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.
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1973 Baseball Season Headlines
DH Ron Blomberg Hits .329
On Opening Day 1973, Ron Blomberg became the first designated hitter in major league history. Blomberg batted .329 in 100 games for the Yankees, including 12 homers.
Willie Mays Plays Out Final Season
Perhaps the most notorious trade of 1972 was that of aging Giants superstar Willie Mays for Mets pitcher Charlie Williams. Always a New York favorite, Mays couldn't produce the magic he wielded in the 1950s. In his last year of play, Mays tallied a mere .211 average, with six homers and 25 RBI in 209 at-bats.
Tony Perez Is the Main Cog in the Machine
Many consider Tony Perez to have been the greatest player in the Big Red Machine of the 1970s. He displayed his leadership, fielding, and power hitting in six League Championship Series and five World Series. In 1973, Perez helped the Reds to a division title with his .314 average, 27 homers, and 101 RBI.
Nolan Ryan Tosses Two No-Nos
In 1973, Nolan Ryan became the fifth pitcher in major league history to hurl two no-hitters in one season. Ryan no-hit the Royals on May 15, then the Tigers July 15, striking out 17.
Pete Rose Named 1973 National League MVP
Pete Rose won his sole MVP Award in 1973, batting .338 and gathering 230 hits, both top in the circuit. The switch-hitting outfielder also collected 115 runs scored, making 1973 one of his best seasons. He was rewarded with the title of Sporting News Player of the Decade.
Jim Palmer Wins American League Cy Young
Jim Palmer (22-9, loop-best 2.40 ERA) captured the 1973 American League Cy Young Award, his first of three in four years. The unflappable Palmer never surrendered a grandslam during his 16 years as an Oriole. Palmer probably hated to see the new designated hitter rule; he collected 22 hits in 1972.
Fritz Peterson Fares Better in Swaps
The Yankees retained wife-swapping pitcher Fritz Peterson for the 1973 season while trading teammate Mike Kekich (and Peterson's ex-wife) to Cleveland. After posting an 8-15 season in 1973 and starting off 1974 with 13 hits in eight innings, Peterson was also given his walking papers. He arrived in Cleveland just as the Tribe was releasing Kekich.
Mike Kekich Deals Wife, Kids to Peterson
The Bronx Zoo never seemed more weird than early in the 1973 season, when Yankee Mike Kekich decided to trade wives and families with teammate Fritz Peterson. Kekich would himself be traded to Cleveland midway through the 1973 season -- he ended the year 2-5 with a 7.48 ERA -- and receive his unconditional release in 1974.
Gary Matthews: 1973 National League Rookie of the Year
Gary Matthews proved to be the perfect complement to Giant teammates Bobby Bonds and Garry Maddox, as the trio comprised one of the great National League outfields of the 1970s. Matthews won the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year Award, hitting an even .300, nailing 12 homers, and scoring 74 runs.
Willie Stargell Still the Best
Willie Stargell maintained his status as the premier power hitter in the National League in 1973 by racking up circuit-leading figures in doubles (43), homers (44), RBI (119), and slugging average (.646). No National Leaguer would reach his slugging mark for 20 years. Despite Stargell's heroics, the Pirates finished 2-1/2 games behind the Mets to end the season in third place.
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More 1973 Baseball Season Headlines
Below are more headlines from the 1973 baseball season, including the highs and lows of the year's postseason play.
Pedro Borbon a Joy in Cincy
Always a crowd-pleaser, reliever Pedro Borbon would show off during pregame practice by throwing strikes from the center field warning track. He pleased the Reds in 1973, collecting an 11-4 record and 14 saves. He capped off his best season with a win and a save in the 1973 National League Championship Series.
Tom Seaver Loses Game One of National League Championship Series
Homers by Pete Rose and Johnny Bench defeated Tom Seaver by a score of 2-1 in the first game of the 1973 National League Championship Series. The Mets ace bounced back in game five, keeping the Reds scoreless after they tied the game at two-all in the top of the fifth inning, to lead the Mets to the flag.
Mets Triumph in National League Championship Series
When Pete Rose slid into shortstop Bud Harrelson in the fifth inning of game three of the 1973 National League Championship Series, it started a brawl between Rose and Harrelson that cleared both benches and incited attendees in the left-field stands to pelt Rose with garbage. Neither team scored any more runs after the incident, as New York defeated Cincinnati 9-2.
