The Mets beat the Cubs decisively in the NLCS earlier this week. Not only did they win every game, they never so much as trailed. And so what promised to be an exciting series was a dud—unless you root for the Mets, of course, then it was heavenly. But the match-up reminded us that these two teams have a history—when the Mets won their first championship in 1969 it was in part because the Cubs gagged away the division. Then, in 1973, the Cubs were there again, fighting with the Mets—not to mention the Pirates and Cardinals—until the last weekend of the season. If ’73 isn’t as memorable as ’69 in New York, it’s because the Mets lost in the World Series. But the drama of the regular season—which included plenty of sloppy, mediocre ball, labor unrest, and personal tragedy—was irresistible.
Adapted from a chapter I wrote for the fine Baseball Prospectus anthology, It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over—edited by the talented Steven Goldman and featuring essays from Kevin Baker, Allen Barra, and Nate Silver—dig into the strange, compelling 1973 National League East pennant race.