Forty years ago tonight, the Mets were hosting Pittsburgh, sitting in fourth place, 2½ games behind the front-running Pirates in the N.L. East with a record of 74-77…and they were about to post one of the 500 most Amazin’ wins of their first 50 years.
From The Happiest Recap (First Base: 1962-1973)…
These two contenders go back and forth in the early innings. The Pirates strike first on a leadoff home run by Rennie Stennett off George Stone. Cleon Jones one-ups Stennett by smacking a two-run homer off Nelson Briles in the second. Advantage Mets. Stennett returns with a vengeance in the third by tripling and scoring on Dave Cash’s single to left. Advantage Pirates? Felix Millan grabs back the momentum on behalf of the Mets when he singles home the .271-batting Stone, who had led off the inning by helping his own cause (something decent-hitting Mets pitchers were known to do for much of the first half-century of Mets baseball).
The Mets’ 3-2 lead grew by a run in the fifth when Jerry Grote doubled, Bud Harrelson singled and Stone grounded to second. That insurance policy became a smart buy when Stone was befallen by an act of Pops: Willie Stargell, who hit more home runs against the Mets than any opponent in the team’s history, delivered per usual. Luckily, Stargell’s sixth-inning blast was a solo job, so the Mets still held a 4-3 lead when George left after six.
Stone’s successor was Tug McGraw, Yogi Berra’s favorite reliever in September — everybody’s favorite reliever in September, but it was Berra who wouldn’t or couldn’t wait to use him. Firemen, as closers were known then, weren’t kept on ice for the ninth. McGraw came bounding onto the mound in the seventh and wasn’t particularly sharp. He walked pinch-hitter Gene Clines and surrendered a pinch-single to Fernando Gonzalez. The runners wound up on second and third with one out, but Tug stiffened as he almost always did in September 1973, popping up Stennett and grounding out Cash.
What happened next?
You’ll find out when you read The Happiest Recap (First Base: 1962-1973).
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