Eliminate The Playoffs: 1972



Oakland A’s vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

Once the playoffs were formed in 1969, the results were as they were suppose to be. The team with the best record in both the American and National League went on to face each other in the World Series. That changed in 1972, when the Cincinnati Reds came from behind in Game 5  of the NL Championship Series and defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates to advance to the Fall Classic, three games to two. Now, honestly, the two teams were very evenly matched, with the Pirates finishing with a record of 96-59 to the Reds’ 95-69. And in all fairness to Cincinnati, they were 8-4 against the Pirates in the regular season. Neither team played their full schedule, so if the leagues were to only send one team, I’m sure those games would have been rescheduled. In Eliminate The Playoffs: 1972, however, the best team by record advances, so it’s the Pirates instead of the Reds who go on to face the Oakland A’s.

First, let’s take a look at how the Pirates blew their chance to be in the 1972 World Series. With the series tied at two games a piece, Pittsburgh held a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the 9th in Cincinnati. Reds’ catcher Johnny Bench hit a lead off homer off of Pirate closer Dave Giusti to tie the game 3-3. After giving up two more singles and recording no outs, Giusti is pulled from the game in favor of Bob Moose. Moose records two outs, but has George Foster standing 90 feet away on third base. Moose then throws a wild pitch that allows Foster to score the winning run and send the Reds to the Series.

In 1972, the National League has home field advantage, so the A’s travel to Pittsburgh for Game 1. Catfish Hunter (21-7, 2.04) is on the mound for Oakland, while Dock Ellis (15-7, 2.70) takes the hill for Pittsburgh. The A’s break a scoreless tie in the top of the 2nd inning. With one out, Reggie Jackson gets to first base on an error by second baseman, Dave Cash. Sal Bando comes up and delivers the ball down the left field line and over the wall for a two run homer, giving Oakland an early 2-0 lead. But the Pirates come back in the bottom half of the frame. Willie Stargell leads off the bottom of the 2nd inning with a 440 foot home run to center, cutting the lead to 2-1. Roberto Clemente comes to the plate and hits a triple, but is stuck at third base when Manny Sanguillan pops out in foul territory on the first base side. Dave Cash gets redemption for his error, stroking a single past short to score Clemente and tie the game 2-2. After Gene Alley goes down looking at strike three, Dock Ellis comes to the plate. Ellis hits the ball between first and second, but A’s first baseman Mike Epstein botches the play and Ellis is safe on the error. Cash moves to third on the play and that brings up Vic Davalillo. The lefty hits the ball deep into the hole at short and is able to leg out an infield single. Cash scores and gives the Pirates the 3-2 advantage. Al Oliver flies out to left to end the inning, but Pittsburgh takes the lead.

The Pirates score another run in the bottom of the 3rd to make it 4-2, but the A’s score one of their own in the top of the 4th to make it 4-3. The game would stay close until the bottom of the 8th, when Pittsburgh scores two runs on three hits and an error, putting the game out of reach. Pittsburgh wins Game 1 by the score of 6-3. Dock Ellis (7.1 IP, 8 H, 3 K, 1 BB) gets the win and Dave Giusti (1.2 IP, 0 H, 2 K, 0 BB) gets the save. Catfish Hunter (8 IP, 12 H, 5 K, 1 BB) takes the loss.


Game 2 features 23-year-old Vida Blue starting for the Athletics. Blue (6-10, 2,80) has had a rough go of it following his 24 win season in 1971. The Pirates start Bob Moose (13-10, 2.91). Pittsburgh gets on the board in the bottom of the 2nd when Willie Stargell leads off the bottom of the inning with a homer to right center field.. Gene Alley later contributes a sacrifice fly to left center, scoring Roberto Clemente from third, as he slides in just ahead of the tag. Pirates lead 2-0 after two. Moose was on his game, no hitting Oakland for 6 1/3 innings before Joe Rudi breaks it up with a double to center. Clemente leads off the bottom of the 7th inning with a home run to left center to add to the Pittsburgh lead. Manny Sanguillen later scores from second on Bob Moose’s RBI single, beating the throw to the plate. Moose dominates the A’s hitters, holding them to just two hits, as the Pirates go on to win this one 4-0. Moose pitches a complete game shutout, with four strikeouts and one walk. Blue takes the loss, allowing nine hits over seven innings. Pittsburgh leads the series two games to none.


We head to Oakland for Game 3, as the A’s look for their first win of the series. Nineteen game winner Steve Blass (19-8, 2.49) is on the mound for Pittsburgh. Oakland sends their own nineteen game winner, Ken Holtzman (19-11, 2.51) to the hill. The first inning of this one was uneventful, but Oakland’s bats came alive in the bottom of the 2nd inning. The A’s push seven runs across the plate on five hits and an error, highlighted by Joe Rudi’s two run shot down the left field line. The Joe Rudi Show continued, as Rudi leads off the bottom half of the 5th inning with a triple, as Oakland extends their lead to 9-0. Pittsburgh manages to push a run across home plate in the 8th inning, but it just wasn’t their day. Holtzman pitches a complete game five hitter, while Blass only makes it two innings, while taking the loss. The Pirates still lead the series, though, 2-1.


The Pirates send Nelson Briles (14-11, 3.08) to the mound as the Game 4 starter, while the A’s start Blue Moon Odom (15-6, 2.50). Both teams swing the bats well early, with both teams scoring a run in the 1st inning. Joe Rudi continues his hitting barrage with a home run to left for the Oakland run. Manny Sanguillen would homer to lead off the top of the 2nd inning, giving the Pirates a 2-1 advantage. Pittsburgh plates four more runs in the 3rd inning, as Roberto Clement triples and Sanguillen homers for a second time. Down 6-1, Oakland gets a run back in the bottom of the 3rd to make it 6-2. But the bats are silent for both teams for the rest of the game. The A’s score a run in the 7th, but the Pirates hold on to win this one 6-3 and take a 3-1 series lead. Briles is the victor, allowing seven hits over seven innings of work. Closer Dave Giusti pitches two innings of relief for the save. Odom lasts only five innings, giving up nine hits in the loss.


In a rematch of Game 1 starters, the Pirates and A’s start Dock Ellis and Catfish Hunter. Pittsburgh is looking to close things out, while Oakland is looking to win and return the series to Pittsburgh. After an uneventful 1st inning, Willie Stargell gets a base hit in the 2nd inning, then moves to third on Roberto Clemente’s single to center. Manny Sanguillen sends a sacrifice fly deep to right field and Stargell crosses the plate to give Pittsburgh the early 1-0 lead. Both pitchers are locked in, dueling it out and silencing the opponent’s bats. In the bottom of the 6th, the A’s are threatening. With one out and men on first and second, Reggie Jackson delivers a base hit between first and second. Matty Alou rounds third and heads home as Clemente fields the ball in right. Clemente guns the ball to home plate and Alou is OUT!!! The score remains 1-0 as we enter the 9th inning, but Pittsburgh is able to add a couple of insurance runs for the 3-0 victory. Both pitchers finish with complete games and the Pittsburgh Pirates are your 1972 World Series Champions!!


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