1973 World Series
The 1973 World Series matched the defending champion Oakland Athletics against the New York Mets, with the A's winning in seven games to repeat as World Champions.
The New York Mets won the National League East division by 1 ½ games over the St. Louis Cardinals then defeated the Cincinnati Reds, three games to two, in the National League Championship Series. The Oakland Athletics won the American League West division by six games over the Kansas City Royals then defeated the Baltimore Orioles, three games to two, in the American League Championship Series.
New York Mets
The 1973 Mets' .509 season winning percentage was (and through 2008 remains) the lowest posted by any pennant-winner in major league history. Under the comparatively new divisional play system, the Mets found themselves back in the World Series, but with a much weaker team than in their legendary 1969 championship season.
Stumbling through the summer in last place, the Mets got hot in September as the rest of the National League East collapsed, ultimately winning a mediocre division with a mere 82 victories. The final standings:
1 New York Mets 82 79 .509 -
2 St. Louis Cardinals 81 81 .500 1½
3 Pittsburgh Pirates 80 82 .494 2½
4 Montreal Expos 79 83 .488 3½
5 Chicago Cubs 77 84 .478 5
1969 holdovers Bud Harrelson, Jerry Grote, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Tug McGraw joined forces with the Mets' farm-system alumni John Milner and Jon Matlack and trade-acquired Rusty Staub, Felix Millan, and Willie Mays, now 42 years old. Don Hahn and Mays alternated in center field, although they both batted right-handed.
The Mets' National League playoff opponents: an imposing Cincinnati Reds squad that posted 99 victories during the regular season, was the favorite to return to the Series for a second consecutive year. (The Reds had fallen to the A's in the previous year's Series.) The 1973 NLCS went the full five games, and featured a now-famous brawl between the barrel-chested Pete Rose and the wispy Met shortstop, Bud Harrelson. In the end, the Mets continued their improbable rise and bumped Rose and the rest of the mighty Reds from the playoffs.
The Oakland Athletics secured the pennant by overcoming the Baltimore Orioles in the 1973 ALCS. The A's, defending champions, still possessed a formidable lineup headed by a healthy Reggie Jackson, (.293, 32 HR, 117 RBI, 22 stolen bases) who would be named league MVP in 1973. Jackson was joined in the lineup by standouts like third baseman Sal Bando, the fine defensive outfielder Joe Rudi, the speedy shortstop Bert Campaneris, and the A's catcher, 1972 World Series hero Gene Tenace. The pitching staff featured three 20-game winners, Ken Holtzman (21–13), Catfish Hunter (21–5), and Vida Blue (20–9), with Rollie Fingers (22 saves, 1.92) serving as the A's ace relief pitcher.
The A's offered entertainment both on and off the field in 1973; their day-glo uniforms were the perfect metaphor for a team notable for clashing personalities. The stars engaged regularly in conflicts with each other and with owner Charles O. Finley.
With the designated hitter rule in effect for the first time in 1973, American League pitchers did not bat during the regular season. They were, however, expected to take their turn at the plate during each game of this Series. So it was that a man who had played no offensive role during the regular season came to make a key batting contribution for the A's during the Series. With some extra batting practice, A's pitcher Ken Holtzman would stroke a double that helped the A's to win Game 1—and another double that helped them secure the deciding seventh game.
This Series was also made famous when Oakland A's owner Charlie O. Finley attempted to "fire" second-baseman Mike Andrews for his errors in Game 2 (see below). Commissioner Bowie Kuhn would reinstate Andrews and fine Finley. Despite the hostility of the Oakland players toward the team's owner, the A's would be the first to repeat as World Champions since the 1961–62 New York Yankees. Oakland manager Dick Williams resigned after the Series was over, having had enough of owner Charles O. Finley's interference.
Oakland reliever Darold Knowles became the only pitcher to appear in every game of a seven-game World Series.
As previously mentioned, at 82–79, the 1973 New York Mets had the worst record of any team ever to play in a World Series. They had only the ninth-best record in the 24-team major leagues, behind the Oakland Athletics, the Cincinnati Reds (who they beat in the National League playoffs), the Baltimore Orioles (who were defeated by Oakland in the American League playoffs), the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants, the Boston Red Sox, the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals (none of whom made the postseason).
