After rebounding with a 5-0 Game Two victory to gain a series split at Riverfront Stadium, Yogi Berra‘s team headed to the airport for their flight back to LaGuardia Airport. However, before leaving town, an unexpectedly new Mets antagonist, Bud Harrelson, albeit unknowingly, incensed Cincinnati players when he quipped, “they looked like me at the plate” - referring to Jon Matlack‘s masterful two-hit shutout performance yesterday in Cincinnati. While I’m sure Buddy Harrelson was speaking from a stand point of humility, he wasn’t wrong. In fact, the Reds have only scored one run in two games against Mets pitching. But to a man, no opposing team wants to hear that, much less a member of the formidable Big Red Machine, and certainly not from a diminutive .241 career average, no power Mets shortstop.
Today during early batting practice, Reds second baseman Joe Morgan reportedly confronted Buddy Harrelson near the cage regarding yesterday’s comments to the media. Morgan apparently took Buddy’s observation personally, and is said to have even grabbed Buddy angrily by his shirt. Witnesses of the confrontation said Rusty Staub, standing nearby, stepped between the two and diffused the situation, although not entirely. Even though Joe Morgan reportedly offered an apology, he warned of no such escape from an irate Pete Rose.
With Shea Stadium filled beyond its limits, and field conditions rife with tension, Jerry Koosman delivered the first pitch in Game Three of the National League Championship Series to Reds lead-off batter Charlie Hustle. Seething with internal agitation, Rose flied harmlessly to center fielder Don Hahn. You might say Pete Rose took the scenic route back to the dugout, and while smiling, enjoyed a good passing view of Bud Harrelson and even of Jerry Koosman on the mound.
The Mets jumped out to a quick lead in the bottom of the frame on Rusty Staub’s two out home run off Cincinnati starter Ross Grimsley. Then in the bottom of the second inning, the Mets cranked up their own machine. Jerry Grote led-off by drawing a walk. Don Hahn singled, but Buddy Harrelson followed by lining out to right field. However, a single by pitcher Jerry Koosman loaded the bases with one out. Wayne Garrett then followed with a sac-fly to center field, scoring Grote. A base hit from Felix Millan scored Hahn, and knocked Reds starter Ross Grimsley from the game. Rusty Staub stepped in for his second at-bat, and greeted relief pitcher Tom Hall with his second home run of the game – a majestic three run shot to right which gave the Mets a 6-0 lead.
Third baseman Denis Menke got the Reds on the board with a lead-off home run off Koosman to begin the third inning. After pinch-hitter Larry Stahl and Pete Rose both singled, Joe Morgan made it a 6-2 game with a single to right. Unfazed, Jerry Koosman helped his own cause in the bottom of the frame with his second hit of the game, which scored Jerry Grote to give the Mets a 7-2 lead.
With one out in the top of the fifth inning, Pete Rose connected on his second hit of the game. Joe Morgan then stepped in, and lined a grounder to first base where John Milner initiated a 3-6-3 double play. As you can well guess, Pete Rose chose this moment to vent his ire. Rose slid to the left of second base, clearly aiming for Harrelson, and barreled into him well after Buddy’s relay back to first. Harrelson clearly had something to say in retaliation, and two or three indignant words later, Pete Rose lifted his hands to Buddy and a melee ensued. Rose appeared to get hold of Harrelson and put him on his back, but by then the benches had emptied and swarmed the second base area.
Through the rising clouds of dry dust, Wayne Garrett’s number could be seen as the third man in. Koosman’s, Agee’s, Grote’s uniform numbers could be seen as well, but not much else, until, a second fight broke out involving Buzz Capra, Pedro Borbon, Duffy Dyer and even Willie Mays, who separated the three.
Once hostilities settled down, and all retreated back to their respective dugouts, Game Three encountered its next big problem – the fans. Pete Rose attempted to assume his position in left field in the bottom of the fifth, but the fans rained down upon Pete “public enemy” Rose with whatever they could get their hands on; rolled up programs, coins, cups and even beer cans. They hurled batteries from hand held radios at him as well, and when a whiskey bottle came too close for manager Sparky Anderson, he demanded his players off the field, and left the situation for the umpires to decide.
In attendance, National League President Chub Feeney demanded New York and Shea Stadium take steps to expedite order, or risk forfeiture of the game. Manager Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, even Bud Harrelson and a few other Mets made their way down the left field line imploring fans to please cease interfering with the game, and endangering Pete Rose.
|Cincinnati Reds||New York Mets|
|1||Pete Rose||LF||1||Wayne Garrett||3B|
|2||Joe Morgan||2B||2||Felix Millan||2B|
|3||Tony Perez||1B||3||Rusty Staub||RF|
|4||Johnny Bench||C||4||Cleon Jones||LF|
|5||Andy Kosco||RF||5||John Milner||1B|
|6||Ed Armbrister||CF||6||Jerry Grote||C|
|7||Denis Menke||3B||7||Don Hahn||CF|
|8||Darrel Chaney||SS||8||Bud Harrelson||SS|
|9||Ross Grimsley||P||9||Jerry Koosman||P|
Once the game finally resumed, Jerry Koosman picked up where he left off. The Reds managed little. In fact, Jerry went the distance. He allowed two runs on eight hits, walked no batters and struck out nine.
And what about Rusty Staub? The peace maker wielded an awfully big stick in Game Three. Prior to the game, he came between Bud Harrelson and Joe Morgan, then came between Cincinnati, and their Machine. Rusty Staub now has three home runs in the series.
The Mets lead this best of five championship series two games to one. Believe it. Amazingly, the Mets are one victory away from advancing to their second World Series appearance in four years. They will have Shea Stadium by their side for Game Four tomorrow, and Game Five if necessary.