With a 82-79 record, the 1973 New York Metropolitans needed every single win they got to lock up the division by 1 1/2 games over the St. Louis Cardinals. One of those important wins came on Thursday, May 24, in the 1st of a 12-game road trip that brought them up and down the west coast and through Cincinnati. If you only paid attention to the next day’s paper, you received just 11 innings of reporting, because the Mets were mired in an affair in the City of Angels that needed 19 innings to conclude long after the news had been fitted to print.
Tommy John started for the Dodgers, and while the Mets got a couple of 2-out hits by Cleon Jones and Rusty Staub in the 1st inning, they could not score. Tom Seaver went for the Mets, and though Davey Lopes singled to open the bottom half, Bill Buckner grounded into a double-play to quickly dissolve any possibility of scoring for the team in Blue. He then struck out Manny Mota, and that was that for the 1st inning.
The bottom of the 2nd arrived with an opening single from Willie Davis off The Franchise. Joe Ferguson grounded out to 2nd with Davis running on the play to prevent being doubled up. Seaver got another ground ball, this time to the 1st baseman Jim Beauchamp. He let the ball go through his legs, however, and the speedy Davis scored from 2nd base for the Dodgers’ 1st run, with Willie Crawford, the batter, heading to 2nd. Ron Cey then singled, moving Crawford to 3rd. Bill Russell flied out to right field for the sacrifice, plating Crawford for the Dodgers 2nd run. Pitcher Tommy John then grounded out to 2nd base, ending the sloppy inning.
Tom Seaver, wanting to help his cause, singled to lead off the 3rd inning. He moved over to 3rd on a single to Wayne Garrett, who was playing 3rd base in place of a slumping Jim Fregosi. Felix Millan, fresh off the DL with a twisted left ankle, grounded into a double-play to plate Seaver, cutting the Los Angeles lead in half.
The Dodgers took hardly any time getting that run back in the bottom half of the inning, though. Buckner singled, moved over to 2nd on a groundout by Mota and scored on a single by Davis, giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.
Things moved rather smoothly for both parties until the top of the 7th inning, when Tommy John gave up a single to George Theodore with 1 out. Jerry May then singled as well, moving Theodore down to 2nd. Ted Martinez pinch-ran for May as Bud Harrelson walked up to the plate. Itching to get his team back in the game, Harrelson doubled to left field. Theodore scored, cutting the lead to 3-2, and Martinez moved to 3rd. That was it for Tommy John, giving way to the southpaw, Floral Park native Pete Richert. It was Seaver’s turn at bat, but with the rally going, manager Yogi Berra pinch-hit Fregosi for the right-hander. The Dodgers intentionally walked him to load the bases, but then got Garrett to strike out and Millan to fly out to right, ending the Mets’ threat with 3 left on base.
Phil Hennigan came on in relief for the bottom half of the 7th, getting Lopes, Buckner and Mota rather easily. The top of the 8th rolled around, and Cleon Jones wasted no time by doubling to lead off the inning. Rusty Staub then singled him over to 3rd, and just like that the tying run was 90 feet away with none out. After Beauchamp popped up in foul territory to the catcher, Theodore singled to center, plating Jones to tie the game at 3. Dodger manager Walter Alston had seen enough of Richert, bringing the righty George Culver in to face Duffy Dyer, who was brought in to catch after Martinez had pinch-run for Jerry May. Culver did his job, getting Dyer to ground into a double play to get out of the inning.
With the Dodgers looking to get their lead back before entering the top of the 9th, the Mets quickly got into a pickle when Davis led off with a single. Always a threat to steal, Davis ran and induced an erratic throw from Dyer, sending the ball into center field and allowing Davis to arrive safely at 3rd, the go-ahead run 90 feet away with none out. Yogi ordered Ferguson walked, then came out of the dugout to make a double-switch. Ed Kranepool replaced Beauchamp at 1st base and the southpaw, Tug McGraw, took the ball from Hennigan, given the duty of keeping the go-ahead run from scoring. McGraw first kept Crawford in the infield, inducing a pop-up to short. He then walked Cey to load the bases. Looking for either a strike out or a ground ball to at least force the runner out at home, McGraw got the latter, getting Russell to ground to short. Harrelson threw home and forced the speedy Davis out, the rest of the runners moving up one base to keep them loaded. Now 1 more out away from dodging the jam (no pun intended), up walked pinch-hit power hitter Ken McMullen. McGraw looked in, set and pitched. McMullen swung and sent a high fly ball to the right fielder Staub, who waited under it for the final out of the 8th. Tug McGraw would go on to pitch 5 innings, leaving 11 Dodgers on base, inducing 3 double plays, 2 by way of home plate.
“I thought I’d beat the crowd, so I left in the 7th inning.”
–Casey Stengel, who had come to watch the game
Onward into the night they went, singles being hit but pitchers getting outs. By the time they reached the top of the 19th,the 27,580 fans who were in the park at the beginning had dwindled down to around 1,000 or so. The Mets had used 4 pitchers up to that point, the Dodgers 6. On the mound stood Doug Rau, who had pitched the last 3 innings before toeing the mound for this improbable 19th. With everyone extremely exhausted and praying for an end, Cleon Jones greeted Rau with a single to left field. Rusty Staub, wanting to get it over with quickly as well, doubled to left, plating Jones and taking 3rd on the throw. After what must have felt like forever, the Mets took their 1st lead of the night. Ken Boswell walked up, pinch-hitting for the pitcher, George Stone. With his average in the mid .200’s, Boswell found out when his best hitting is done, singling to left and plating Staub. Even in the 19th inning, Yogi played small-ball, having George Theodore sacrifice Boswell over to 2nd. Rau then walked Dyer, and both runners moved a base over on Bud Harrelson’s ground-out to 2nd. Ed Kranepool did not think a 2-run cushion was enough in this game, and he communicated that by doubling to right field, plating both Dyer and Boswell to give the Mets a 7-3 lead. Wayne Garrett struck out, and onto the bottom half they went looking to wrap this long one up.
The righty, Jim McAndrew, was brought in to save the game, and quickly got Ron Cey and Bill Russell to ground out to short. Von Joshua pinch-hit for Doug Rau and actually got a single, much to the chagrin of most of the people still involved. Davey Lopes, however, grounded out to 2nd, forcing Joshua out at the base. At 4:52AM New York time, after 5 hours and 42 minutes, the longest game in Los Angeles history had come to an end with the Mets 7-3 victors.
When it was all said and done, The Mets had 22 hits, the Dodgers 18 (every one of them singles.) In fact, of the 40 hits between the 2 teams, only 4 of them were doubles. The Mets left 18 men on base, the Dodgers 22. While winning the 1st game of the long road trip, the Orange and Blue would drop 4 straight thereafter, and come back to Shea with an awful 3-9 record on the journey.
In a season where you had to believe, it is hard to believe the Mets pulled this one off.
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