In the bottom of the sixth, Wally Backman pinch-hit for Seaver, and though the crowd booed lightly, the fans could not have asked for more: Seaver and Carlton in a scoreless duel after six. Seaver's line was six innings, three hits, no runs, one walk and five strikeouts.
Rookie Doug Sisk came in and pitched three fine innings. In the seventh the Mets nudged home two runs off Carlton, thanks to RBIs by rookies Mike Howard and Brian Giles, giving Sisk the victory.
Even though the game belonged to the rookies, the day belonged to the oldies. Rose was starting his first game in rightfield since September of 1971. With Perez at first and Morgan at second, it could've been the early '70s. What really made the game seem timeless, though, was Seaver versus Carlton. It was their fifth Opening Day matchup, the third as Mets vs. Phillies, and Seaver had won the other two. The Mets hold a mysterious spell over Carlton, whom they have beaten in 32 of 59 decisions. For Seaver, it was his 14th Opening Day assignment, breaking Robin Roberts' National League record and tying Walter Johnson's major league mark. Seaver's Opening Day record is 6-1.
After Sisk struck out Perez to end the game, Seaver was at the clubhouse door, serving as the official greeter and congratulator. There was even some happiness in the Phillie clubhouse. Tug McGraw, who was on the same staff with Seaver for seven years and was the last Met pitcher to lose on Opening Day, in 1974, said, "I just got a very nice feeling. I felt terrific for Terrific. The warmth the fans showed him, and the way he gave it back to them, was really nice. A couple of years ago, they had that The Magic Is Back' campaign, but that was just a Madison Avenue creation. Today, the magic was back."
The money was also back. Seaver went a long way toward paying off his $700,000 salary on Opening Day. The paid attendance was almost 8,000 more than it was last year, which means approximately $80,000 more in revenue. Shea had its largest concessions day in history, with an estimated gross of $300,000. That included a frankfurter for each person plus 48,000 beers, 18,000 sodas, 11,000 scorecards, 7,500 yearbooks, 9,000 bags of peanuts, 5,000 pretzels and 2,000 popcorns. The good feelings Seaver generated cannot be quantified, however.
"The whole day was very warm and moving," he said. "I always thought that kind of reception was reserved for other people. The only thing I can compare it to was in '69 when I lost the perfect game. All I can say about Opening Day is that it was a perfect day."