Sal Bando Does Double Duty for the A's
Sal Bando proved to be a leader for Oakland both on and off the field in 1973. Following the forced benching and "firing" of Oakland reserve infielder Mike Andrews, Bando distributed black armbands tagged with "17" (the number Andrews wore) to his teammates. His protest flew in the face of team owner Charley Finley and endeared him to fans. During the regular 1973 season, Bando topped the American League with 32 doubles. In World Series action that fall, Bando scored five runs.
Ken Holtzman Measures Up
Christened "The New Koufax" while a 20-year-old rookie in 1966, lefty Ken Holtzman bore the burden of comparison with Sandy Koufax. Although Holtzman seemed to be headed to record-setting seasons as a Cub -- a 9-0 record in 1967, a no-hitter against Atlanta in 1969, another no-hitter in 1971, a 19-11 record in 1972 -- it was with the A's that he secured lasting fame. He won 21 games for the A's during the 1973 season, took the third contest of the ALCS with an 11-inning complete game, and won games one and seven of the 1973 World Series.
Tug McGraw, Rollie Fingers Shine in 1973 Series
The two bullpen aces of the 1973 World Series, Tug McGraw of the Mets and Rollie Fingers of the A's, were also two of the game's most spirited characters. McGraw voiced the rallying cry of "Ya Gotta Believe" while flapping his glove on his thigh after each of his 25 saves in 1973. In Series action, he posted one win, one save, and 14 strikeouts in 132/3 innings. The mustache-twirling Fingers compiled a 1.91 ERA over the season and a 0.66 mark over the Series.
Rusty Staub Takes Game Four on a Dinger
A legend in Montreal, where he was known to fans as "Le Grande Orange," Rusty Staub played a key role for the Mets in 1973 postseason play. After hurting his shoulder crashing into Shea Stadium's right-field wall in the fourth game of the playoffs, Staub was given cortisone shots and had to throw underhanded in the World Series. He nevertheless hit an opposite-field home run off Oakland's Ken Holtzman to win game four.
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1973 Baseball Season Highlights
In 1973, Nolan Ryan became part of baseball history when he became the fifth pitcher to hurl two no-hitters in one season. Willie Mays retired holding the record for most career chances by a National League outfielder. Below, you can find more highlights of the 1973 baseball season.
- Oakland grabs its second consecutive American League flag.
- Mets win in National League with .509 win pct., lowest ever for major league flag winner.
- Oakland defeats Baltimore in five games in American League Championship Series, as Catfish Hunter shuts out the Orioles in game five.
- Mets beat Reds in five games in National League Championship Series, as Mets pitchers post 1.33 ERA.
- Mets take A's to seven games in 1973 World Series before succumbing.
- Ken Holtzman wins two 1973 World Series games for Oakland.
- New York's Rusty Staub tops all batters in the 1973 World Series with 11 hits, .423 BA, and six RBI.
- The Mets and A's make for first World Series in history without a .300-hitting regular on either team.
- Oakland's Reggie Jackson is 1973 American League MVP, leading loop in homers (32), RBI (117), runs (99), and SA (.531).
- Pete Rose cops 1973 National League MVP.
- Jim Palmer wins 1973 American League Cy Young Award.
- Willie Stargell tops majors in homers (44), doubles (43), RBI (119), and SA (.646).
- Third "Basic Agreement" gives players the right to salary arbitration and to "five and ten" rule with respect to trades.
- White Sox Wilbur Wood is first pitcher in 57 years to both win and lose 20 games in a season, as he goes 24-20.
- Ship magnate George Steinbrenner buys the Yankees.
- On July 20, Wilbur Wood becomes last major league hurler to start both games of a doubleheader; he loses both.
- Oriole Bobby Grich's .995 FA sets major league record for second basemen.
- Detroit's John Hiller sets new major league record with 38 saves.
- Nolan Ryan fans major league record 383.
- Braves have three men with at least 40 homers -- Dave Johnson (43), Darrell Evans (41), and Hank Aaron (40).
- Yankee pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson swap wives, families, houses, and dogs.
