Baseball is the most painfully romantic sport there is. Every year you feel that your team could go all the way, and when they don’t, you feel it. You feel the pain and heartbreak of the loss, and are left with the empty feeling of what could have been. Winning in professional sports is incredibly difficult, but losing is worse. But what if your team wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place?
This is the story of a team that nobody even considered a contender. This is the heart wrenching story of the 1973 New York Mets.
Everybody knows that the 1969 Miracle Mets was one of the greatest sports stories ever. They came out of absolutely nowhere to win the World Series, shocking everybody. The feat could not be replicated by any team, besides the New York Mets of course.
The 1973 team, led by manager Yogi Berra, had a superior roster to that of the 1969 team. Players like John Matlack and Tug McGraw were expected to propel them to success. Tom Seaver was also terrific. Over the course of the season Seaver won 19 games, while maintaining an astonishingly low 2.08 ERA. He won the Cy Young for his performance, the second of his career. It was also the last season in the storied career of Willie Mays. The “Say Hey Kid” might have been on his last legs, but he was still able to perform when the moment called for it. The name on the front of his jersey might have been foreign, but his hat was a comfortable sight.
With 44 games left in the year, the Mets were twelve games under .500, and dead in the eyes of most. But then, just when they needed it most, everything clicked. They played incredible baseball down the stretch. They won eight of their last eleven games, pushing their record to 82-79. They clinched the division title with the lowest win percentage in baseball history. Between 1970 and 1980, the Mets were the only team besides the Pirates and Phillies to win the National League East Flag.
The Mets beat the Big Red Machine in five games in the NLCS, which included a god-like two hit shutout from Matlack. The World Series, which seemed like a pipe dream in August, was their next stop.
The opposition seemed insurmountable. The powerhouse Oakland Athletics, headlined by Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue, were attempting to repeat as champions. The Mets didn’t back down, and pushed the series to Game Seven, when the unthinkable happened . . . they lost. And just like that, the season was over. No championship, no miracle, no parade. Just the heartbreak and memories of what could have been.
The 2015 team is now on the doorstep of something amazing. If they are able to overcome the strength of the Cubs, then they will be headed back to the World Series for the first time since 1986. The 1973 Mets did not have the fairytale ending that this year’s team hopes to have, but the best part about fairytales is that, if you want them to come true, “Ya Gotta Believe.”