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On This Date in Sports August 16, 1973

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Struggling in last place at 53-65, the New York Mets hold a team meeting led by Chairman M. Donald Grant. Addressing rumors of firings and trades, Grant tells the team he still believes they can win the East. At which point Reliever Tug McGraw stood up and screamed: “You Gotta Believe”. The words would become the Mets rallying cry the rest of the way as they went 29-13 to win the Division.

Four years after the Miracle World Series run in 1969, the New York Mets were a team at a crossroad. They had finished in third place three straight seasons as seemed to be going nowhere despite having one of the best pitching staffs in the National League. The Mets lost their leader in 1972 when Gil Hodges suffered a fatal heart attack while the players were on strike at the start of the season. Under new manager Yogi Berra, fans began to get impatient as a strong start in 1973 had turned into disappointment as the Mets were banged up and back in last place.

Coming off a terrible West Coast road trip, the Mets appeared to be heading for a lost season as they sat at the bottom of the National League Eastern Division with a record of 53-65. Despite their struggles, the Mets were still in the race, as the entire division was struggling, with the three-time reigning champion Pittsburgh Pirates having trouble overcoming the loss of Roberto Clemente. The rest of the division was mediocre at best keeping the door open for the Mets, who despite being in last place were only seven and a half games out of first place.

With rumors circling around Yogi Berra, Mets management wanted to address the team, and did so on an off day, with M. Donald Grant wanting to relay how he believed in the players and the team. Grant’s meeting, however, was taken over by the Mets bombastic Reliever Tug McGraw, who shouted like he was at a sermon, “You Gotta Believe”.

The Mets would lose the following night in ten innings to the Cincinnati Reds 2-1, but had a successful homestand, recording a 9-3 record in 12 games. As August turned into September the Mets got red hot, with “You Gotta Believe” becoming the team’s rallying cry as word of Tug McGraw’s outburst reached the press. Over the next 35 games after the team meeting, the Mets posted a record of 24-11 and found themselves in first place on September 21st at 77-77. The Mets would lead the division the rest of the season, clinching on the final day of the season with a record of 82-79.

The Mets would go on to stun the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS and faced the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. However, their dreams of a second title fell just short as they lost the World Series in seven games, with the A’s winning the second of three straight World Championships.