Mets in the 1970s: 'Ya gotta Believe'

New York Mets relief pitcher Tug McGraw winds

New York Mets relief pitcher Tug McGraw winds up in the seventh inning of the fifth World Series game against the Oakland Athletics at Shea Stadium. The Mets won, 2-0, and took a 3-2 lead in the Series. (Oct. 18, 1973) (Credit: AP)

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A short synopsis of the Mets in the 1970s.

1970-72: TREADING WATER

The Mets won 83 games in each of the three seasons after their Amazin' 1969, and although there were flashes of brilliance -- including Tom Seaver's 19-strikeout game against the expansion Padres -- he finished at 20-10 with a truly Amazin' 1.76 ERA, the fans were left wanting more.

After the 1971 season, the Mets traded Nolan Ryan to the Angels with three other players for infielder Jim Fregosi. who suffered a broken thumb in spring training.

Tragedy struck on April 2, 1972, when manager Gil Hodges died of a heart attack after playing a round of golf. Yogi Berra was named as his replacement on April 6.

The team got off to a hot start and picked up 41-year-old Willie Mays from the Giants on May 11.

On June 6, they had a 32-13 record (.711) after beating the Reds, 3-2, on Tommie Agee's RBI hit in the seventh, but they fell back to Earth and finished the season in third place.

1973: YA GOTTA BELIEVE

Tug McGraw turned an old M. Donald Grant pep talk into a catchphrase as the Mets pulled off another miracle that took them to the World Series.

After a 9-0 loss to the Padres on Aug. 14, the Mets were in last place with a 52-65 record but only 81/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals. The following day, Tom Seaver pitched a two-hitter and Jerry Grote hit a grand slam to power the Mets to a 7-0 victory in San Diego. Then came a loss to the Reds, but the Mets slowly started picking up steam. On Sept. 18, still four games below .500, the Mets scored five runs in the ninth in Pittsburgh and won, 6-5, to trigger a seven-game winning streak that put them ahead to stay.

The Mets bumped past first-place Pittsburgh on Sept. 21 with a 10-2 victory over the Pirates at Shea. Seaver won his 18th, a five-hit, eight strikeout performace, and John Milner, Wayne Garrett and Rusty Staub provided home run power. The Mets won nine of their last 11 to win the NL East title.

They beat the Reds, three games to two, in the NLCS, Seaver and McGraw combining for a seven-hitter in the 7-2 clincher.

In the World Series, they took the powerful Oakland A's into the seventh game but gave up four runs in the third and the A's took the finale, 5-2.

1974: LOST SEASON

The defending NL champions spent exactly one day over .500 and finished 71-91, a dismal fifth. Jon Matlack compiled a super 2.41 ERA but went 13-15. Jerry Koosman led the staff with a 15-11 record and Tom Seaver fell to 11-11 with a 3.20 ERA. Batting leaders were Cleon Jones (.282), John Milner (20 HRs) and Rusty Staub (78 RBIs).

1975-79: JOY & SADNESS

The Mets became exciting again, thanks to the acquisition of Dave Kingman, who blasted 36 HRs in 1975 and 37 in 1976, and some fantastic pitching.

Tom Seaver (22-9, 2.38, 243 Ks) won his third Cy Young Award in '75 and three Mets starters had ERAs under 3.00 in 1976.

Yogi Berra was fired on Aug. 6, 1975, after the team lost five games in three days. The team finished the season under Roy McMillan, taking third at 82-80.

The Mets' family suffered two huge losses in the fall of 1975. Casey Stengel, 85, died on Sept. 29 and Mets owner Joan Payson, 72, died on Oct. 4.

Joe Frazier took over as manager in 1976, as the Mets improved to 86-76. Jerry Koosman (2.69) pitched a four-hitter and struck out 13 to win his 20th on Sept. 16. He finished the season at 21-10.

In 1977, the Mets fell to sixth place and stayed there for three seasons.

Joe Torre took over as manager on May 31, 1977, and the Mets marked his debut with a 6-2 win over the Expos. Fifteen days later, the Mets traded Seaver (7-3) to the Reds for Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry. Seaver went 14-3 for the Reds for the rest of that season.

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