Today’s Postseason Series From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is the 1973 National League Championship Series. The Reds were the in the midst of their run as “The Big Red Machine”, finishing second in the league in runs scored. Managed by future Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson, the Reds won 99 games and took the NL West title by 3 ½ games over the Dodgers. The Mets on the other hand probably shouldn’t have been in the NLCS. They were 11th in the 12-team National League in runs scored. Forty-two year old Willie Mays received 239 plate appearances. While I believe that Willie Mays is one of if not the the greatest player in baseball history, I can’t say that about the 42-year old version of him. Hell his manager, the late Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, was in opponent in the World Series 22 years earlier. This team was carried by their starting rotation. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, and George Stone all posted ERA’s well above the league average. The other thing that helped the Mets is that the NL East sucked. After a double header on August 5 the Mets were in last place, 10 ½ games out and 12 games below .500. Fortunately, the rest of the division started losing. The Mets were the only team in the NL East to play over .500 from that point on. September was when they really started to play better, though. Once the calendar turned from August the ‘Mazings were 20-8. The won the division by a game and a half with a less than impressive 82-79 record. The Reds were the heavy favorites, having won eight of the twelve games during the season. The series opened in Riverfront on Saturday, October 6. The Mets got on the board first when Buddy Harrelson drew a two out walk and Tom Seaver drove a double into left-center to score Harrelson (I told this team was carried by their pitchers). Seaver was able to stifle the Reds’ bats for seven innings. Then with one out in the eighth Pete Rose homered to tie the game. After Pedro Borbon set the Mets down in the ninth, Seaver took the hill in the bottom half. After getting Perez to ground out to short, Johnny Bench homered to give the Reds the series opener. In Game 2 Matlack kept the Reds at bay, shutting them out on only two hits. The got a Rusty Staub homer in the fourth and blew the game open with four in the ninth for a 5-0 win and the series was tied.
The series moved to Shea for Game 3 and things became rough. Staub hit his second homerun of the series in the bottom of the first, then the Mets exploded in the second. Jerry Grote led off with a walk and Don Hahn followed with a single. After Harrelson lined out to right, Koosman singled to load the bases. Wayne Garrett hit a sac fly to make the score 2-0. Felix Milan singled to make it 3-0, chasing starter Ross Grimsley. Tom Hall was greeted by Staub, who homered for the second time in the game. The Mets got two in the bottom of the third, but the Mets got one back with an RBI single by Koosman. After two more runs in the fourth, the Mets were comfortably ahead, 9-2. After those fireworks, the top of the fifth really took off. After a strikeout, Rose singled to center. That brought Joe Morgan to the plate. Morgan hit a shot to first. John Milner picked it and threw to second, where Harrelson caught it and threw back to first to complete the double play and end the inning. Rose had other thoughts. He tried to take out Harrleson and break up the double play, and Harrelson took exception to that. Rose took exception to Harrelson’s exception and got up swinging. The benches emptied and other fights broke out. It was crazy. Neither Rose nor Harrelson were ejected (makes one wonder what one had to do during the 70’s to actually get ejected). When Rose went to his position in the bottom half of the inning, Mets fans starting throwing anything that wasn’t bolted down at Rose. Sparky pulled his team off the field. National League president Chub Feeney threatened to have the Mets forfeit the game, so Berra, Mays, Seaver, Staub, and Cleon Jones went out and finally persuaded the fans to stop (I don’t think any fans were ejected, either; again, the 70’s were a strange decade). The game finally resumed and no other incidents occurred. The Mets had their victory and a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 was another pitchers’ duel. The Mets got a run in third when Milan singled in a run. George Stone held the Reds scoreless until the seventh when Perez homered to tie the game. The game remained tied until the 12th, when with one out Rose stepped to the plate. He homered to give the Reds a 2-1 lead. Borbon came in and shut down the Mets in the bottom half to even the series at 2-2.
Game 5 in similar fashion as the rest of the series. Ed Kranepool had a 2-run single in the bottom of the first. The Reds got a run back in the third when Dan Driessen drove in Morgan with a sac fly. The game was tied when Perez drove in Rose with a two-out single in the fifth. In the bottom half of the fifth The Mets opened the game up. After Garrett and Milan reached, Jones doubled to get the lead back. Don Gullett replaced starter Jack Billingham and walked Milner and then Grandpa Mays had a single to drive in yet another run. By the time the inning was over the score was 6-2 Mets. They would add another run in the sixth, and Seaver got through eight before loading the bases and giving the ball to Tim McGraw’s father Tug. McGraw got Morgan to pop out to short and Driessen to ground out and the Mets were the National League champions with the worst record of any team to ever win the pennant. The Mets outscored the Big Red Machine 23-8 in the five games. New York lost to the Oakland A’s in seven games and the Reds would have to wait a couple of more years before they finally won their World Series championship.