Sep 30, 2021

Remembering Mets History: (1973) Mets Clinch NL Eastern Divison

October 1st, 1973: The fate of the 1973 New York Mets season, all came down to the last day of the regular season. The Mets had a scheduled double header planned at Wrigley Field to close out the season. If they could win the first game, the second game would not be necessary. The St. Louis Cardinals & Pittsburgh Pirates both lost their final games of the season.

These were the NL East standings, on Monday Morning October 1st, 1973:

New York Mets 81-79 -
St. Louis Cardinals 81-81 (1.0 back)
Pittsburgh Pirates 80-81 (1.5 back)
Montreal Expos 79-83 (3.0 back)
Chicago Cubs 77-83 (4.0 back)
Philadelphia Phillies 71-91 (11.0 back)

Starting Lineups


Less than 2000 fans came to a cloudy / rainy & soggy, Wrigley Field to see the Cubs try to play spoilers to knock the Mets out of winning the division. The game was to begin at 1100 am, but was delayed twenty minutes due to rain.

The Mets had won eight of their last ten games, nineteen of their last twenty seven in the month of September. They had gone from last place to first place since late August & were 13 games out in July.

The team had suffered injuries all season, & it wasn't until the final month all the regulars were healthy. The pitching had been spectacular as well, the starters & relievers as well.

Today Manager Yogi Berra gave the ball to his ace, the 1973 Cy Young Award winner; Tom Seaver (18-10 / a league leading 2.00 ERA & 248 strike outs) going up against knuckle curve ball pitcher; Burt Hooton (14-16 / 3.55 ERA / 132 Ks).

In the top of the 2nd inning, the hot hitting Cleon Jones hit a HR to put the Mets out in front 1-0. 

Coach Eddie Yost Congradulates Cleon Jones On HR
Jones had hit four HRs in his last six games & six HRs in his last ten games. Jones had driven in 17 runs in the final two weeks, over 14 games. He had also hit safely in ten of the last 14 games. Jones had missed a lot of action on the year; playing in 92 games finishing up with 11 HRs 13 doubles 48 RBIs & a .260 average.

In the top of the 4th, the Mets rallied as Rusty Staub singled to right field. Hooton then walked John Milner & Cleon Jones to load the bases. Jerry Grote's RBI Single

Jerry Grote
The durable Mets catcher; Jerry Grote came through with a single to center bringing home Staub & Milner to make it 3-0. Grote finished out the year hitting safely in 9 of his last 12 games with eight RBIs. Hooton was able to retire Don Hahn & Bud Harrelson on fly balls to end the threat.

In the 5th the hot Mets went to work; Wayne Garrett led off with a double & went to third on a Felix Millan bloop base hit to right field. Cubs manager; Whitey Lockman, the former New York Giants slugger, replaced Hooton with Mike Paul.

The hot Rusty Staub, who had been the Mets most reliable run producer all year, drove a base hit to right field scoring Garrett with the Mets fourth run.

Staub would have a big four hit day, after coming off a three hit, three RBI day yesterday. Staub finished the season with a 15 game hit streak, batting .279 with a .361 on base % & 15 HRs. He would lead the club in doubles (36) walks (74) & RBIs (76).

Next "the Hammer" John Milner hit a sac fly to center which brought home Millan. Milner would lead the '73 Mets in HRs (23) while driving in 72 runs & posting a .329 on base %. The Mets did not score again & left the bases jammed after Jerry Grote walked. It was 5-0 half way through.

Tom Seaver was not with his best stuff today, between the bad weather & a long September, Tom Terrific had only retired the Cubs in order in the 1st inning. In the 5th Ken Rudolph & Rick Monday both hit singles.

Tom Seaver Delivers
Tom Seaver Earns 19th Win of Season Then Don Kessinger & Billy Williams brought them both in with base hits of their own. Seaver got Ron Santo to pop out in foul territory & struck out Jose Cardenal, to end the inning. The score was New York 5 Chicago 2.

