck out Angel Mangual, but the ball sailed away from a fatigued Jerry Grote. The passed ball resulted in two runners on base & with Ted Kubiak in scoring position, he was able to scamper in the winning run on Bert Campaneris' base hit.
 

A heartbreaking loss for the Mets. But the next night, Rusty Staub's five RBI night & Jon Matlack's pitching led to a win. Then, Jerry Koosman & Tug McGraw shut out the A's in Game #5 giving the Mets a three games to two lead going back to California.
On just three days rest, Seaver was called on by manager Yogi Berra to pitch Game #6. This was a very controversial decision, since George Stone (14-4 on the regular season) had not started a game in the whole Series & was last seen in relief in Game #2.


In Berra’s defense Seaver was the best pitcher in baseball, but he had to be a bit tired having
thrown over 300 innings up to this point. 

Game #6: On Sunday October 20th, Seaver went up against Hunter in a rematch. Seaver was not his best but gave it his all. He served up two RBI doubles to Reggie Jackson, the Series MVP. But they were all the runs he allowed. 

The problem was Hunter shut down the Mets to just one run. Seaver pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits, striking out six with two walks. He closed out the Series with a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings pitched, leading the staff with 18 strike outs, walking just three.

In the MLB World Series highlight film, Seaver was praised by Reggie Jackson after the game, saying Sever didn’t have any stuff like he had in New York the other night. He gave his team all he had by pitching on heart. Jackson said “I have all the respect in the World for Tom Seaver”. 

The A's took game seven & it was to be Tom Seaver's last World Series appearance.

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