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1973 Baseball Season


Nolan Ryan's pitching was regularly recorded at speeds that exceeded 100 mph.
Nolan Ryan's pitching was regularly recorded at speeds that exceeded 100 mph.

During the 1973 baseball season, the Mets, barely a .500 team, came close to a World Series victory. Except for 1973 Cy Young Award-winner Tom Seaver (19-10, league-best 2.08 ERA), the Mets had a cast worthy of their 82-79 record -- their .509 winning percentage was the worst ever for a league or division winner.

Fortunately for them, the rest of the National League East had similar problems. Of the sub-.500 teams still in the race during the last week of the 1973 season, only two teams boasted heavy hitters: Pirates league home run and RBI champ Willie Stargell (.299 average, 44 homers, 119 RBI) and Ken Singleton (23 homers, 103 RBI) and Expo Bob Bailey (26 homers, 86 RBI).

In the West, Sparky Anderson's Reds ran roughshod, with batting champion and league MVP Pete Rose (a .338 batter who topped the majors with 230 hits) leading the way to a 99-63 record. The league's premier rookie was Gary Matthews of third-place San Francisco, a left fielder who hit .300 with 12 homers and 58 RBI.

The American League unveiled its new Designated Hitter Rule as Boston met New York in the season's first game (Ron Blomberg drew a walk off Luis Tiant). The league's 1973 Rookie of the Year was Baltimore's Al Bumbry, who hit .337 in a half-season.

1973 Cy Young Award-winner and ERA champ Jim Palmer (22-9, 2.40 ERA), Mike Cuellar (18-13), and Dave McNally (17-17) carried the Orioles to an 8-game edge over Boston. Reggie Jackson of the A's was named league MVP with a .293 average and circuit-leading 32 homers and 117 RBI. Minnesota's Rod Carew took his second straight batting title (third overall), finishing at .350.

California Angel Nolan Ryan broke Sandy Koufax's single-season strikeout record by whiffing 383 batters (he also threw two no-hitters). Hank Aaron withstood intense media scrutiny and clubbed 40 more homers, bringing him to 713 -- one short of Babe Ruth's record total.

The Oakland A's won the West by 6 games over Kansas City, behind the power of Jackson, Sal Bando (.287 average, 29 homers, 98 RBI), and Gene Tenace (.259, 24, 84) and the pitching of Ken Holtzman (21-13, 2.97 ERA), Vida Blue (20-9, 3.27), Catfish Hunter (21-5, 3.34), and Rollie Fingers (22 saves, 1.91 ERA).

The A's used all five games to defeat the Orioles in the American League Championship Series, with Hunter shutting out the O's 3-0 in the final game.

The Mets won the National League pennant over the Reds in five games. New York outscored Cincinnati 23-8 and sported a team ERA of 1.33 for the National League Championship Series (they also outfought them, with Bud Harrelson outlasting Rose in the infamous game-three brawl).

Oakland defeated New York to, once again, claim the World Series crown. After the A's took game one 2-1, their five errors in game two allowed the Mets a 12-inning, 10-7 win. Although Willie Mays won it for New York on the last hit of his career, the pair of errors by reserve second baseman Mike Andrews in the final frame got most of the press.

Forced by owner Charley Finley to undergo a medical exam minutes after game two, Andrews was subsequently dropped from the team. He was reinstated for the next game by commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The A's gave Andrews a rousing send-off by winning the last two matches at home to finally put away the Mets. Manager Dick Williams left the team at the conclusion of the 1973 Series.

Find headlines and summaries of major stories from the 1973 baseball season on the next page.

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