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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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A Truly Golden Anniversary

In memory of the late Dennis D’Agostino and his classic book, This Date in New York Mets History, let’s remember what the Mets were up to on this date — September 20 — fifty years ago, in 1973.

It was time to carefully remove the m-word from the ark in which it had been kept undisturbed for nearly four years, for the fairly recently last-place Mets were about to perform the most sacred act their faith allowed.

It was time for a miracle.

But first, let’s have some bullet points illustrating the relatively mundane from this about-to-be extraordinary Thursday night at Shea Stadium — a game that wasn’t scheduled to be televised over Channel 9, but Mets fans clamored, and the station, along with sponsors like good old Rheingold, among other sponsors, came through. (No matter what historians might tell you, not everybody in New York was watching Billie Jean King take it to Bobby Riggs on Channel 7.)

The people had spoken.

  • Jerry Koosman pitched eight innings, struck out eight Pirates and allowed only one unearned run, which unfortunately put him behind 1-0, because Jim Rooker had held the Mets scoreless through seven.
  • Jim Beauchamp, making the final regular-season appearance of his ten-year career, pinch-hit for Koosman to lead off the bottom of the eighth and singled. After he was pinch-run for by Teddy Martinez, and Martinez was bunted to second by Wayne Garrett, Felix Millan singled home the tying run.
  • Harry Parker, usually a rookie revelation in Yogi Berra’s bullpen, came on to preserve the tie in the top of the ninth but couldn’t quite do the job. Two runners were on when Dave Cash doubled one of them in to return the Pirates to their lead, 2-1.
  • Bob Johnson, who pitched two games for the 1969 Mets, was tabbed by Danny Murtaugh to finish off his old team. A win here would erase the Mets’ recent momentum, leaving them 2½ back with a scheduled nine to play. It wouldn’t clinch anything for the Pirates, because others were still alive and contending, but it would put a crimp in the Mets’ plans, no matter much they Believed. But Johnson allowed a leadoff pinch-single to Ken Boswell and a sacrifice bunt to Don Hahn before exiting for Ramon Hernandez.
  • Hernandez struck out pinch-hitter George Theodore for the second out of the ninth, but another pinch-hitter, Duffy Dyer, delivered a double, scoring Boswell to tie the game at two.
  • The two teams went to extra innings, as Yogi Berra went to veteran swingman Ray Sadecki. Sadecki gave Yogi three perfect innings. The Mets, meanwhile, failed to score against Jim McKee and Luke Walker. The game would go to a thirteenth inning, when Sadecki, with one out, would allow his first hit, a single to Richie Zisk. After he retired Manny Sanguillen for the second out of the inning, he faced September callup Dave Augustine.

This is where The Miracle occurs.

This is where it’s best left to Bob Murphy to deliver The Word:

“The two-one pitch…

“Hit in the air to left field, it’s deep…

“Back goes Jones, BY THE FENCE…

“It hits the TOP of the fence, comes back in play…

“Jones grabs it!

“The relay throw to the plate, they may get him…


“He’s out at the plate!


If you’re scoring at home, the interpretation would be 7-6-2, Cleon Jones to Wayne Garrett to Ron Hodges, the rookie catcher who ascended to the Mets’ starting lineup for much of the summer from Double-A Memphis because of injuries. Zisk, the runner from first, tied a piano to his back when he took off around the bases. The man was slow. But The Man Upstairs was quick-thinking. He (or Something) prevented what looked like, on Channel 9, a sure home run for Augustine from landing in the left field bullpen for what would have been his first — and only — major league home run. Had the ball made it past the wall, the Mets would have been down 5-3.

But it didn’t go quite far enough, at least from a Pirate perspective. It bounced off the very top of the fence and caromed right back into Cleon’s glove. He made a strong throw to Garrett, who made a strong throw to Hodges, who made a strong stand in front of the plate, bringing down an emphatic tag on Zisk.

“The ball hit the corner and it just popped up to me,” Jones recounted. “I didn’t think he hit it high enough to go over. I knew the ball was gonna hit the fence, but it could’ve gone anywhere.”

Garrett, who had moved to shortstop from his usual third base in the tenth after Bud Harrelson had been pinch-hit for, aimed low when he made his relay throw to Hodges. “I wanted it to hit the ground,” Wayne said, and he got his wish. The ball arrived in Hodges’s mitt the same time Zisk was charging into Hodges’s body. The kid catcher held the ball and home plate ump John McSherry held his right arm upwards, signaling the lumbering Pirate runner out.

