Tuesday, October 2, 2012

1973 World Series: Finley's follies

The Teams
American League: Oakland Athletics (94-68) - Second World Series (Won in 1972)
National League: New York Mets (82-79) - Second World Series (Won in 1969)

What Happened
The 1973 World Series wasn't so much a battle to see who was the best team, but rather one about who was less bad. Sure, the A's were the defending World Series champions, but they didn't exactly set the world on fire defending their championship. With as much time as they spent fighting each other or complaining about team owner Charlie Finley, it's amazing they ended up with a winning record, much less back in the postseason. But they won the AL West, then pushed their issues to the side while the took care of Baltimore to get back to the World Series.

The Mets, meanwhile, were ... well, it's hard to use "mediocre" to describe a National League champion, but that's the best way to describe them. They won only 82 games, the lowest ever for a World Series team. They would have finished fourth in the National League West, but they won the NL East, then beat Cincinnati to advance to the series.

The one thing these two teams had in common was great pitching, and for the most part, that pitching dominated the series. The big exception was Game 2. A four-run sixth gave the Mets a 6-3, which the Athletics cut to 6-4 entering the ninth. Then, with two outs in the 9th, the A's rallied to tie the game. To the 12th, then. With two runners on base, the Mets' Willie Mays, who had shown every one of his 42 years during the season and series, reached down for one more bit of magic, delivering the go-ahead hit. After another single, two straight batters hit balls right at Oakland second baseman Mike Andrews, and he committed an error on both of them. Three more runs came in as a results of the Andrews errors, runs that loomed even bigger when the A's scored once in the bottom of the 12th.

With the series tied at 1-1, Finley was furious. He blamed Andrews for the Game 2 loss. To get his revenge, he forced Andrews to sign a false affidavit saying he was injured so that Finley could replace him on the World Series roster. Outraged, the A's players threatened to boycott the rest of the series if the move were allowed to go through, and Oakland manager Dick Williams resigned, effective at the end of the series. Fortunately, the commissioner's office didn't let the stunt pass, ordering Andrews reinstated.

With all the circus going on, there was still a series to be played. United behind their anger at their owner, the A's won Game 3 in 11 innings to reclaim homefield advantage, then suffered through the wet and cold New York weather for two losses before series headed back to Oakland. From there, the A's great pitchers finally took control. Oakland's Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers outdueled Tom Seaver and Tug McGraw to win Game 6, and a four-run third was all Ken Holtzman and Fingers needed for Game 7. They hated each other, they hated their owner, but somehow, the A's were two-time World Champions.

Reggie Jackson was a most curious choice for MVP, as he didn't really get going until the final two games. The future Mr. October his his first career World Series home run in that four-run rally in Game 7, so that might have had something to do with it. It really should have been Fingers, who pitched in six of the seven games and only gave up 1 earned run in a team-high 13 innings.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

New York110 (12) 26212
Oakland 273 (11)103 5

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

20. 1973 - Oakland (A) def. New York (N) 4-3
21. 2002 - Anaheim (A) def. San Francisco (N) 4-3
22. 1980 - Philadelphia (N) def. Kansas City (A) 4-2
23. 1911 - Philadelphia (A) def. New York (N) 4-2
24. 1915 - Boston (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-1
25. 1971 - Pittsburgh (N) def. Baltimore (A) 4-3
26. 1918 - Boston (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-2
27. 1988 - Los Angeles (N) def. Oakland (A) 4-1
28. 1946 - St. Louis (N) def. Boston (A) 4-3
29. 1925 - Pittsburgh (N) def. Washington (A) 4-3
Numbers 30-39
Numbers 40-49
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

Game 7s
Simultaneously, I'll rank all the Game 7s. The ones that have appeared in my countdown so far:

7. 1946: St. Louis (N) 4, Boston (A) 3
9. 1925: Pittsburgh 9, Washington 7
12. 1979: Pittsburgh 4, Baltimore 1
13. 1955: Brooklyn 2, New York (A) 0
15. 1971: Pittsburgh 2, Baltimore 1
16. 1940: Cincinnati 2, Detroit 1
18. 1987: Minnesota 4, St. Louis 2
19. 1958: New York 6, Milwaukee 2
21. 1968: Detroit 4, St. Louis 1
22. 1931: St. Louis (N) 4, Philadelphia (A) 2
23. 1973: Oakland 5, New York (N) 2
24. 2002: Anaheim 4, San Francisco 1
26. 1982: St. Louis 6, Milwaukee 3
28. 1965: Los Angeles (A) 2, Minnesota 0
29. 1964: St. Louis 7, New York (A) 5
30. 1957: Milwaukee 5, New York (A) 0
31. 1967: St. Louis 7, Boston 2
32. 1945: Detroit 9, Chicago (N) 3
33. 1909: Pittsburgh 8, Detroit 0
34. 1934: St. Louis (N) 11, Detroit 0 
36. 1985: Kansas City 11, St. Louis 0

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