Montreal may have failed in the pennant race (page 30), but just by coming close the Expos had exhilarated a country. A Calgary sports editor wrote, "The Expos are doing more for the nation's harmony than bilingualism could accomplish in years of trying."
"But you have to be able to win the big ones, the ones that count, at the right time," said Manager Gene Mauch. The right time eluded the '73 Expos.
Willie Stargell was the Pirate paragon of '73, leading the majors with 44 home runs, rapping out 156 hits and driving in 119 runs, best in the major leagues. Pitcher Steve Blass, with his 9.81 ERA, was the biggest disappointment.
It was not surprising when Philadelphia Outfielder Cesar Tovar and Shortstop Larry Bowa asked to be traded. What was surprising was that a Phil volunteered to remain. But one did. "I want to stay, I like it here," said Infielder Willie Montanez. Pitcher Ken Brett ended with a 13-9 record, an agreeable surprise, but once-mighty Steve Carlton suffered his 20th loss. He won only 13. The Cards rehired Red Schoendienst for his 10th season, Lou Brock stole his 70th base, tops in the majors, and Catcher Ted Simmons finished over .300 for the third straight year. The Cubs, who were in the race until the last weekend for the first time in a generation, might have stayed aloft longer if Ferguson Jenkins had accomplished his seventh straight 20-win season. He finished 14-16.
And say this for the Mets: they did what they did with but a single hitter in the league's top 25.
NY 82-79 ST. L 81-81 PITT 80-82 MONT 79-83 CHI 77-84 PHIL 71-91
Atlanta's Henry Aaron had four at-bats against Houston Sunday in which to equal or surpass Babe Ruth's career home-run record of 714, and the result was three base hits, but not a homer. He went into the last game of the season with 713, the 713th being a slow curve he hit out of the park Saturday night. Poor pitching was what doomed the power-hitting Braves to fifth place. The club finished last in the National League in ERA (4.25), hits given up (1,467), runs (774) and earned runs (690). But, oh, what slugging! Davey Johnson led the club with 43 homers, the most ever for a second baseman; Darrell Evans had 41 and Aaron 40. It was the first time that a team ever had three men with 40 or more home runs.
The Astros finished fourth despite having a good infield defense and two of the league's top five hitters in Cesar Cedeno (.320) and Bob Watson (.313). On Monday Manager Leo Durocher resigned. He was replaced by his top assistant, Preston Gomez, who previously had been manager of San Diego.