Baseball’s championship series finally found its way back to the Borough of Queens. All eyes are on Shea Stadium tonight, as she hosts her second Fall Classic in the last five years.
However, before any game could be played, repairs were in order. After Tug McGraw recorded the final out in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Reds to vault New York into the World Series, Mets fans romped about the playing field, ripped up and robbed huge chunks of sod, filled their pockets with dirt, stole the pitching rubber, dug up home plate, and rioted till sundown with raucous glee.
April 21, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Detailed view of the Oakland Athletics swinging A
To have seen the field after the clinching celebration, is to understand the remarkable job put in by the Shea Stadium grounds crew, who spent the last five days and nights trying to recover and re-sod the field in time for tonight’s game. The hard and necessary work of the grounds crew paid off, and Shea Stadium, dressed in her World Series best again, looked amazing.
In the opposing dugout at Shea were this year’s American League representatives, the Athletics. The well traveled and reigning champions formerly of Philadelphia, Kansas City, and now Oakland, touched down at LaGuardia Airport yesterday. Game Three this evening marked the first time the Athletics franchise faced off against a modern Senior Circuit club in New York. The last time a National League team from these parts hosted the A’s in a World Series game was sixty years ago, back in 1913 when John McGraw‘s Giants ruled the Polo Grounds, and Connie Mack‘s club still hailed out of the City of Brotherly Love. The teams also met previously in the 1911 and 1905 World Series.
After an incredible final home stretch to capture the N.L. East flag, dispatching Cincinnati’s mighty Big Red Machine to win the National League pennant at home, and going as far as splitting the first two games in the Oakland Coliseum, a return trip to this year’s World Series still seemed too surreal for many fans in Gotham, even right up until tonight’s call to Play Ball!
Finally, on a reconstructed mound under the bright lights of Shea Stadium, baseball’s current elite took center stage. Tom Seaver started Game Three for the Mets, and was opposed by Catfish Hunter. The two aces combined for 40 victories during the regular season. But on this night, they pitched to a stalemate.
New York staked Tom Seaver to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. Wayne Garrett led-off the Mets’ first by depositing Catfish Hunter‘s second offering of the game into the loge section in right field. Felix Millan and Rusty Staub, who is still suffering from a sore shoulder, followed with consecutive singles to put runners on the corners. Then, with Cleon Jones batting, Catfish Hunter unleashed a wild pitch that allowed Millan to score from third.
Tom Seaver kept Oakland off the scoreboard through five full innings. He fanned five batters in his first two innings pitched, and struck out the side in the second and fifth innings. The A’s finally got to him in the sixth inning, when doubles by third baseman Sal Bando and Gene Tenace cut the New York’s lead to one. Later, Bert Campaneris led off the top of the eighth with a single off Seaver and promptly stole second base before scoring on left fielder Joe Rudi‘s game tying base hit.
Catfish Hunter lasted six innings, allowed two runs on seven hits, walked three and struck out five before departing the game while still on the losing side. Tom Seaver completed eight innings, allowed the two late runs on seven hits, walked only one, and fanned 12. Seaver would unfortunately get pinch-hit for in the bottom of the eighth, and wound up with a no-decision when the Mets failed to retake the lead.
As was the case in Game Two, Game Three went into extra-innings, where the littlest Athletic, Bert Campaneris, would factor largely in this game once again. With Harry Parker in to pitch the top of the 11th inning, second base replacement Ted Kubiak drew a one out walk, and advanced to second base when the third strike to newly inserted center fielder Angel Mangual resulted in a passed ball. A’s shortstop Campaneris then delivered a base hit to score Kubiak, but was thrown out at second trying to stretch out a double, though not before giving Oakland a 3-2 lead.
After a lead off single by Wayne Garrett in the bottom of the frame, Oakland summoned Rollie Fingers from the bullpen. Fingers proceeded to retire Felix Millan, Rusty Staub and Cleon Jones in order. Shea Stadium sat in silence as Game Three went to the Athletics by a 3-2 final score.