The Mets threatened in the 6th, as Harrelson doubled & Seaver singled. But Wayne Garrett hit into a fielders choice & Felix Millan hit into an inning ending double play 6-4-3. Seaver retired the Cubs in order in the bottom of the inning.

The Mets attacked again in the 7th, Staub had his third hit of the day with a base hit. After John Milner flied out, Cleon Jones drew a walk. Jerry Grote then grounded out as Staub went to third. He scored when Ron Santo made an error on Don Hahns ground ball, it was now 6-2 Mets.

In the 7th, Dave Rosello singled to right field & then Rick Monday blasted a two run HR, bringing the game to within two runs at 6-4. It was clear Seaver was tired & done for the day. In six innings he gave up four runs on eleven hit, no walks & two strike outs.

Tug McGraw Raises His Arm In Victory
Manager Yogi Berra came out & it was Tug McGraw time, McGraw had ten saves in September, six in the final two weeks, which was a lot in those days. He also had two wins in that time & had only allowed two earned runs the whole month in 28 innings, after this outing. McGraw retired his first three batters, ending the inning.

The Mets loaded the bases in the top of the 8th but Jack Aker retired Milner & Jones to end that inning. In the home 8th, the Cubs sent in two pinch hitters but McGraw retired the side in order. It all came down to the 9th inning. 

Ken Rudolph led off with a base hit, bringing up the tying run at the place. But Tug got Dave Rosello to strike out & then went to a 3-2 count on Glen Beckert. McGraw went to his screw ball & got Beckert to hit a soft line drive to John Milner at first, the Hammer caught it stepped on first & it was all over.

At 82-79 the New York Mets were the NL Eastern Champions, from last place a month ago to clinching a playoff berth on October 1st. The second game of the scheduled twin bill was not necessary. The umpires diplomatically stated the field was too wet to play on. 

Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra & Tug McGraw Ham it Up
Yogi Berra came into the clubhouse & yelled "the games off, get the champagne out!" The Mets clubhouse already ecstatic, began to celebrate.

Tug McGraw stood on top of an equipment trunk shouting his famous phrase "You Gotta Believe- You Gotta Believe"!! Yogi Berra told the press from a tiny office : "Its been a long year. I was on 14 teams that won but this has to be a big thrill because we had to jump over five clubs to do it. We were 12 games back & hurt. I told the guys, here Friday I'm proud of you whether you win or lose the next four. Just give me 100%".

All the players felt the same way, it was a team effort with contributions from everyone to get here. 11 of the players were left over from the Miracle Mets of 1969 & understood what winning as a team meant.

Bud Harrelson: "In 1969 it was some sort of Miracle that happened to us. We started out just hoping to do better than we did the year before & weren't expected to win. This year though we were so frustrated, we knew (tapping his heart) knew, that we should win. We had the talent & went everybody got down on us we knew they were wrong. To come back & win once we were able to play, I think of it as a much more mature feeling".

Tom Seaver said "Nothing will ever be like 1969, we were all so young then. Anyhow we've only taken one step of the three. We still have to win a playoff & a World Series to match 1969, but in a way it was more earned."

Wayne & Donna Garrett
Jerry Grote added "It was like 1969 because it was a team thing, everybody did something."

Wayne Garrett said: "Suddenly you look around during a game & see saw all the faces you were suppose to see on out there playing. Harrelson, Grote, Jones, Staub,- the regulars. It made a tremendous difference. We knew we had a good team if only we could get it out on the field."

Rusty Staub said "I simply come to play, I always do. A couple of months ago we were out of it & then we really put it all together."
Wille Mays Gets Doused with Champagane
Cleon Jones said "When I was out, I couldn't contribute, I don't think what I've done in the last month can offset that. But we're in now, that's what counts. I kept myself in shape when I was hurt & I feel strong & healthy. It's just fantastic, I can't express the way I feel."

