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.
The Mets' .509 season winning percentage was (and through 2007 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 had gotten 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|
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 Charles 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 Finley's interference.
At 82–79, the 1973 New York Mets had the worst record of any team to ever 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).
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 post-season, 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.
|1||New York Mets – 1, Oakland Athletics – 2||October 13||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum||46,021|
|2||New York Mets – 10, Oakland Athletics – 7 (12 innings)||October 14||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum||49,151|
|3||Oakland Athletics – 3, New York Mets – 2 (11 innings)||October 16||Shea Stadium||54,817|
|4||Oakland Athletics – 1, New York Mets – 6||October 17||Shea Stadium||54,817|
|5||Oakland Athletics – 0, New York Mets – 2||October 18||Shea Stadium||54,817|
|6||New York Mets – 1, Oakland Athletics – 3||October 20||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum||49,333|
|7||New York Mets – 2, Oakland Athletics – 5||October 21||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum||49,333|
The Mets and A's opened the Series in Oakland with Jon Matlack and Ken Holtzman as the Game 1 starters (Matlack, with a 14–16 record during the 1973 season, is one of only four pitchers in history to start Game 1 of a World Series after a regular season losing record). Willie Mays started in place of the injured Rusty Staub and batted third in what turned out to be his final big league start.
In the third, pitcher Holtzman doubled and scored when Bert Campaneris hit a routine grounder that inexplicably bounced between Mets second baseman's Felix Millan's legs. Campaneris then stole second and scored on a single to right by Joe Rudi. The Mets came up with a run in the fourth on an RBI single by John Milner that scored Cleon Jones. Holtzman, Rollie Fingers, and Darold Knowles then shut the door on the Mets offense; Knowles earned the save.
HRs: NYM – Cleon Jones (1), Wayne Garrett (1)
Game 2, eventually won by the New York Mets 10–7 in twelve innings, set a new record for the longest game in Series history at four hours and thirteen minutes.
Vida Blue opposed Jerry Koosman on the mound, but neither pitched well. In the first inning, the A's jumped on Koosman for two runs on a Jesús Alou double and scored again in the second on Joe Rudi's single scoring the ubiquitous Bert Campaneris, who had tripled. The Mets got solo home runs from Cleon Jones and Wayne Garrett in the second and third innings, respectively.
The A's were up 3–2 going into the sixth when things started to get strange. With one out and the bases loaded, Don Hahn and Bud Harrelson drove in runs with singles to put the Mets ahead 4–3. Ed Kranepool then pinch-hit for reliever Harry Parker and hit a comebacker to the mound. A's pitcher Darold Knowles threw the ball wildly past Ray Fosse while attempting to start a 1–2–3 double play, and two more Mets runs scored for a 6–3 lead.
The game was knotted at 6–6 until the top of the twelfth. Harrleson led off with a double and went to third on a bunt single by pitcher Tug McGraw. With two outs, Willie Mays, who entered the game in the seventh as a pinch runner for Rusty Staub, drove in Harrelson with a single that would turn out to be the final hit and RBI of his storied career. It gave the Mets a 7–6 lead.
After Cleon Jones walked to load the bases, John Milner grounded to second baseman Mike Andrews, but the ball went through his legs. McGraw and Mays scored to make the lead 9–6. The next batter, Jerry Grote, hit another grounder to Andrews, but he threw past Tenace at first to score Jones and make it 10–6.
The A's added a run in the bottom of the inning on a Jackson triple, but Andrews' errors proved too much to overcome. McGraw earned the win, and George Stone the save and the Mets evened the series.
A's Owner Charlie Finley was furious at Andrews' twelfth-inning miscues; he proceeded to punish Andrews (and further alienate A's manager Dick Williams) by placing the infielder on the disabled list—citing a fake injury that would have sidelined Andrews for the rest of the Series. Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn stepped in, reactivated Andrews, and disciplined Finley.
HRs: NYM – Wayne Garrett (2)
Game 3 matched up Tom Seaver and Catfish Hunter. Hunter had trouble early on when Wayne Garrett homered to right and Felix Millan scored on a wild pitch, but then found his rhythm. Seaver kept the A's off the board until the sixth, when Sal Bando and Gene Tenace broke through with consecutive doubles that delivered a run and cut the Met lead to 2–1. Joe Rudi came up with another clutch hit in the eighth when he singled in Bert Campaneris to tie the game. Campaneris delivered the game-winning RBI in the eleventh when he singled off Harry Parker to score Ted Kubiak. Rollie Fingers got the save.