- American League adopts designated hitter rule -- pitchers no longer have to bat for themselves.
- On April 6, Yankee Ron Blomberg becomes first Designated Hitter to bat in major league.
- National League wins 1973 All-Star Game 7-1 at Kansas City, as a record 54 players participate.
- Giant Gary Matthews wins the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year Award.
- Baltimore's Al Bunibry is 1973 American League Rookie of the Year.
- Steve Busby of Kansas City no-hits Detroit on April 27.
- Nolan Ryan no-hits KC on May 15.
- Ryan no-hits the Tigers on July 15.
- Jim Bibby of Texas no-hits Oakland on July 20.
- Pete Rose wins National League bat crown (.338) and leads majors in hits (230).
- Phil Niekro of Atlanta no-hits San Diego on August 5.
- Rod Carew leads American League in BA (.350) and hits (203), and ties for lead in triples (11).
- Giant Bobby Bonds just misses becoming first 40/40 player in major league history, as he hits 39 homers and steals 43 bases.
- Wood ties Bryant for major league lead in wins with 24.
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More 1973 Baseball Season Highlights
Below are more highlights of the 1973 baseball season, including the year's big trades and Hall of Fame inductees.
- Tom Seaver leads National League in ERA (2.08) and strikeouts (251), and ties for lead in CGs(18).
- The two leagues steal more than 2,000 bases combined for the first time since the dead-ball era.
- George Sisler dies.
- Frankie Frisch dies.
- Chick Hafey dies.
- Cubs deal Fergie Jenkins to Texas for Bill Madlock and Vic Harris.
- Cubs send Ron Santo to ChiSox for four prospects.
- LA sends Willie Davis to Montreal for Mike Marshall.
- Davis, while still with LA, goes 6-for-9 in 19 innings on May 24.
- Brewer Johnny Briggs goes 6-for-6 on August 4.
- Paul Lindblad's record streak of 385 consecutive errorless games at pitcher ends.
- Willie Mays retires holding the record for most career chances by a National League outfielder (7,290).
- Luis Aparicio retires with the major league record for most career games at shortstop (2,581).
- California's Frank Robinson homers in a record 32nd major league park in use during his career.
- Seven of the 24 regular major league shortstops go homerless for the entire season.
- Bobby Bonds hits a season record 11 homers leading off a game.
- After going 19-8 in 1972, Pirate Steve Blass goes 3-9 with a 9.85 ERA and 84 walks in 89 innings; he never regains his form.
- Royals Stadium opens April 10, Texas vs. Kansas City.
- The Mets are first team in history to win pennant without a 20-game winner, .300 hitter, or 100-RBI man.
- Milwaukee's Pedro Garcia and Oakland's Sal Bando tie for American League lead in doubles with 32 -- an American League record for fewest in a season by leader.
- Nolan Ryan and Bill Singer of Angels fan 624 between them -- a post-1893 major league teammate record.
- KC's John Mayberry tops American League in walks (122) and OBP (.420).
- Houston's Roger Metzger leads major league with 14 triples.
- Montreal's Ken Singleton leads National League in OBP (.429).
- Lou Brock tops majors with 70 steals.
- Boston's Tommy Harper tops American League in steals (54).
- Catfish Hunter leads the majors with an .808 win pct.
- Wilbur Wood leads major league in innings (359).
- Steve Carlton ties Cincinnati's Jack Billingham for National League lead in innings (293).
- Minnesota's Bert Blyleven leads major league with nine shutouts; Billingham leads National League with seven.
- Marshall leads National League in saves with 31 and sets a new major league record with 92 mound appearances.
- Cleveland's Gaylord Perry tops the major league with 29 CGs.
- The American League, in first year of the DH rule, has 167 more CGs than the National League but only seven more shutouts.
- Jim Palmer heads the American League in ERA (2.40).
- The American League outhits the National League .259 to .254 -- first time since 1963 that the American League has done this.
- A year after winning the American League East, Billy Martin is let go as Tigers manager in September, and is immediately hired by Texas.
- Rookie manager Whitey Herzog is fired by Texas after Rangers go 47-91 under him and finish last in American League.
- Mets win National League East flag in which five teams finish within 5 games of first place.
- Last-place Phillies finish just 11-1/2 games out of first.