May 04

Summer of 1973; The Forgotten Championship – Tom Seaver Against Bob Gibson

In today’s installment of “The Summer of 1973; The Forgotten Championship,’’ I chose a game from the month of April and will analyze it through the box score.

My pick is the fourth game of the season, April 12, at St. Louis, with Tom Seaver outdueling Bob Gibson, 2-1, to give the Mets a 4-0 start.

SEAVER: Carried the load all year.

SEAVER: Carried the load all year.

It was Seaver’s second start, with his first being a shutout over Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton. His third start was a 1-0 loss to Chicago’s Ferguson Jenkins.

Three games against three Hall of Famers, and five runs of support. It was pretty much that way for Seaver that season, his second in which he won the Cy Young Award.

Seaver was magnificent, going 19-10 with a league-leading 2.08 ERA, 18 complete games and 290 innings pitched. You don’t find that kind of durability anymore.

There are other amazing numbers, including a 0.976 WHIP and a 251-64 strikeouts-walks ratio. Seaver averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings, the fourth straight season out of five in which he led the NL in that category.

All that is simply saying the words “overwhelmingly awesome and dominant’’ in numerical language. Old stats or new, batters had a hard time hitting off Seaver, let alone scoring against him that year.

In examining the box score from that afternoon, you can gain a sense of much the game has changed, beginning with it played in the afternoon.

Because it was a day game – and the match-ups – I thought it might have been Opening Day in St. Louis, but that was the previous day. A massive crowd of 12,290 showed up Opening Day, but only 6,356 saw Seaver-Carlton, which was played in a nifty 1:51.

In addition to the attendance, time it was played and length, what also stood out for me was how clean the box scores were. The Mets used only ten players, the last being Phil Hennigan relieving Seaver in the eighth inning. The Cardinals used 11 players, Tim McCarver as a pinch-hitter for shortstop Ray Busse, and reserve shortstop Mike Tyson. Gibson threw a complete game, one of 13 that season (breaking a string of five straight years of over 20 complete games).

If a game like that were played today, there would have been an abundance of gamesmanship in the form of pinch-hitters and relievers. Back then, the managers turned the game over to, and trusted, their starters.

The Mets gave Seaver all the support he needed in the first inning on Jon Milner’s RBI single and Cleon Jones’ sacrifice fly.

Small crowds, fast games and Hall of Fame pitching match-ups are an indication of how the game has changed over the past four decades.

This game also represented a trend to come that year, and that was the propensity for the Mets playing close games, as they were 31-32 in one-run games that year. One might have thought a World Series team would have a better one-run record, but it must be remembered the Mets barely cracked .500 that year.

It also showed Seaver would have to do much of the heavy lifting himself. And, he could handle the load.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 16

Today in Mets’ History: Mets sweep Pads to begin 1969 run.

After falling 9.5 games behind Chicago several days earlier, the 1969 started to right their ship to make a run at, and eventually overcome, the Cubs in the National League East.

McANDREW: His 1969 card.

Pitching would be their catalyst, and on this day in 1969 Tom Seaver and Jim McAndrew combined to sweep San Diego in a doubleheader, 2-0 and 2-1, and Shea Stadium.

Seaver and Ron Taylor combined to limit the Padres to four hits in the opener, and were backed by run-scoring singles from Tommie Agee and Bobby Pfeil in the fifth and seventh innings.

In the nightcap, McAndrew and Tug McGraw combined for the victory. Cleon Jones homered in the fourth and Jerry Grote singled in the game-winner in the seventh.

With the sweep, the Mets began a stretch where they won 12 of their next 13 games to move from ten games behind the Cubs to trailing by two on Aug. 27.

FIRST GAME BOX

SECOND GAME BOX

 

Jul 30

Today in Mets’ History: Hodges pulls Cleon.

Every team’s evolution from doormat to contender has that defining moment when somebody grabs the team by the scruff of the neck and shakes it awake.

That moment for the 1969 Mets came on this date when manager Gil Hodges walked out of the dugout and strolled out to left field, where he removed Cleon Jones.

The Mets lost the first game of a doubleheader, 16-3, and were getting pasted in the second, 8-0, when Johnny Edwards doubled past Jones.

It was reported at the time Jones had sustained a leg injury, but it later surfaced Hodges was angry at Jones for not hustling.

On the 40th Anniversary of that team, Jones recalled the incident as a galvanizing moment. Jones also said Hodges was his favorite manager.

Does anybody remember anything about that day?

 

Jul 23

Today in Mets’ History: Cleon Jones and Jerry Koosman in star-studded All-Star Game.

On this date in 1969 at the All-Star Game in Washington, Cleon Jones had two hits and Jerry Koosman pitched 1.2 scoreless innings as the National League won, 9-3.

The game took place three days after Apollo 11 and featured 22 Hall of Famers, including seven members of the 500 Home Run fraternity.

Noteworthy to this game was when it was postponed a day because of rain, American League starter Denny McLain returned to Detroit for a dentist appointment and showed up late the next day. By the time McLain showed up, the American League trailed 8-2.

BOX SCORE

 

Jul 05

Today in Mets’ History: Cleon Jones signed.

On this day in Mets history, outfielder Cleon Jones from Plateau, Alabama, was signed by scout Julian Morgan in 1962.

JONES: Catches final out of 69 Series.

Jones made his major league debut in 1965, but won the starting centerfielder job out of spring training in 1966 and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Jones developed into a star in 1969, and was hitting .341 with 10 homers and 56 RBI and was named the starting left fielder in the All-Star Game.

According to several accounts, the turning point of the Miracle Mets’ season came several weeks later when manager Gil Hodges walked out to left field to pull Jones after failing to hustle.

Forty years later, Jones said Hodges was his favorite manager, and recalled the incident as a pivotal moment in that season. J0nes will always be remembered for catching Davey Johnson’s fly to left for the final out of the 1969 World Series.

JONES’ CAREER

Jones was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1991.