The 1973 New York Mets also had the lowest winning percentage (now the second-lowest) of any postseason team (the San Diego Padres finished 82–80 in 2005).
Willie Mays would record the final hit of his career in Game 2. In four World Series (1951, 1954, 1962, and 1973), Mays did not hit a single home run. He hit only one in the postseason, during the 1971 NLCS—San Francisco Giants versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. Mays also fell down in the outfield. He commented, "Growing old is just a helpless hurt."
This was the last World Series in which each team sold separate programs for their home games. Starting in 1974, Major League Baseball printed the official World Series program that was sold in both stadiums.
The "Amazin' Mets" defied all odds in 1973 and climbed to the top of the National League despite finishing just over the .500 mark. With a less-than-stellar record of 82-79, New York managed to defeat a superior Cincinnati Reds team in a tight, five game championship series to earn their second ticket to the Fall Classic since their introduction in 1962. The defending world champion Oakland A's had also defeated "The Big Red Machine" in the previous year's Series and boasted the American League's top line-up with Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Gene Tenace and Deron Johnson. Jim "Catfish" Hunter had just finished another twenty win season with Ken Holtzman and Vida Blue in support.
Mets Manager Yogi Berra continued to test fate by starting Jon Matlack (14-16) for Game 1. It was only the fourth time in World Series history that a losing pitcher had started an opener and many fans questioned the former Yankee's judgment. Although the decision first appeared to be brilliant (as Matlack allowed only two unearned runs and three hits in six innings) reality finally set in and Holtzman cruised to a 2-1 opening victory. The pitcher had even added a third inning double which was made even more impressive by the fact that American League pitchers didn't bat during the '73 regular season because of the introduction of the new designated-hitter rule.
Game 2 evolved from a mere baseball game into a marathon of mental and physical endurance as the contest set a record for the longest post-season game in history. Clocking in at four hours and thirteen minutes, the twelve inning nail-biter witnessed the last hit of Willie Mays' twenty-two year Major League career, which was finishing up where it started, in New York. After the A's came back from a 6-4 deficit with two out in the ninth, New York regained the 7-6 lead in the twelfth thanks to May's encore, but after A's Mike Andrews let John Milner's grounder skip through his legs for a two run error, the Mets charged forward for the 10-7 victory. The error proved very costly as the second baseman was deactivated by Charles Finley the following day. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was irritated by the unjust measure and ordered the Oakland owner to reinstate Andrews much to the delight of his teammates. As the political tension between the A's clubhouse and front office subsided, the Series moved to the Big Apple. Oakland regained the Series lead with a 3-2 win thanks to Bert Campaneris' eleventh-inning single. Tom Seaver was outstanding on the mound as well and retired twelve A's batters in eight innings.
Right-fielder Rusty Staub stole the spotlight in Game 4 by going four-for-four with five runs batted in and a three run homer in the first. Matlack also made amends for his opening day loss while allowing three hits in eight innings. The result was a 6-1, Series squaring victory that was sweetened by the return of the ousted Andrews. Unfortunately his career would end in the eighth after grounding out in his last Major League at-bat. Jerry Koosman pulled his team ahead in Game 5 after pitching a 6 1/3 innings shutout for the 2-0 victory. Now one game away from their second World Championship title, the Mets returned to Oakland determined to finish the job. Seaver and Hunter were chosen to go head-to-head in Game 6 as the "Catfish" held on to a narrow 2-0 lead after seven innings. Reggie Jackson (who had missed the previous Series due to an injury) showed why he would become Mr. October and scored the A's final run in the eighth for the 3-1 win.
A rejuvenated Oakland team came out swinging in Game 7 as the A's got two run shots from both Campaneris and Jackson in the third-inning. Series workhorse Ken Holtzman supported the home team's efforts with help from Rollie Fingers and Darold Knowles. In the end, it was a 5-2 victory and a second consecutive championship crown for the defending American Leaguers. Despite the back-to-back triumph, Dick Williams remained bitter about his administration's interference (in regards to Andrews) and resigned as the A's manager shortly after the season concluded.