In 1972, the Mets had a sudden change in their field staff. During a major league players strike in spring training, manager Gil Hodges passed away from a heart attack and Yogi Berra took over as team skipper. The team acquired Rusty Staub in a trade with the Expos four days after Hodges’ death. The Mets won 83 of 156 games on the season and finished in third place in the National League East Division.
After a week of cancelled games due to the strike, the Mets finally opened their season on April 15. They started off with a 4-0 win over the Pirates at Shea Stadium. The team lost its next two games before going on a seven-game winning streak. The Mets closed out the month with an 8-4 won-lost record.
The Mets had month to remember in May. The team won 21 games and zoomed to the top of the Eastern Division. They also made a trade that brought Willie Mays to New York. The Mets started May with a three-game sweep at San Francisco. On May 11 (the day Mays was acquired), the team split a day-night doubleheader with the Dodgers at Shea with Tom Seaver getting his 100th career win in a 2-1 Mets victory the opener. Mays hit a game-winning home run in his Mets debut for a 5-4 win over his former Giants team on May 14 at Shea. At Philadelphia on May 21, the Mets won their 11th game in a row with a 4-3 triumph over the Phillies. Rookie Jon Matlack won his sixth straight decision with his first shutout for a 7-0 Mets victory over the Phils at Shea on May 30. The Mets ended the month with a four and one-half game lead in the division over the second-place Pirates.
In June, the Mets fell back. They had injuries to key players and a .444 winning percentage (12-15) during the month. After defeating the Phillies, 6-1, at Shea on June 1, the team lost two of three games in each of its next four series. They won their second game of three at Cincinnati with a 2-1 win over the Reds on June 18. The Mets dropped five of their next six games before winning four of five to close out the month. At the end of June, the Mets stood at 41-26 and in a tie for first place with the Pirates.
The Mets’ struggles continued in July. The team lost more players to injury and won only 11 games for the month. In the opener of a doubleheader at Shea on July 4, the Mets defeated the Padres, 2-0, on a one-hitter by Seaver. They lost six of their next seven games before Matlack pitched a four-hit shutout for a 4-0 win over the Giants on July 12 at Shea. In a 3-2 Mets triumph at San Diego on July 14, Dave Schneck hit a game-winning homer in his major league debut. Matlack pitched a 10-inning shutout for a 1-0 Mets win over the Pirates in a doubleheader opener at Pittsburgh on July 27. The Mets ended July with a 4-2 win over the Expos on July 31 at Shea. The team closed the month in second place, seven games behind the Pirates.
The Mets had their third consecutive losing month in August. They went 11-17 (.393) and fell back further in the division race. The team started the month with three losses in four games to the Phillies at Shea. After closing the home stand by winning two of three against the Cubs, the Mets lost four of six on an ensuing road trip. At Shea on August 15, the Mets came out with a 5-0 win over the Braves on a combined shutout by Jim McAndrew and Tug McGraw. They defeated the Astros, 4-2, on August 21 as Jim Beauchamp hit his first two homers of the season on his birthday. The Mets pounded out four doubles and four homers in a 13-6 win at Atlanta on August 27. At month’s end, the team trailed both the Pirates and Cubs in the N. L. East.
The Mets finally had a winning month in September. The team won 15 of 29 games for a .517 percentage. After trailing by eight runs, the Mets emerged with an 11-8 comeback victory at Houston on September 2. They went 4-5 on a home stand between September 4 and September 10. The team followed up by sweeping a three-game series at Philadelphia and losing all three games of a weekend series at Chicago. At Shea on September 24, the Mets defeated the Phillies, 2-1, in their last home game of the year. Seaver recorded his 20th win of the season with a two-hit shutout for a 1-0 Mets triumph at Pittsburgh on September 29.
The Mets won five of six games in October to close out the season. They started the month with a 7-3 victory over the Pirates at Pittsburgh on October 1. The team then won four of five games against the Expos at Montreal to end the year.
- Matlack was named Rookie of the Year in the National League