Eliminate The Playoffs: 1973


Cincinnati Reds vs. Baltimore Orioles

“Sooner or later, it was bound to happen.” That’s the first line from This Great Game about the 1973 season. A season in which a “backdoor champion” would take the pennant, thanks to the playoffs. The National League would give the World Series that champion in 1973 in the form of the New York Mets (82-79). The Mets managed to beat the Cincinnati Reds (99-63), three games to two, to steal the pennant. To their credit, the Mets outscored the Reds 23-8 in the five game series. Meanwhile, I’m sure the Los Angeles Dodgers (95-66) and San Francisco Giants (88-74) were muttering under their breath because they were in the wrong division. As for the American League, the Oakland A’s (94-68) upset the Baltimore Orioles (97-65), three games to two, to represent the American League in the Fall Classic. And for the first time in World Series history, the best team from either league was not in the Fall Classic. So, we’re going to Eliminate The Playoffs and show how the 1973 World Series should have looked, with the Cincinnati Reds facing the Baltimore Orioles.

The 1973 World Series starts in Baltimore, as the American League had home field advantage. Jack Billingham (19-10, 3.04) is on the mound for the Reds, while the Orioles start Jim Palmer (22-9, 2.40). Baltimore breaks the scoreless tie in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Don Baylor leads the inning off with a base hit and moves to second on a passed ball. Baylor advances to third on a flyout, then scores on Earl Williams’ single to center. An error on Reds’ center fielder Bobby Tolan allows Williams to get to second base. Brooks Robinson then strokes a base hit into left field, scoring Williams and giving Baltimore the early 2-0 lead. Cincinnati gets a run in the top of the 4th to make it 2-1, but Baltimore plates two more in the bottom of the 6th behind Bobby Grinch’s two run homer to left. Orioles lead 4-1.

The Reds score a run in the top of the 7th to cut the lead to 4-2. The score remains the same as we enter the 9th inning. Palmer is still on the mound for the O’s, but after walking lead off hitter, Pete Rose, he’s pulled for reliever Bob Reynolds (7-5, 1.95, 9 Saves). Reynolds gets Johnny Bench to fly out, but issues another walk, bringing up Reds’ third baseman, Denis Menke (.191, 3 HR, 26 RBI). Menke connects, hitting a line drive down the line in left which just clears the wall for a three run homer!! Cincinnati takes the lead, 5-4!! Billingham is still pitching in the bottom of the 9th inning, getting an out before allowing Merv Rettenmund to double. Pedro Borbon (11-4, 2.16, 14 Saves) comes in to pitch. Mark Belanger manages an infield hit to put runners on the corners. Paul Blair stands in and hits a ground ball to short. But the Reds can’t turn the double play and Rettenmund scores to tie the game 5-5!!! The game goes into extra innings, but Cincinnati’s bats are still hot. In the top of the 10th inning, they load the bases and Johnny Bench delivers a two run single to left field that leads to the victory in Game 1.


Game 2 features Don Gullet (18-8, 3.51) of the Reds against Dave McNally (17-17, 3.21) of the Orioles. Cincinnati would start the scoring in this one, with Tony Perez and Johnny Bench hitting solo shots over the wall in the top of the 2nd to give their club an early 2-0 lead. Baltimore would get on the board in the bottom of the 4th, courtesy of Tommy Davis’ home run to left center. Reds still lead, 2-1. Cincinnati would extend their lead in the top of the 5th, as Perez hits his second home run of the game. This one is a two run shot and the Reds now lead 4-1. The lead doesn’t last long, though, as we go to the bottom of the 5th. A walk, a single and a Paul Blair home run scores three and the game is tied 4-4 after five innings.

The Reds respond in the top of the 6th, however. Bobby Tolan delivers an RBI single to score Dan Driessen, giving Cincinnati the lead once more, 5-4. But in the bottom half of the inning, Boog Powell doubles and then scores on Bobby Grinch’s double to tie the game once again, 5-5. The scoring stops, as the pitchers and defense take over. Still tied in the bottom of the 9th inning, Pedro Borbon comes in to pitch for the Reds. He gets two quick outs, but delivers up a first pitch home run to Rich Coggins, who drives the ball down the right field line and over the wall. Baltimore wins Game 2 by a score of 6-5 and evens the series at a game a piece!!


