Somebody's Golden Age? A look back at a Dodgers-Mets game from 1972
by Bob Timmermann
Although we've had it hammered into us that baseball's "golden age" was sometime in the 1940s or 1950s, or possibly the 1920s, or maybe now, but baseball has played through eras of different nicknames. And I'm not sure what 1972 would qualify as. Perhaps it was the Avocado Green Era.
I got the chance to watch a few innings of a July 9, 1972 game between the Dodgers and Mets at Shea Stadium. It was quite a pitching matchup with Tom Seaver facing Claude Osteen, both of whom would be 20-game winners that season.
The DVD I have picks up in the fourth inning and the Dodgers are up 1-0. The first three Dodgers of the game, rookie second baseman Lee Lacy, left fielder Bill Buckner, and center fielder Willie Davis, all singled to score a run.
Through the first three innings, Osteen had given up only a leadoff single to Mets center fielder Wilile Mays.
While it was a Dodgers broadcast, the pictures were from the Mets. And since it was the middle innings, Jerry Doggett was calling the action, and not Vin Scully.
Most Dodgers fans memories of Jerry Doggett was that he was "not Vin Scully." Doggett was a perfectly capable announcer, who kept you informed about the game, gave the score and count, and didn't go too far off track. He just wasn't Vin Scully.
Seaver made quick work of the Dodgers in the top of the fourth, retiring the side in order. Osteen did the same in the bottom of the inning. Mets first baseman Jim Beauchamp hurt himself running out a grounder and Ed Kranepool came out to replace him in the fifth.
The fifth inning had all the excitement of this game, even though no runs would score. In the top of the fifth, Osteen had a one-out double down the rightfield line. That brought up Lacy, who had come up to the majors on June 30.
Doggett noted that Lacy was from Longview, Texas (that was just his birthplace, Lacy grew up in Oakland), the same town where former Dodger Charlie Neal hailed from. And then Doggett went on for a bit about Longview and how he met his wife there and started in broadcasting there. For some reason, Doggett started referring himself to as "we." He also made mention of how tough it was to strike out Lacy.
Lacy struck out.
The next batter, Buckner, fouled out to left to end the threat.
Mets catcher Duffy Dyer doubled to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Doggett noted that Dyer was from the Phoenix area (he played college ball at Arizona State) and was signed by Mets scout Bob Scheffing. "Ironically, Scheffing also lives in the Phoenix area," Doggett said. And somewhere deep in my six-year old mind, I must have thought "this man is not using the word 'ironically' correctly."
Osteen followed with a walk to Teddy Martinez (who was playing right field) to bring up the #8 hitter, second baseman Wayne Garrett. Mets manager Yogi Berra had Garrett sacrifice the runners over for Seaver, which seemed to be a curious decision.
Seaver had hit two home runs that season, but he wasn't an especially good hitter. Berra called for a squeeze and Seaver got the bunt down, but Dyer didn't get a good break and Osteen made a nice play to shovel the ball to catcher Duke Sims. Dyer, the ball, and Sims all seemed to collide at the same time. Umpire John McSherry called Dyer out. Dyer and Berra argued mildly, but that was that.
Despite it being very warm, both times when the pitchers got on base, they put on jackets. Teams must have been very, very, very worried that pitchers arms would stiffen. But it looked far more uncomfortable to see Seaver buttoning up a nylon jacket on a sticky summer day.
Mays was the Mets last chance in the fifth and Osteen struck him out and made Mays look very, very, very old while doing it. After the strikeout, Mays tossed off his helmet and took his cap out of his back pocket.
The Dodgers had another rally in the sixth. Davis led off with a single and Frank Robinson followed with a four-pitch walk that seemed to irritate Seaver. Parker, the #5 hitter, sacrificed, and Seaver gave third baseman Jim Lefebvre an intentional walk to load the bases.
Up came Sims, one of three veteran catchers the Dodgers tried out in 1972, before Steve Yeager and Joe Ferguson were called up. Sims got brushed back on one pitch, but ultimately struck out.
That left another veteran whom the years were not kind to, Maury Wills, to try knock in the runs. The graphic showed that Wills was batting .127 with two RBIs on the season. And Wills bounced out to shortstop Bud Harrelson to end the inning. Wills would bat .129 in his final major league season. Wills had actually had a decent 1971 season was sixth in the NL MVP voting. And in 1972, Wills had a historically bad season.
The Mets had their leadoff hitter in the sixth, Harrelson, reach on a single. Berra then ordered his #3 hitter, John Milner, to sacrifice. So with one out and a runner on second, cleanup man Jim Fregosi, playing third, tried to make Mets fans (over 50,000 in attendance) forget about Nolan Ryan. Fregosi grounded out to Osteen. Ryan threw a one-hitter for the Angels that day.
Kranepool came up next, but looked like he had no clue as to how to hit Osteen's pitches and he struck out.
The top of the seventh is also on the DVD, so Vin Scully shows up briefly. In 1972, he sounds very much like he does today. It's hard for me to believe that at the time, he was just 44, only two years older than I am now.
The Dodgers went out in order in the seventh and then the DVD ends. The Dodgers added another run in the 9th on an RBI single by Lacy to win 2-0.
In the LA Times story after the game, Lacy was the story. Lacy had been called up from AA El Paso because Bill Russell had to fulfill some military duty. And the Dodgers had wanted to call up AAA second baseman Davey Lopes, but Lopes was also serving out some military reserve time.
Lacy held on to the second base job until September when he got hurt and Billy Grabarkewitz took over the job and then Lopes got the starts in the final week of the season.
Two other things really stood out for me from wathcing a game from 1972:
1) the players played a lot faster. Osteen and Seaver worked quickly, but the hitters also tended to stay in the box for the whole at bat. Everybody just worked much more quickly.
2) if a batter grounded out with nobody on, the first baseman would turn to his left and throw the ball to the catcher who was backing up the play and then the catcher would throw the ball around the horn. Check how many times you see that now or how often a catcher even gets that far down the line on a grounder.