Montreal may have failed in the pennant race (page 30), but just by coming close the Expos had exhilarated a country. A Calgary sports editor wrote, "The Expos are doing more for the nation's harmony than bilingualism could accomplish in years of trying."
"But you have to be able to win the big ones, the ones that count, at the right time," said Manager Gene Mauch. The right time eluded the '73 Expos.
Willie Stargell was the Pirate paragon of '73, leading the majors with 44 home runs, rapping out 156 hits and driving in 119 runs, best in the major leagues. Pitcher Steve Blass, with his 9.81 ERA, was the biggest disappointment.
It was not surprising when Philadelphia Outfielder Cesar Tovar and Shortstop Larry Bowa asked to be traded. What was surprising was that a Phil volunteered to remain. But one did. "I want to stay, I like it here," said Infielder Willie Montanez. Pitcher Ken Brett ended with a 13-9 record, an agreeable surprise, but once-mighty Steve Carlton suffered his 20th loss. He won only 13. The Cards rehired Red Schoendienst for his 10th season, Lou Brock stole his 70th base, tops in the majors, and Catcher Ted Simmons finished over .300 for the third straight year. The Cubs, who were in the race until the last weekend for the first time in a generation, might have stayed aloft longer if Ferguson Jenkins had accomplished his seventh straight 20-win season. He finished 14-16.
And say this for the Mets: they did what they did with but a single hitter in the league's top 25.
NY 82-79 ST. L 81-81 PITT 80-82 MONT 79-83 CHI 77-84 PHIL 71-91
Atlanta's Henry Aaron had four at-bats against Houston Sunday in which to equal or surpass Babe Ruth's career home-run record of 714, and the result was three base hits, but not a homer. He went into the last game of the season with 713, the 713th being a slow curve he hit out of the park Saturday night. Poor pitching was what doomed the power-hitting Braves to fifth place. The club finished last in the National League in ERA (4.25), hits given up (1,467), runs (774) and earned runs (690). But, oh, what slugging! Davey Johnson led the club with 43 homers, the most ever for a second baseman; Darrell Evans had 41 and Aaron 40. It was the first time that a team ever had three men with 40 or more home runs.
The Astros finished fourth despite having a good infield defense and two of the league's top five hitters in Cesar Cedeno (.320) and Bob Watson (.313). On Monday Manager Leo Durocher resigned. He was replaced by his top assistant, Preston Gomez, who previously had been manager of San Diego.
Walter Alston was rehired to manage L. A. for the 21st year. Ten more after that and he'll tie John McGraw. The Giants sat rookie Gary Matthews down on the last day to ensure that he would have a .300 season. Garry Maddox finished at .319, Bobby Bonds hit 39 home runs and stole 43 bases—missing an unprecedented 40-40 double by a tick.
Dave Roberts hit his 21st homer of the year for San Diego, an inside-the-park job, but as usual most of the Padres' news was bad. Cincinnati won the division despite injuries to Pitchers Gary Nolan and Roger Nelson that kept them out most of the season and Bobby Tolan's recalcitrance and suspension. But Pete Rose (.338) and Joe Morgan (.290) can make up for a lot. In addition, Third Baseman Dan Driessen finished at .301 in his first full season.
CIN 99-63 LA 95-66 SF 88-74 HOUS 82-80 ATL 76-85 SD 60-102
Last-place Cleveland had a winning record the second half of the season, leading Manager Ken Aspromonte to say he was "optimistic" about 1974. "This is a team that could have quit after things went so badly the first half," he said. "It didn't."
Cleveland should not be so optimistic that it envisions supplanting Baltimore, however. The Orioles coasted through a 5-2 week, with team MVP Jim Palmer failing to get his 23rd win and Manager Earl Weaver being thrown out of his eighth game, but the Birds are going to be solid for years to come, it appears. The big disappointment of '73 was sore-shouldered Boog Powell, with only 11 homers and 54 RBIs in 114 games. Finishing first cased the pain.
Red Sox Manager Eddie Kasko was fired just before the start of the team's last game and replaced by Pawtucket Manager Darrell Johnson. On the field Luis Tiant became a 20-game winner for the second time in his career and Tommy Harper upped his stolen-base total to 53, a club record.
The Brewers may have been the first fifth-place team in history to pop champagne corks at season's end. The celebrating was over Jim Colborn's becoming the only 20-game winner in the team's stumbling five-year history. "It's a sign of how much we've developed," said Manager Del Crandall. "A 20-game winner, a guy with 107 RBIs, two .300 hitters." The RBI guy was George Scott, and he and Dave May hit .305 and .303.
The Tigers ended their season with a 3-4 week, blowing any chance of finishing second, but Joe Coleman won his 23rd game, the best mark of his career, and Willie Horton and Jim Northrup finished with unusually fat averages, .316 and .307.
The Bronx Bombers said farewell to Yankee Stadium; they will move to the Mets' Shea Stadium while The House That Ruth Built is rebuilt. Then Ralph Houk said a different kind of farewell, retiring as manager.
BALT 97-65 BOST 89-73 DET 85-77 NY 80-82 MIL 74-88 CLEV 71-91
California's Nolan Ryan went into his last game needing 16 strikeouts against the Twins to top Sandy Koufax' single-season big-league record. The game went into the 11th inning and Ryan, whose cramped right leg had to be massaged by a doctor and a trainer between innings, struck out Rich Reese and got No. 16. With the record 383 strikeouts, 21 wins and two no-hitters, Ryan seems a good bet for the Cy Young Award. On Saturday night his teammate and fellow righthander Bill Singer joined him in the 20-win class.
The Rangers' Jim Bibby went the distance in a 5-4 win over Kansas City, giving him 11 complete games, matching last year's team output. Jeff Burroughs finished his first full major league season with 30 home runs. "Burroughs is a meal ticket," said Manager Billy Martin. "You're looking at a potential of 50 home runs a season. Not in the future either. Next year." One of the main reasons for Texas finishing with the worst record in either division was Rico Carty's failure to hit—he was batting .231 when the club shipped him to the Cubs.
Paul Splittorff won his 20th game, beating Chicago, becoming the first pitcher in Kansas City's 18-year major league history to reach that level. John Mayberry reached 100 RBIs for the second straight year.
Third-place Minnesota finished with a 14-4 record against Oakland and might have had a healthy edge on more clubs if slugger Harmon Killebrew had not been hurt, missing almost 90 games. There were a few other ifs, but not at second base. Rod Carew won the AL batting championship with .350 and also led in triples with 11 and total hits, 203.
One pleasant note for Chicago rooters: Carlos May hit .359 for the month of September and finished at .268. Champion Oakland's pluses included a healthier than usual gate. The A's drew 7,422 fans Sunday to go over a million in attendance—barely.
OAK 94-68 KC 88-74 MINN 81-81 CAL 79-83 CHI 77-85 TEX 57-105