Year In Review : 1973 National League
Off the field...
NASA launched the Skylab Space Station, a science and engineering laboratory, into orbit aboard a Saturn V rocket on May 14th. Three crews of three astronauts each visited the station on missions lasting twenty-eight, fifty-nine and eighty-four days. Many UV astronomy experiments and detailed X-ray studies of the Sun were executed before the station fell from orbit in July of 1979.
Vice President Spiro Agnew came under investigation by the U.S. attorney in Baltimore for allegedly receiving payoffs from engineers seeking contracts when Agnew the governor of Maryland. Although he maintained his innocence, Agnew eventually resigned from office on October 10, 1973, and pleaded no contest, to a single charge that he had failed to report $29,500 of income received in 1967. Following his resignation, Agnew was fined $10,000 and placed on three years' probation.
The United States completed its withdrawal from Vietnam in accordance with the Paris Peace Accords. Under its terms, there would be a ceasefire, U.S. troops would agree to leave the country and all prisoners of war would be released. Two years later, the Communists achieved total victory in Vietnam.
In the American League...
The American Leagues' two premiere catchers Carlton Fisk, of the Boston Red Sox, and Thurman Munson, of the New York Yankees squared off after the Bombers captain barreled into Fisk while trying to score from third on a missed bunt by teammate Gene Michael. The fight was fueled both the legendary rivalry between the two teams and the genuine dislike between the two players. Although the winner of the brawl remained undetermined, the winner of the game went to the Red Sox 3-2.
Frank Robinson, of the California Angels, homered against the Texas Rangers at Arlington Stadium giving him at least one career home run in all thirty-two Major League ballparks.
Fellow Angel Nolan Ryan set a Major League record on his last pitch of the year after striking out the Minnesota Twins' Rich Reese for his three-hundred eighty-third K of the season. The Anaheim crowd gave Ryan a five minute standing ovation and the veteran ace returned the gesture with a 5-4 decision for his twenty-first win of the season.
In the National League...
On August 17th, Willie Mays hit his six-hundred sixtieth (and final) home run off of the Cincinnati Reds' Don Gullett. Unfortunately the New York Mets fell 2-1, remaining seven and a half games back in last place. Somehow, Yogi Berra and his "Miracle" Mets managed to climb back to the top and won the National League East pennant on October 1st despite having no .300 hitters and no pitchers with more than nineteen wins.
Phil Neikro became the first Atlanta Braves pitcher ever to toss a no-hitter after dominating the San Diego Padres for a 9-0 triumph while walking three batters and fanning four. Two days later the Braves signed his younger brother, Joe from the Detroit Tigers reuniting the brothers for the first time in the majors.
Wilbur Wood attempted to set a record while starting both games of a doubleheader between his Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees, but it backfired completely as "the Iron Man wannabe" was taken for a 12-2 and 7-0 loss.
Around the League...
A group of seventeen investors led by Ohio Shipbuilder George Steinbrenner purchased the New York Yankees from the Columbia Broadcasting Company (CBS) for a reported $10 million dollars. The television giant was forced to take a $4 million dollar loss in the deal while Steinbrenner went on to become the owner of one of the largest market teams in all professional sports.
At a joint meeting of all twenty-four Major League owners, a unanimous decision was made to allow the use of the "Designated Hitter" in the American League for a three season probationary period. The experiment marked the first time since 1901 that the National and American Leagues played under different rules. The concept of interleague play was also submitted for committee review.
Both players and owners agreed to what was coined as the "10 and 5 rule" in which a player with a decade of experience in the majors and five-years with their present team could veto a trade. The league minimum salary was also raised to $15,000 and all salary disputes were to be from then on arbitrated. These amendments prevented an impending strike and allowed the start of the spring training season.
Eleven weeks after his untimely death in a plane crash, Pittsburgh Pirate legend Roberto Clemente was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during a special election that superceded the five-year waiting period. Clemente was on a humanitarian mission that was taking supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua when the aircraft he was flying in went down off the coast of Puerto Rico. "The Great One" as he was called, represented the first Latin American to be inducted into Cooperstown after receiving 93% of the four-hundred twenty-four ballots cast and his lifetime batting average of .317 is still the highest of any right-hander since World War II.