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A-Mays-ing

On a side note...I've changed the settings to allow comments from anyone...thus anyone who wants to make remarks regarding "The Tidrow List" (see prior post) can do so in an easier fashion...back to walk-offs today.

Had there been a wild-card race in 1973, the Mets would have been 18 games behind the Cincinnati Reds at this juncture, so as it was, it was best that they set their sites on winning the NL East title. Their predicament was slightly similar to both the current Mets (on the brink of escaping last place) and the present Diamondbacks (11 games under .500 entering the day).

August 24, 1973 was a few weeks removed from Tug McGraw's "Ya Gotta Believe!" rallying cry and the Mets had shown flashes of being a better team. They had back-to-back walk-off wins over the Dodgers on August 21-22 (we'll write about those another time) and had developed a penchant for playing in one-run games (they were in the midst of a run of seven straight such contests).

This game with the Giants meant facing Juan Marichal, whom the Mets always had trouble scoring against, which makes sense since the Dominican Dandy was headed to the Hall of Fame. Fortunately for the Flushing 9, they had Jerry Koosman on the hill, and Joe Durso of the New York Times picked the word "tingling" to describe the ensuing pitchers duel. Koosman had pitched in bad luck all season, but patiently matched zeroes with Marichal, aided by some fine defense. Mets leftfielder Cleon Jones made a nice catch of a line drive to halt a bases-loaded Giants rally in the fourth and made another fine play to save San Francisco from scoring in the fifth inning.

One of the trademarks of the 1973 team was that its ways of winning were a bit unusual and this was a game fit for that. Still scoreless against Marichal in the bottom of the 10th, Ken Boswell led off the frame with a single. Up stepped former Giant Willie Mays, hitting in the top spot in the order, and Mets manager Yogi Berra had an interesting situation on his hands. Mays had two hits the day before and one hit off his ex-teammate today, so he was swinging the bat decently for a 42-year-old legend in his final days as a player.

The Mets figured they had to play for the win right then, since it was Marichal on the mound, and the odds of getting one hit with two shots at him had to be better than getting two hits in three cracks. So Mays squared to bunt and came through with the 13th and final sacrifice of his career (it should be noted that Mets slugger Rusty Staub bunted a runner over earlier in the game as well). You wouldn't figure one of the game's greatest players of all-time had much practice getting a bunt down, but Mays was still capable of both surprising and starring.

Second baseman Felix Millan was the next batter and was in the midst of a hot streak, but the Giants had to pitch to him with the heart of the Mets lineup up next. Millan lined a 2-1 pitch into right-center for a hit. Boswell scampered home and the Mets had a nice win, and in the process, handed the Giants their first extra-inning defeat of the season, after 11 straight victories.

By no means was this a turning point in the season (we'll get to that game in a few weeks), but it was the type of win that typified the Mets improbable rally into the postseason in the final weeks of the 1973 campaign.

True Metweisers know...This is the 12th anniversary of a rather funky date in Mets history, at least for me. In an otherwise totally unmemorable 5-4 walk-off win over the Reds (Kevin Wickander's wild pitch with Todd Hundley at bat brought in the winning run), my attendance at said contest prevented me from learning that I was the night's winner of the "Budweiser WFAN Mets Win By One Contest." My prize: A poncho, and 2 tickets to the final home game of the 1993 season. Rumor has it that second prize was 4 tickets to that same game.

In all, their were four Mets walk-off wins on August 24. Ed Halicki also happened to no-hit the Mets on this date in 1975.

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