Apr 05

Mets Summer Of 1973: The Birth Of “Ya Gotta Believe.”

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TUG McGRAW: Coined one of the best slogans ever.

As far as team slogans go, the 1973 Mets’ rallying cry “Ya Gotta Believe’’ may not rank with Knute Rockne’s “Win one for the Gipper,’’ but it stood the test of time, lasting far longer than Reingold beer’s “Ten Minute Head.’’

Had it been a movie, the late and great Roger Ebert would have given it a thumbs down for it’s corniness.

Going into the season, the 1973 team was arguably more talented than the 1969 Miracle Mets, with the additions of Rusty Staub, Jon Matlack, John Milner and Felix Millan. This was a team to be feared and sprinted out of the gate at 4-0, and was in first place by late April. However, overcome by injuries, the Mets nose-dived into the cellar, 7 ½ games behind by July 26. They dropped to 12 games below .500 with 44 games to play on August 16.

Even so, they were still within shouting distance in the mediocre National League East. It would be tough, Mets Chairman of the Board M. Donald Grant thought, but there were all those tickets to home games in September that needed to be sold.

MCGRAW: You win with heart, too.

MCGRAW: You win with heart, too.

Grant addressed the team and told them not to quit because there was time to turn things around. After all, he had had recent history to fall back on as the 1969 team overcame an eight-game August deficit to the Cubs.

That’s when closer Tug McGraw stood up and shouted, “that’s right, we can do it, Ya gotta believe.’’ It was a moment of “was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor,’’ exuberance that stuck with those Mets.

The Mets, Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs tripped over each other for much of September, but Yogi Berra’s team was the most consistent, and had to be considering the ground it had to make up.

The Mets won 24 of 35 games to make up those 12 games and move into first place on Sept. 21, with a 10-2 rout of Pittsburgh behind Tom Seaver.

It was a fragile lead as only 2 ½ games separated them from fifth-place Chicago.

“We’ve been hot,’’ Berra said at the time. “But I have to say it’s still wide open.’’

The Mets swept a two-game series with St. Louis and split a two-game series with Montreal before heading into Wrigley Field that final weekend with a one-game lead. On Friday the Mets were rained out, but Montreal beat Pittsburgh. The scenario repeated itself on Saturday.

By now, St. Louis leapfrogged Pittsburgh and trailed by 1½ games going into Sunday. The Mets split a double-header to go to 81-79 while the Cardinals were 81-81.

That set up another double-header for Monday with the Mets needing a split to win the division title, which Seaver gave them by winning the first game.

This might have been the Mets’ grittiest team, and it’s soundtrack being McGraw screaming “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ as he slapped his glove on his thigh.

Although McGraw repeated the slogan with the 1980 Phillies, and Philadelphia fans tried to resurrect it several years ago, it didn’t have the same impact as it did when it woke up New York, the team and the city, during the Summer of 1973.

ON DECK: Jeremy Hefner and lineups.

 

Jun 15

Today in Mets History: The Franchise is traded.

Perhaps no other day in Mets history shook the franchise to its core like this date in 1977 when the organization traded The Franchise.

SEAVER: Traded on this date.

Unthinkable to many, but anticipated by him, the Mets traded the best player – still to this day – Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Pat Zachry, infielder Doug Flynn and outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.

Three days earlier, Seaver beat the Astros in Houston, 3-1, and after the game said: “This may very well be my last game as a Met.’’

Seaver went the distance that day, giving up five hits while walking two and striking out six to raise his record to 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA.

BOX SCORE OF SEAVER’S METS LAST GAME

Seaver anticipated the trade when contract negotiations stalled with CEO M. Donald Grant. As Seaver became more frustrated, things finally boiled over when cantankerous New York Daily News columnist Dick Young, who publicly and loudly sided with Grant.

Unable to deal with Grant, Seaver went to then owner Lorinda de Roulet and GM Joe McDonald and reached agreement on a three-year extension. However, when Young wrote a column suggesting Seaver’s wife, Nancy, was pushing him to ask for more money, the pitcher called off the deal.

Wrote Young: “In a way, Tom Seaver is like Walter O’Malley. Both are very good at what they do. Both are very deceptive in what they say. Both are very greedy. … Nolan Ryan is getting more now than Seaver, and that galls Tom because Nancy Seaver and Ruth Ryan are very friendly and Tom Seaver long has treated Nolan Ryan like a little brother.’’

When the column hit the streets, Seaver knew it was time to leave.

In 2007, Seaver said: “That Young column was the straw that broke the back. Bringing your family into it with no truth whatsoever to what he wrote. I could not abide by that. I had to go.’’

Young also wrote, “A man lives up to his contract,’’ but four years later he broke his own contract with the Daily News and moved to the Post.