Game 3 takes us to Cincinnati. The Orioles start Mike Cuellar (18-13, 3.27), while the Reds send 23-year-old Ross Grimsley (13-10, 3.23) to the hill. The game is scoreless until the top of the 3rd inning. Cuellar leads the inning off with a single and would later score on a throwing error by Reds’ second baseman, Joe Morgan. Orioles lead 1-0. The Reds would answer, though, in the bottom of the 4th. Morgan doubles with two outs and Tony Perez hits a home run to left center field to score them both. Cincinnati leads 2-1. Baltimore would tie the game, however, in the top of the 5th, as Rich Coggins beats the throw to the plate, coming home from third on Don Baylor’s fly out to center. Game tied 2-2. Cincinnati’s bats would come alive again in the bottom of the 6th, as they score two runs on four singles and a walk. Reds lead 4-2. In the top of the 8th, Pedro Borbon comes in (again) to relieve the starter and the Reds fans get nervous. And rightfully so!! Borbon gives up back-to-back singles, then allows pinch hitter Al Bumbry to hit a three run homer down the right field line. Baltimore takes the lead, 5-4!!! The O’s bring in Bob Reynolds to pitch and they immediately regret it. Reynolds issues a walk, allows three base hits, then gives up a GRAND SLAM to Dan Driessen. Reynolds fails to record an out and is pulled. The Reds’ bats are still hot, so Ken Griffey, Sr. adds a solo shot for good measure. Cincinnati scores six runs, breaking Baltimore’s spirit. The Reds win Game 3, 10-5, and take a two game to one lead in the series.


For Game 4, Baltimore sends Jim Palmer back to the mound for the start. Cincinnati decides to go with Fred Norman (13-13, 3.60). But since being acquired by the Reds on June 12th from the Padres, Norman’s record is 12-6, with a 3.30 ERA. The game is scoreless through 3 1/2 innings, as Norman has no hit the Orioles. The Reds would give Norman run support in the bottom of the 4th inning, scoring two runs to give Cincinnati the 2-0 lead. The score is the same as we enter the 6th. Norman has only given up a double in the 5th, but Don Baylor changes that with a two run shot to left field to tie the game 2-2. Neither team can put anything together and we head to the 9th inning with the score still tied. Baltimore fails to score in the 9th and they bring in Grant Jackson (8-0, 1.90, 9 Saves) to relieve Palmer. Pete Rose leads the inning off with a triple. Jackson manages an out, but pinch hitter Denis Menke delivers a base hit to left to score Rose and give the Reds a 3-2 victory!!! Cincinnati now leads the series, three games to one!


Game 5. Baltimore is on the brink of elimination and sends Dave McNally to the mound. Cincinnati, looking to close out the series at home, starts Jack Billingham. Paul Blair looks to make a statement, leading off the game for the Orioles by hitting a home run down the left field line. But it was Cincinnati, down 1-0 in the bottom of the 1st inning, who made the statement. With two on and one out, Tony Perez launches his fourth homer of the series, a three run, 420 foot shot over the wall in left center field. The Reds score two more runs and at the end of one, Cincinnati leads 5-1. Baltimore would answer, though, in the top of the 2nd when Brooks Robinson delivers a two run homer to left. The Reds still lead, however, by a score of 5-3. Pitching takes over for the rest of the game and hits are scarce. Dan Driessen hits a solo home run in the bottom of the 6th to make it 6-3, Reds. The Orioles manage a few more hits, but can’t score. The game ends on Brook Robinson’s 6-4-3 double play and the Cincinnati Reds have won the 1973 World Series, four games to one!!!


So there you have it. The Cincinnati Reds are the 1973 World Champions!!! Or at least, they should have been.

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