HRs: NYM – Rusty Staub (1)
The tide seemed to turn in the Mets' favor beginning in Game 4. A's starter Ken Holtzman couldn't make it out of the first inning after Rusty Staub smashed a three-run homer to left-center. Blue Moon Odom relieved and gave up a two-run single to Staub in a three-run Mets fourth. Jon Matlack got the win by pitching eight innings of five-hit ball.
Mike Andrews entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, prompting a standing ovation from the Mets' home crowd, in a display of defiance toward A's owner Charlie Finley. Andrews grounded out in what would be his last ever major league at-bat.
Game 5 was a rematch up of Vida Blue and Jerry Koosman. This time, both pitchers threw well. John Milner had an RBI single in the second, and Don Hahn's triple to center field scored Jerry Grote with the second Mets run in the sixth. Koosman pitched well and got the win, with a save from Tug McGraw.
The A's won, thanks to the clutch pitching of Catfish Hunter (who outdueled Tom Seaver), and the timely hitting of Reggie Jackson. Jackson doubled and drove in Joe Rudi in the first inning and doubled in Sal Bando in the third to give Oakland a 2–0 lead. In the eighth inning, the Mets threatened, knocking Hunter out of the game after Ken Boswell singled in a run. Reliever Darold Knowles put out the fire by striking out Rusty Staub on three pitches with two men on base. In the bottom half of the inning, the A's added an insurance run when Jackson singled, advanced to third on center fielder Don Hahn's error, and scored on Jesús Alou's sacrifice fly. Rollie Fingers got the save in the ninth inning to force a seventh game.
HRs: OAK – Bert Campaneris (1), Reggie Jackson (1)
Jon Matlack matched up with Ken Holtzman, who was coming back from his early shower in Game 4. The third inning proved to be the difference, as Holtzman lined a one-out double off Matlack to left, his second of the Series after not batting at all during the season. Matlack then surrendered a two run opposite-field homer to Bert Campaneris (Oakland's first home run of the series), and then another two run blast to Reggie Jackson later in the inning, giving the A's a 4–0 lead and Holtzman all the runs he needed. The Mets came back with two runs after Oakland increased their lead to 5–0 in the fifth inning, but it was not enough. Campaneris snagged a Wayne Garrett pop fly to end the series; and Jackson was named the World Series MVP.
In the third inning, Gene Tenace walked for the eleventh time tying the Series record set by Babe Ruth of the Yankees in 1926. In the seventh inning, Wayne Garrett struck out for the eleventh time tying the Series record set by Eddie Mathews of the Milwaukee Braves in 1958. Darold Knowles got the save, and became the only pitcher ever to appear in all seven games of a seven-game World Series.
|New York Mets||5||2||1||4||0||6||0||1||1||0||0||4||24||66||10
<tr><td style="text-align:left;" colspan="16">Total attendance: 358,289 Average attendance: 51,184</td></tr> <tr><td style="text-align:left;" colspan="16">Winning player’s share: $24,618 Losing player’s share: $14,950</td></tr>
- ↑ 1973 World Series Game 1 - New York Mets vs. Oakland Athletics. Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2008-06-08.
- ↑ 1973 World Series Game 2 - New York Mets vs. Oakland Athletics. Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2008-06-08.
- ↑ 1973 World Series Game 3 - Oakland Athletics vs. New York Mets. Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2008-06-08.
- ↑ 1973 World Series Game 4 - Oakland Athletics vs. New York Mets. Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2008-06-08.
- ↑ 1973 World Series Game 5 - Oakland Athletics vs. New York Mets. Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2008-06-08.
- ↑ 1973 World Series Game 6 - New York Mets vs. Oakland Athletics. Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2008-06-08.
- ↑ 1973 World Series Game 7 - New York Mets vs. Oakland Athletics. Retrosheet. Retrieved on 2008-06-08.
- Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen. The World Series. 1st ed. New York: St Martins, 1990. (Neft and Cohen 345–350)
- Reichler, Joseph, ed. (1982). The Baseball Encyclopedia (5th ed.), p. 2191. MacMillian Publishing. ISBN 0-02-579010-2.
- Forman, Sean L.. 1973 World Series. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information.. Retrieved on 2007-12-09.
- 1973 World Series at Baseball-Reference.com
- 1973 World Series at WorldSeries.com (MLB.com)
- 1973 World Series at Baseball-Almanac.com
- Mutiny and a Bounty at SI.com
- History of the World Series - 1973 at SportingNews.com
- 1973 World Series box scores and play-by-play at Retrosheet.org
- The 1973 Oakland Athletics at baseballlibrary.com
- The 1973 New York Mets at baseballlibrary.com