This week, we revisit George Stone, who enjoyed perhaps his best season as a professional with the 1973 New York Mets. He was acquired in the attention grabbing November 2, 1972 trade which sent Mets fan favorite and member of the 1969 pitching fellowship, Gary Gentry, along with Danny Frisella, to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for himself and second baseman Felix Millan. In retrospect, what a grand trade it was – one of the organization’s best ever.
After just two appearances in 1967 as a twenty year old, George Stone posted his best ERA in a Braves uniform as a rookie, with a 2.76 mark in seventy-five innings pitched. Then over his next four seasons with Atlanta spanning 1968 through 1972, he pitched to a combined 4.02 ERA in 656.1 innings. Speaking solely of per-game averages and percentages, George Stone established many career highs during his rookie season, but his best season without a doubt came in 1973 with the pennant clinching Mets. Ironically, he pitched against the Amazin’s during the 1969 NLCS, and was now helping lead them towards another.
For the season, he established a new career best .800 win/loss pct. with a 12-3 record. George posted a 2.80 ERA in 148 innings pitched, covering twenty starts, and twenty-seven overall appearances. During the 1973 chase for the N.L. East pennant, George Stone was solid as a rock. From August 27th on, George posted five straight victories and a no-decision. Eleven of his twelve victories came after July 17th. His third, and last defeat occurred on July 8th. George hurled a particularly clutch game down the stretch on Sept. 19th, over the then first place Pittsburgh Pirates.
George Stone pitched 6.2 innings against the Cincinnati Reds in Game Four of the 1973 National League Championship Series. He allowed just one run in earning a no-decision, during a game the Reds unfortunately won in twelve innings. In game two of the World Series versus Oakland, George pitched the twelfth inning to gain the save in a 10-7 victory on the road.
He is more popularly remembered by that era’s Mets fans for the controversy surrounding game six. The Mets took a 3-2 series lead, and were faced with an opportunity to finish off the Athletics. The Mets debated whether to pitch Tom Seaver on short rest, or give the ball to a well rested George Stone. Yogi Berra opted for the Franchise pitcher on short rest over Stone. And the rest as they say, is history.
George Stone didn’t come to New York under the most favorable of circumstances, after hitting Rusty Staub with a pitch in the prior summer. Over the course of the 1973 season however, he won over the Shea Stadium crowds with quality work.