The Mets received $5000 each player for winning the division. They flew to New York that evening arriving at 1110 PM, greeted by a reported 500 plus fans at La Guardia Airport. It was onto the playoffs with a date with the Cincinnati Reds. What a memorable season it was & what a memorable series was ahead.

Buzz Capra: 1973 N.L. Champion Mets Pitcher (1971-1973)

Lee William Capra was born October 1, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. The five foot eleven righty was selected by the New York Mets in the 27th round of the 1969 draft. He helped Illinois State University win the college championship that same year.

He became another highly touted pitching prospect for the early 1970’s Mets, having a great minor league career going 44 -18 with a 2.86 ERA overall. 

In 1971 after going 3-0 at AA Memphis, Capra was promoted to AAA Tidewater. There he went 13-3 second to Jim Bibby in victories while posting a .219 ERA. Capra earned a September call up & debuted at Shea Stadium on September 15, 1971.

He pitched four innings in relief of Jerry Koosman, in a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs. On September 27th, in his third & final outing of the year; he was roughed up by the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing five earned runs in less than an inning pitched taking the loss.

In 1972 he was with the club out of Spring Training in April. He earned his first career victory on April 25th in San Diego while making in his first career start.

He allowed just one run in six innings of work. In his next start he was roughed by the Dodgers in Los Angeles, as he allowed seven runs on nine hits, getting knocked out in the 4th inning.

On Saturday, May 13th he beat Juan Marichal & the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium. He drove in the only run of the game with a 2nd inning single. He tossed a three hit shutout, striking out seven Giant batters. He won his next start as well, tossing seven innings with three runs allowed in Philadelphia.

After that he struggled & found himself pitching out of the bull pen. He had control issues & got sent back down to AAA Tidewater in July. 

He finished the 1972 season 3-2 with a 4.50 ERA, striking out 45 batters while walking 27 in 56 innings pitched over 14 games.

In 1973 he started out going 4-5 at AAA Tidewater, when he got called up in June, to help out a struggling bullpen. The Mets relief ace; Tug McGraw was having troubles & the staff was struggling through injuries as well.

 On June 27th, Capra got his first save, coming against the Philadelphia Phillies after pitching four shutout innings. He struggled in his first two months back up, finding himself at 1-5 with two blown saves at the end of July.

Capra improved from there settling down to go 2-3 with three saves the rest of the year. On August 7th he pitched three innings of relief earning a win against the St. Louis Cardinals. 

On September 18th he earned a key save at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, as the Mets scored five runs in the top of the 9th inning, which brought them within 2 1/2 games of the first place Pirates.

Overall in the 1973 Mets NL Championship season, Capra appeared in a total of 24 games, going 2-7 with four saves, 35 strikeouts & 28 walks in 42 innings pitched, while posting a 3.86 ERA.

1973 Post Season-NLCS: Although he did not pitch in any 1973 post season games, he did have a part in some of the theatrics.

It came during Game #3 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium, during the famous Bud Harrelson / Pete Rose fight. After the Harrelson and Rose were broken up, the benches had cleared as well as the bullpens. 

Both teams just milled around the infield for a while, until Cincinnati Reds reliever Pedro Borbon landed a sucker punch to the right temple of Buzz Capra’s head.

Next, he and backup catcher Duffy Dyer started pounding on Borbon, before being pulled out of the melee by Willie Mays.

After the dust settled and the teams were going back to their dugouts, Borbon was walking off the field & put a cap on his head. But to his surprise it was pointed out by another Reds player, that it wasn’t his Reds cap but Buzz Capra’s Mets cap.

Borbon yanked the cap off his head and bit a chunk out of it, before throwing it to the ground. Capra eventually got his Mets cap back & claims to still have it to this day.

After the 1973 season the Mets sold Capra to the Atlanta Braves in what turned out to be a bad deal for New York. 

