At 82-79, the New York Mets would have been baseball’s ultimate Cinderella with a World Series win. But the clock struck midnight at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
The Oakland Athletics won their second straight World Series title with a 5-2 Game 7 win over the Mets. Ken Holtzman won his third game of the Series, while Jon Matlack lost his second, and Darold Knowles nailed down his second save.
Matlack, who took a hard loss in Game 1 and was similarly dominant in a Game 4 win, came apart in the third inning. It all started with an innocent one-out single by the pitcher Holtzman, who showed no signs of designated hitter-induced rust. Bert Campaneris followed with a tiebreaking two-run home run, Oakland’s first homer of the entire series. They didn’t have to wait long for their second: Joe Rudi followed with a single, then two batters later Series MVP Reggie Jackson launched a two-run shot of his own. That was it for Matlack’s season – the starter was lifted immediately for Harry Parker.
After coming up big at the plate, Holtzman proved to be rock-solid on the mound, keeping New York off the board for the first five innings. The A’s got another run on the board in the bottom of the fifth when Campaneris singled, went to second on a Cleon Jones error, and scored on Rudi’s RBI single.
The Mets got some offense going with one out in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Felix Millan and Rusty Staub. But with a championship on the line, Dick Williams was quick to pull the trigger and get Rollie Fingers’s fresh arm in the game. The Mustachioed One was quick to end the threat and took the A’s to the last out. The Mets got a rally going, putting two runners on and getting a run home thanks to Deron Johnson’s error on Ed Kranepool’s groundball.
With the tying run coming to the plate in the form of Wayne Garrett, Williams brought on Darold Knowles, and with Garrett’s popout to Campaneris at short, the New York Mets finished their unlikely run one win short.
The starting lineups for the final baseball game of 1973 were as follows:
New York Mets
|1||Wayne Garrett||3B||1||Bert Campaneris||SS|
|2||Felix Millan||2B||2||Joe Rudi||LF|
|3||Rusty Staub||RF||3||Sal Bando||3B|
|4||Cleon Jones||LF||4||Reggie Jackson||CF|
|5||John Milner||1B||5||Gene Tenace||C|
|6||Jerry Grote||C||6||Jesus Alou||RF|
|7||Don Hahn||CF||7||Deron Johnson||1B|
|8||Bud Harrelson||SS||8||Dick Green||2B|
|9||Jon Matlack||P||9||Ken Holtzman||P|
I’m not going to lie – this one hurts. But all things considered, what a run it was. The Mets were in last place on August 26 and came within one win of their second world championship in five seasons. Had they won today, the Mets would have become the most unlikely World Series winners since the Miracle Braves of 1914. Perhaps if Yogi Berra had started George Stone yesterday and saved Tom Seaver for today, things would have turned out differently. But dwelling on such a decision could drive a fan insane – 40 hours from now, 40 days from now, 40 years from now, we’ll never know. It would have been nice to send Willie Mays out on top, but win or lose, 1973 was an Amazin’ year for the New York Mets.
With a strong rotation of Seaver-Koosman-Matlack-Stone firmly in place, the Mets should have no trouble contending to defend their National League pennant in 1974. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.