Home runs by Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda off one the of American League’s best pitchers, Mike Cuellar, pushed the New York Mets to a convincing opening win, 6-4, in the World Series. After two scoreless frames, Cuellar temporarily lost control of his screwball, and the opportunistic Mets seized upon the opening. With two outs, Cuellar walked National League playoff MVP Cleon Jones with the bases loaded to plate the first run of the Series. Donn Clendenon followed with a single that fell in front of left fielder Don Buford scoring both Tommie Agee and Bud Harrelson for a 3-0 early lead. In the fourth, the Orioles, who proved capable of comebacks themselves all season, but particularly against the Twins in the playoffs, shaved a run off the Mets’ lead when Brooks Robinson singled to score Boog Powell from second base. Powell had doubled off Mets’ starter Tom Seaver. But the Mets quickly responded with a Tommie Agee home run that cleared the center field fence over the outstretched glove of Paul Blair. Swoboda opened the sixth with a home run to right to give the Mets a 5-1 lead.
Rain pushed the start time of the game by over an hour. When Seaver hit Don Buford to open the bottom of the first, a joke spread among the press corps that the fix was in as it was fifty years ago when Chicago’s Eddie Cicotte hit the first batter of the Series as a signal to gamblers. However, the Orioles were the overwhelming favorites to win this Series, yet the Mets were proving to be no joke. After Frank Robinson singled, Seaver escaped the first inning jam with a inning ending double play turned by Al Weis.
Rain delayed the game again in the top of the seventh for another hour plus rain delay. When play resumed with Harrelson on first with two outs, Cleon Jones beat out a grounder to Dave Johnson on Cuellar’s first pitch. Clendenon cued a 2-1 screwball past Johnson scoring Harrelson, but Donn was out at second drawing the cut-off throw by Powell to give New York a five-run advantage.
Seaver held the vaunted Baltimore lineup in check until he apparently tired in the ninth. Blair drew a free pass on five pitches to open the last frame. Frank Robinson singled down the right field line to advance Blair to third. Powell crushed a 1-2 hanging curve ball over the right field wall for a three-run home run that sent Seaver to the showers. Mets’ manager Gil Hodges called upon veteran Ron Taylor who restored order setting Robinson, Hendricks, and Johnson down in order to end the game.
Game Two will feature a pair of southpaws, Jerry Koosman for New York and Baltimore’s Dave McNally.