Capra had a fantastic 1974 season, leading the major leagues with a 2.28 ERA, going 16-8 (7th most wins in the NL) with five shutouts (Third in the NL) & 11 complete games (10th in the NL).

Capra struck out 137 batters, walking 84 in 217 innings & had the best hits per nine innings ratio in the league. 

He was named to the All Star team by his former Mets manager Yogi Berra, & came in the top ten voting for the Cy Young award. He also set an Atlanta Braves record for consecutive victories by winning nine straight games.

The following year in 1975, he only pitched in 12 games going 4-7 with a 4.25 ERA. He suffered a shoulder injury which ended up ruining the remainder of his career.

 In 1976 he missed almost the entire season, pitching in just five games (0-1).

Capra attempted a comeback in 1977, going 6-12 pitching in 45 games with an ERA of 5.36. The shoulder injury forced him to retire at age 30 by 1978.

In a seven year career he was 31-37 with five saves, 362 strike outs & 258 walks in 544 innings pitched posting a 3.38 ERA in 142 appearances. At the plate he had a decent .135 batting average for a pitcher.

Retirement: After retiring as a player, Capra spent over twenty years as a professional pitching coach for the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves & Philadelphia Phillies organizations. 

He was the pitching coach for the A ball St. Lucie Mets in 2007.

He is also available year round for private and group pitching instruction at the Fox Valley Sports Academy in Elgin, Illinois. Buzz also frequently appears at Mets Fantasy camps as well as Atlanta Braves alumni functions.

Sep 29, 2021

Remembering Mets History (1973): Cleon Jones Hot Hitting In the Final Week

Cleon Jones is certainly a Mets legend, the all time team leader in games played in left field (800). He is sixth in all time Mets games played (1201)  fourth all time in Mets hits (1188)  triples (33) & sac flies (41) eight in RBIs (521) tenth in doubles (182). Jones came in the leagues top ten in batting three times (1968-1969-1971).

He was part of two Mets NL Pennant teams & the Amazing Mets World Champions of 1969 where he batted .340 (3rd best in the NL). He also caught the last out of the '69 World Series. In what I like to call the Mets golden era of 1969-1973, Cleon Jones was a vital part of the core line up.

In 1973 he missed action from mid April to mid May. He was back for six brief games before going down again for almost six weeks. He returned in July & slowly regained form. In early August the Mets were a season worst 11 1/2 games out of first place. The '73 Mets were in last place as late as August 30th in a tight division, but just 6 1/2 games back. 

An incredible September run of 20-8, great pitching, a healthy line up clutch hitting, unity & a Rally cry of "You Gotta Believe" go them to the World Series.

Here we highlight Cleon Jones hot hitting in the final ten games of the year as the Mets chased the NL Eastern Crown winning it on the last day of the season. Jones hit six HRs, drove in 14 runs with ten hits, seven walks & eight runs scored in that span.

Jones had not a HR in over a month, the last coming on August 15th in San Diego. On September 19th, in a huge game against the first place Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium,, the sleeping giant bat of Cleon Jones woke up.

The Mets were just 2 1/2 games behind the Pirates at 75-77 on this night. In the 2nd inning, with the Mets down 1-0, Jones hit a two run HR putting New York ahead. As George Stone was clinging to a 4-3 lead in the 8th inning, Rusty Staub singled & John Milner walked, setting the stage for Cleon to blast a three run HR off reliever Dave Guisti, one of the NL's best. The Mets went on to a 7-2 win, Stone went to 12-3 & the Mets were a 1 1/2 games back.

The series switched to New York, on September 20th the game that is looked at as the biggest turning point of the season for the Mets is "the Ball on the Wall" game. (search for full game coverage) In the 6th down 1-0, Jones singled to tie the game. But his biggest role of the night came on defense, in extra innings.

In the top of the 13th, Dave Augustine blasted a shot to left field, the ball hit the top of the wall & bounced into Cleon's glove, he turned & fired a bullet to short stop Wayne Garrett the relay man, Garrett fired a strike to rookie catcher Ron Hodges, he applied the tag to base runner Richie Zisk, out at the plate. 

