Well, Cub fans, it sure was a grand weekend out there at the Big Shea, as the New Yorkers like to call it. We really did it to the Mets and the world's greatest pitching staff, or whatever it was that Rube Walker called it. Billy says he's still tired from running the bases, Ron nearly split a gut not doing his victory dance at third and guess what? Leo smiled. Yeah, he smiled, the first one since last September.
In case you missed it, we went into New York with a half game lead and everyone still talking about the one-hitter Gary Gentry threw against us in Chicago, followed by the one-hitter Tom Seaver laid on the Phillies and the four-hit shutout Jerry Koosman came back with the day after that. Oh, the New York papers had fun with that, kidding Koosman about giving up so many hits and not being able to throw a one-hitter like Gentry, Seaver and Nolan Ryan. It was along in here that Walker, he's the Met pitching coach, opens his mouth about Seaver, Koosman, Gentry and Ryan. Poor us. We have to go in there, and all we have is Kenny, Fergie, Handsie and Joe. Joe Decker. New kid.
Game one, Friday night, 50,000 Met fans want our blood. What they didn't get from last year. They start Koosman, No. 2 man, and he doesn't get out of the second inning, partly because he pulls a muscle in his left forearm and partly because we nail him for four runs. Jim Hickman hits one out to Long Island somewhere and we win 6-4.
And we're just warming up. The next day, only 35,000 fans this time, and we land on Gentry. Boom. Billy Williams hits one so far Swoboda doesn't move. Boom, Ron bangs one off the center field fence. Bye, bye, Gary. We win this one 14-8. Could have been 140-8.
Sunday winds it up. We get to the golden boy, Seaver, and you can hear all those fans—53,000 this time—moaning. We beat Tommy boy 3-1 but then make the mistake of dropping the last one to Ryan 3-1. So what? Three out of four in their ball park gives us a 1�-game lead over the Cardinals, who are finally over .500, and a 2�-game lead over the world champion Metsies and their world champion pitching staff.
But listen. This is something to paste in your hat and look at in August or September. Those Met pitchers are pretty good, as all of us found out last fall. Maybe they won't become the best staff in the history of baseball the way Rube says, but don't bet a lot against that either. Know what Henry Aaron says about Seaver? "You simply can't unnerve him," that's what Henry says. "He's cocky. And by cocky I don't mean any criticism. I mean confidence."
Henry also likes the other three guys. "Koosman is the same sort of pitcher Seaver is, but he isn't as cocky and so he pitches into more bad luck. Gentry and Ryan can beat you anytime. I simply have never seen so many good young pitchers come up so fast on any club."
And Henry's not the only one. Maury—Maury Wills—thinks Koosman can be another Koufax and, like everybody, he's nuts about Seaver. Old Casey points out that nobody is happy about facing Ryan, he throws so fast. In fact, just about everybody around the league thinks Rube is not all that wrong when he says how great his pitchers are.
The point is, if Henry's impressed, and Maury and Casey are impressed, we should be impressed too, Cub fans. Those pitchers are young, that's for sure. Koosman is 26, Seaver 25, Gentry and Ryan 23. On the theory that they're going to be around a long time and that even though we roughed them up last week they may be back to rough us up come September, it might be good for us to learn as much as we can about them. You know, know your enemy?
Seaver, with three years experience, 57 wins, a Cy Young Award, an $80,000 contract, a well-photographed wife and a converted farm house in Greenwich, Conn., sets the pace. Kid has a great fastball, and his control is unbelievable. His motion has lots to do with his strikeouts. There aren't too many problems he can't solve himself. Sometimes his motion is too quick and he gets to pitching against his front leg. Rube may have to remind him of this, but usually he figures it out himself.