Remembering Mets History (1973) Mets Clinch the NL East Title


October 1st, 1973: The crazy 1973 New York Mets season, all came down to the last games of the regular season which had ended for the rest of the league the previous day.

After the previous rain outs earlier in the weekend, a double header was scheduled between the Mets & Cube at Wrigley Field to close out the season. All the Mets had to do was win one game in order to clinch the N.L. East. as both the St. Louis Cardinals & Pittsburgh Pirates lost their final games of the season on Sunday.

In recapping, most of the Mets regular players were struggling through injuries most of the season, not getting healthy as a team until the final month. Also, they had the best pitching staff in the league & everyone stepped up from starters to relievers. The Mets had won 22 of their last 31 games dating back to August 27th when they were still in last place, six & a half games of first place. They had won eight of their last ten games as well. They took over first place on Friday September 21st, the same night they reached the .500 mark.

A small crowd of 1,913 fans came out to Wrigley Field on a cold wet drizzly afternoon for the scheduled double header. The first game was to begin at 11:00 am but was delayed twenty minutes due to rain.

Today Manager Yogi Berra gave the ball to his ace, the 1973 Cy Young Award winner, Tom Seaver (18-10) going up against knuckle curve ball pitcher Burt Hooton (14-16).



After a scoreless 1st inning, the Mets struck first in the bottom of the 2nd, with one out Cleon Jones blasted a HR into the right field bleachers putting the Mets up 1-0.

Trivia: In his last six games of the regular season, the hot hitting Cleon Jones hit 4 HRs with 6 RBIs going 5-19 drawing six walks & scoring four runs for a .423 on base % & 1.318 OPS.

The Cubs got a two out base hit from Gonzalo Marquez in the 2nd, but Seaver got Paul Popovich to pop up. 


In the top of the 3rd Wayne Garrett singled for the Mets, hi tenth hit in his last eight games. But the Mets left him stranded.

In the bottom of the 3rd the Cubs Ken Rudolph & Rick Monday both singled but Seaver got Don Kessinger to end the inning with a double play Harrelson to Millan to Milner.

In the top of the 4th, Rusty Staub led off with a single on a line drive into centerfield. Staub extended his hitting streak to 15 games to close out the season. In that time, he batted .387 with a HR two doubles & 10 RBIs, he drew six walks for a .441 on base % & .909 OPS.

Burt Hooton then got wild walking John Milner & Cleon Jones. Catcher Jerry Grote followed with a single to centerfield bringing home Rusty & Milner giving the Mets a 3-0 lead. But they couldn't add on as Don Hahn & Bud Harrelson both flew out, then Seaver grounded out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the 4th, Jose Cardenal & Gonzalo Marquez both collected two out base hits. Then Paul Popovich flew out to Hahn in centerfield to end the threat & the inning.

In the top of the 5th Wayne Garrett collected his second hit with a leadoff double down the right field line. Felix Millan then blooped a single into right for another base hit. Cubs' manager Whitey Lockman removed Hooton bringing in Mike Paul. 

But Rusty Staub collected his second hit of the game driving in his third run as he singled bringing home Wayne Garrett. John Milner's sac fly brought in Millan to make it 5-0 Mets & the pennant was in sight.

Tom Seaver wasn't at his best today, the Cy Young winner gave up four singles in the Cubs 5th inning, with Don Kessinger & Billy Williams both driving in runs to make it a 5-2 game.

With one out & two on Ron Sant popped up to catcher Jerry Grote in foul ground & Seaver struck out Jose Cardenal to end the inning. It was just Seaver's second strike out of the day. He would lead the NL with 251 that season.

In the top of the 6th Bud Harrelson led off with a double & Seaver reached on a bunt base hit in a sacrifice attempt. Harrelson advanced to third then was thrown out at home trying to score on Wayne Garrett's bouncer to second base. Paul got Millan to ground into a double play to end the inning.

In the bottom of the 6th, Seaver retired the side in order for the first time since the 1st inning.

In the top of the 7th, Jack Aker came on to pitch for Chicago, Rusty Staub singled for his third hit of the game. After Milner flew out Cleon Jones walked. 


J
erry Grote hit into a fielder's choice for out number two. Next, Don Hahn grounded to Ron Santo at third, Santo booted the ball allowing Staub to score the Mets sixth run for a 6-2 lead.

In the bottom of the 7th, Seaver ran out of gas as Dave Rosello singled & Rick Monday hit his 26th HR of the season to make it a 6-4 game as things got interesting. 

Mets manager Yogi Berra knew his ace was done, as Seaver had given up four runs on eleven hits, with just two strike outs although he walked no one. Berra brought in Tug McGraw for relief.

Trivia: Tug McGraw who didn't post his first win until August 22nd had gone 5-0 with 11 saves allowing four earned runs in 39 innings since that time. 

McGraw retired the first three batters he faced, ending the inning striking out Ron Santo.

In the top of the 8th, Aker hit Tug McGraw who was leading off the inning. The Mets got two more hits in the inning as Garrett & Millan both notched their second hits of the day, but the Mets left the bases loaded as Milner & Cleon were both retired.

In the bottom of the 8th, McGraw retired the side in order adding two strike outs on pinch hitters.
Carmen Fanzone & former Met Jim Hickman. Bob Locker retired the Mets in order in the 9th inning.

The long season all came down to the bottom of the 9th inning, an excited McGraw allowed a base hit to start the inning to Ken Rudolph.
 
He then reared back & struck out Dave Rosello. Glen Beckert was up next & here are the word of broadcaster Bob Murphy who called the play by play:


Quotes- Bob Murphy:
"Now the stretch by McGraw the 3-2 delivery, the runner goes & a little pop up, Milner grabs it, he'll run to first, double play- The Mets win the pennant! The Mets have just won the pennant in the Eastern division. It's all over the Mets have won it with a magnificent stretch drive. They won 19 & lost only eight in September, they've won their first October ball game & with it they have won the pennant in the Eastern division". "It
It was onto the playoffs for a date with the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS. What a memorable season it was & what a memorable series was ahead.



The second game of the doubleheader was called off as it served no purpose. 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"!! 

Quotes- Yogi Berra: "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. Only 11 players were still around from the Miracle Mets of 1969 & they understood what winning as a team meant.

Quotes- 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".

Quotes- Tom Seaver: "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
Quotes- Jerry Grote: "It was like 1969 because it was a team thing, everybody did something."

Quotes- Wayne Garrett: "Suddenly you look around during a game & see saw all the faces you were supposed 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."

Quotes- Rusty Staub: "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 Champagne
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."

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. 
 

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