It was the kind of game that fans in 2010 have seen many times.
New York’s most beloved team, the New York Mets, a last place team on Sept. 1 and the Cincinnati Reds were playing the first game of the 1973 National League playoffs at Riverfront Stadium.
Tom Seaver, the league’s best pitcher who had been nursing a “tired” arm for almost one month, was opposed by the Reds’ Jack Billingham, who had been ill the day before and told the press that he was probably dehydrated.
Seaver’s right shoulder had stiffened during the Mets’ stretch run.
“For the last month, I didn’t have my stuff and I didn’t know where it was going, anyway. It’s tough trying to pitch like that. I’ve been taking Butazolidin pills to draw off the irritation.”
Their less than peak physical condition didn’t seem to both either hurler. Going to the Reds’ half of the eighth inning, the Mets led, 1-0.
Left-handed hitting reserve catcher Hal King batted for Billingham. He became Seaver’s twelfth strike out victim.
Pete Rose was the batter. It was a battle between two of the all-time greats.
One cannot over-emphasize the fact that Pete Rose maximized his talent more than almost any one who ever played the game, including most Hall of Famers.
In 1968, the first “Year of the Pitcher,” Pete led the league with a .335 batting average. Only Mateo Alou (.332), his older brother Felipe (.317), and Curt Flood (.301) hit at least .300. Carl Yastrezemski led the junior circuit with a .301 average.
Rose stepped into the left-handed batters box. After working the count to 2-2, Pete blasted a Seaver fast ball over the right field fence to tie the game. Johnny Bench won it in the ninth inning with a game-ending home run off Seaver.
During the 1973 season, Rose led the league with a .338 batting average and an Ichiro-like 230 hits, but in 752 plate appearances, he hit only five home runs. Pete rose to the occasion.
The Mets beat the Reds in five games to win the pennant, but Rose batted .381 and hit another home run.
Pete Rose was the firebrand that helped lead the 1975 Reds to the World Championship, and the following season helped set the stage against the New York Yankees by getting into Mickey Rivers’ head.
Pete played an extremely shallow third base to take the bunt, one of Rivers’ primary weapons, away from the Yankees’ lead off hitter. The Reds swept the Yankees who were not doing well in the World Series.
In 1980, Pete was with the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that had never won a World Series. He provided the leadership that led to the Phillies’ first World Championship.
Pete Rose set many enviable records, but all of those records, as great as they are, are overridden by the fact that those who know baseball know that Pete Rose was and is a winner.
Pete Rose at Baseball-Reference
By JOSEPH DURSOSpecial to The New York Times. (1973, October 7). Seaver Loses but Strikes Out 13 for Mark :Matlack to Pitch Today Reds Down Mets in 9th With Homer Playoff Mark For Strikeouts Bench Ends Game. New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 243. Retrieved October 15, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2007). (Document ID: 91000768).