1973 World Series
The "Amazin' Mets" defied all odds in 1973 and climbed to the top of the National League despite finishing just over the .500 mark. With a less-than-stellar record of 82-79, New York managed to defeat a superior Cincinnati Reds team in a tight, five game championship series to earn their second ticket to the Fall Classic since their introduction in 1962. The defending world champion Oakland A's had also defeated "The Big Red Machine" in the previous year's Series and boasted the American League's top line-up with Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Gene Tenace and Deron Johnson. Jim "Catfish" Hunter had just finished another twenty win season with Ken Holtzman and Vida Blue in support.
Mets Manager Yogi Berra continued to test fate by starting Jon Matlack (14-16) for Game 1. It was only the fourth time in World Series history that a losing pitcher had started an opener and many fans questioned the former Yankee's judgment. Although the decision first appeared to be brilliant (as Matlack allowed only two unearned runs and three hits in six innings) reality finally set in and Holtzman cruised to a 2-1 opening victory. The pitcher had even added a third inning double which was made even more impressive by the fact that American League pitchers didn't bat during the '73 regular season because of the introduction of the new designated-hitter rule.
Game 2 evolved from a mere baseball game into a marathon of mental and physical endurance as the contest set a record for the longest post-season game in history. Clocking in at four hours and thirteen minutes, the twelve inning nail-biter witnessed the last hit of Willie Mays' twenty-two year Major League career, which was finishing up where it started, in New York. After the A's came back from a 6-4 deficit with two out in the ninth, New York regained the 7-6 lead in the twelfth thanks to May's encore, but after A's Mike Andrews let John Milner's grounder skip through his legs for a two run error, the Mets charged forward for the 10-7 victory. The error proved very costly as the second baseman was deactivated by Charles Finley the following day. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was irritated by the unjust measure and ordered the Oakland owner to reinstate Andrews much to the delight of his teammates. As the political tension between the A's clubhouse and front office subsided, the Series moved to the Big Apple. Oakland regained the Series lead with a 3-2 win thanks to Bert Campaneris' eleventh-inning single. Tom Seaver was outstanding on the mound as well and retired twelve A's batters in eight innings.
Right-fielder Rusty Staub stole the spotlight in Game 4 by going four-for-four with five runs batted in and a three run homer in the first. Matlack also made amends for his opening day loss while allowing three hits in eight innings. The result was a 6-1, Series squaring victory that was sweetened by the return of the ousted Andrews. Unfortunately his career would end in the eighth after grounding out in his last Major League at-bat. Jerry Koosman pulled his team ahead in Game 5 after pitching a 6 1/3 innings shutout for the 2-0 victory. Now one game away from their second World Championship title, the Mets returned to Oakland determined to finish the job. Seaver and Hunter were chosen to go head-to-head in Game 6 as the "Catfish" held on to a narrow 2-0 lead after seven innings. Reggie Jackson (who had missed the previous Series due to an injury) showed why he would become Mr. October and scored the A's final run in the eighth for the 3-1 win.
A rejuvenated Oakland team came out swinging in Game 7 as the A's got two run shots from both Campaneris and Jackson in the third-inning. Series workhorse Ken Holtzman supported the home team's efforts with help from Rollie Fingers and Darold Knowles. In the end, it was a 5-2 victory and a second consecutive championship crown for the defending American Leaguers. Despite the back-to-back triumph, Dick Williams remained bitter about his administration's interference (in regards to Andrews) and resigned as the A's manager shortly after the season concluded.