“It has to be one of the most remarkable plays I ever saw,” Garrett swore.

The Mets weren’t done being remarkable. The aptly named Walker walked his first two batters in the bottom of the thirteenth. Luke walked off the mound. Dave Giusti walked on. He got one out, but that was all. Hodges, having the night of his career, singled, scoring John Milner from second. The Mets had won 4-3 in a game that would be forever remembered for the Ball Off the Top of the Wall and how it bounced in the only direction it could.

Namely, the same direction the Mets were going in.

This third straight win over the Pirates didn’t put the Mets in first place. It didn’t even put them then at .500. But both of those events would happen the next night, when Tom Seaver would throw a five-hitter to beat the Bucs, 10-2. In a four-day span in September, an unprecedented Metamorphosis occurred. The Mets not only picked up one game per day in the standings, they picked up one place per day. From fourth and 3½ out after Monday, they climbed to first and a half-game up on Friday. It had been barely three weeks since they were in last place. Now they were in first place.

They were in first place. The Mets. The 1973 Mets.

Fifty years ago tonight: you pretty much had to Believe by then.

8 comments to A Truly Golden Anniversary

  • eric1973

    And no 50th celebration this year.
    Shame on you, Steve Cohen.

    Every time I see that play and hear Murphy’s voice, I get chills, and admittedly, I got them again while reading the text and picturing the play.

    Not only did Zisk run like he had a piano on his back, I think he stopped to play it. He may have even been slower than Ken Reitz. Our guys always told us Reitz and Zisk were very slow.

    I remember that year, when they put extra games on Channel 9 that weren’t in the TV Guide. Quite a thrill that was!

    And speaking of Channel 9, the Mets may be on Channel 9 on Thursday night. Channel 5 is showing the Amazon Football Giants, and since the Mets were supposed to be on FOX, it looks as if Channel 9 may be picking up the FOX broadcast.

  • Seth

    I was 16 and had a few other things on my mind, but I’d been following the team all season and I clearly remember this game. It was truly miraculous. A shame we only have a grainy clip of the actual play, but at least you get Murph’s call. I don’t think they archived TV broadcasts of all ballgames in those days.

  • David

    Listening to Murph’s call reminds me of what a great announcer he was, especially on radio. If that call had been on radio, you could have pictured the whole thing in real time–no delay, no wondering why the crowd is roaring while the announcer is trying to catch up to what just happened. And with such an efficiency of words. The entirety of the call is quoted in this post. The best part to me, is “they may get him…” With Murph you always knew both from the tone of his voice but also from what he said, when a play had a chance to be big. I can still hear him… “A towering fly ball deep to left field, it may go…”
    Also, and I think Greg agrees, 1973 was one of my favorite years as a Mets fan. Maybe my favorite.

    • David

      Well I don’t know if Greg would agree it was one of MY favorite years, we haven’t even met. What I meant to say was that he would agree it was one of the best years to be a Mets fan.

  • eric1973

    Well, David, I would agree that 1973 was YOUR favorite year as a Met fan. It sure is mine.

    I turned 8 years old that year, and it was my first full season as a Met fan. I kept a diary from MAR02 to JUNE07, and so I had the whole Matlack game writeup in there, when he was hit in the head by the Marty Perez line drive. I wrote how he was carried off on a stretcher and was replaced by Phil Hennigan, and then how he came back from the hairline skull fracture on MAY19 and threw 85 pitches.

  • Flynn23

    What an iconic call by Murph. Chills indeed. “They may get him” gets me every time. Thanks, Greg!

  • Ken S.

    I’ll never forget that game. I was a high school junior and planned to go to bed after Pittsburgh took the lead in the top of the ninth. I could still follow the game coming from my parents’ TV down the hall, heard the Mets tie it up, then got up and watched the rest of the game in amazement. I met Felix Millan shortly after the Mets won the 1986 World Series and told him the 1973 Mets were my favorite team. They still are.

  • Peter Scarnati

    Thank you Greg for rekindling such fond memories.
    I was at the game the following night — the night the Mets climbed to 77-77 on the 77th home game of the season!