It didn’t take long for Jerry Koosman to deliver what the Mets fans missed at Shea Stadium on Wednesday: a National League East crown. Koosman (17-10) and Ron Taylor combined on a five-hit 5-1 victory before 6,285 at Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium. With six games to clinch the division, manager Gil Hodges rested some of his regulars and the role players came through. Al Weis put the Mets ahead by a run in the second with a RBI single, and Bobby Pfeil’s two-run single in the fifth broke the game open for Koosman. The southpaw walked five and was replaced by Taylor to open the eighth. Taylor slammed the door shut, and the Mets celebrated on the field after Tony Taylor struck out to end the game.
With all of baseball’s division races over except the National League West, the Mets are the most unlikeliest of winners. Some pundits placed the expansion Montreal Expos to finish the season ahead of Gil Hodges’ troops. But the Mets lied in waiting all season behind strong pitching from Tom Seaver, Koosman and Gary Gentry. Chicago took the early lead in the division, but gave way to Pittsburgh by summer. But as the calendar turned to September, New York seized control of the division and never looked back. It was Koosman who defeated the Dodgers, 4-1, on September 3rd that pushed the Mets ahead of the Bucs for good. If the scene on the field was wild, the one in the Mets clubhouse wasn’t much less subdued. The players, most of them tasting victory of this magnitude for the first time, went out of their minds. Some 15 cases of champagne had been iced for the celebration, but that was gone in about a half hour – more of it spilled than consumed. Pouring champagne over one another was the big release for most of the kids and the hijinks were led by Seaver and Jerry Grote. When the champagne supply was exhausted, they began pouring beer…and the Yoo Hoo, the chocolate drink that Yogi Berra sponsors…and finally, strawberry yogurt, which always is in the clubhouse cooler. Every can of shaving cream was sprayed. “My God,” exclaimed one bystander, “all they’ve won is a divisional title. What will it be like if they ever go on to win the World Series?”
The Mets will visit Atlanta or San Francisco for the playoffs on Saturday, October 4 and Sunday, October 5. If the Giants push ahead of Atlanta, there will be a travel day with the series resuming at Shea Stadium, Tuesday, October 7. If the Braves win the West, there will be no open date and the series would resume Monday, October 6. The ultimate survivors will met in the best-of-seven World Series which will start in the home park of the American League champion, Saturday, October 11. Then there will be a day for travel before the third, fourth, and possibly fifth games in the National League park, starting Tuesday, October 14. If a sixth and seventh are needed, they will take another day off and finish up in the American League park Oct. 18 and Oct. 19. Should the Giants and Braves tie, there will be a sudden-death game in Atlanta on Friday, Oct. 3. That would set back the start of the series with the Mets to Oct. 5. All playoff games will be played in the afternoon.