It was incredible play- You Gotta Believe.. The Mets won it in the bottom of the inning & were now just 1/2 game back.

Friday September 21st, saw a crowd of over 51,000 at Shea as the Mets took over first place, routing the Pirates 10-2 behind Tom Seaver. That night Jones came up I the 1st inning with Wayne Garrett & Rusty Staub aboard. He doubled off Steve Blass to right field, putting the Mets ahead  2-0. He added a single & scored in the 3rd as well.

Two nights later the Mets were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals, Jones hit his 8th HR of the year, a solo shot off Hal Hrabosky "the Mad Hungarian". Jones also had an earlier sac fly RBI as well. The Mets won it 5-2 remaining a half game in first place.

On Tuesday September 25th, Jones hit another HR, this one was the game winner coming in the 6th inning off Steve Rogers breaking a 1-1 tie. Jerry Koosman & Tug McGraw combined in the 2-1 win.

The next two games were heart breaking losses, an the season winded down in Chicago. But three days of rain at Wrigley Field all resulted in rain outs. But the Expos helped the Mets by beating the Pirates.

On September 30th, the Mets played a twin bill at Wrigley Field. In the first game Rick Reushel & Bob Locked outdueled Jon Matlack 1-0. But in the second game the Mets won & clinched at least a tie for the NL East crown.

In the 1st inning, Jones reached on a Ron Santo error, resulting in Wayne Garret scoring from third base. In the 6th, Cleon connected for his 11th HR, his third of the week, a two run shot off Fergie Jenkins putting the Mets ahead 5-2, Koosman rolled along for the complete game win.

The next day, two games were scheduled but only one needed to be played, the Mets clinched the NL East behind Tom Seaver & Tug McGraw's 6-4 victory. 

In the 2nd inning, Jones hot bat blasted a solo HR off Burt Hooton, it was his 11th of the year, his second in two days & his fourth of the week.

Quotes- Cleon Jones:  "When I was out, I couldn't contribute, I don't think what I've done in the last month can offset that. But we're in now, that's what counts. I kept myself in shape when I was hurt & I feel strong & healthy. It's just fantastic, I can't express the way I feel."

Remembering Mets History: (1981) Pete Falcone HRs, Drives in Three Runs & Tosses A Shut Out

Tuesday September 29th, 1981: In the crazy year of the 1981 MLB Strike, the New York Mets were a bit better in the second half  of the year (24-28) than the first half (17-34). That year the season was divided by the strike as the half way point.

On this date, Joe Torre's Mets were in Philadelphia playing Dallas Green's Phillies in front of 20,110 at Veterans Stadium. The Mets Pete Falcone went up against Mark Davis. Since the strike Falcone, a local Brooklyn born, Italian American pitcher was 2-0 being used as a starter & reliever. Falcone had lowered his ERA at 3.03 & was pitching well. This was to be his best outing of the year & one of his best in his four years with the Mets.

Starting Lineups

Falcone allowed just four hits & two walks on the night, as no Phillies baserunner even reached second base. Falcone only struck out one batter on the night but kept the Phils in check recording 17 fly ball outs. On top of that Falcone had a great night at the plate too.

In the top of the 3rd inning he hit a solo HR, the only HR of his career in 416 at bats. Later in the 6th inning with New York already up 5-0, Falcone lined a single to right field with the bases loaded, scoring John Stearns & Doug Flynn.

Falcone drove in three of his season career high five RBIs that night. He bested his record to 4-3 & lowered his ERA to 2.71. Falcone was a pretty good pitcher on four years of worth of bad Mets teams.

The Mets offense supplied him with a total of nine runs, Falcone drove in three of them, also Dave Kingman hit his 22nd HR of the year. John Stearns & Ron Gardenhire supplied RBIs as well.