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EXCERPT | Oct. 22, 1973

Role Players

Neither team wanted to be the favorite in this Series

After upsetting Cincinnati's Big Red Machine in the NLCS, the Mets met the defending champion A's in the World Series. Ron Fimrite filed this story after the teams had split the first two games in Oakland.

The A's were not entirely comfortable in the role of favorites against the Mets, who entered the Series for the second time in five years as Cinderellas. They are happier as underdogs, and the puff pieces about the "poor little Mets" rankled them. The image the visitors brought to Oakland was the one the A's themselves had worn proudly a year ago in Cincinnati. The japes directed at them then for their popinjay uniforms, their coiffures, their intramural squabbles, their mulish owner and their strategy-obsessed manager merely perpetuated a well-cultivated, if accidentally conceived, reputation. The A's are climbers, not establishmentarians.

"Last year it was kind of a bonus just being in the Series," said Reggie Jackson, the team's star slugger. "It was easier for us to win because nobody expected us to. This year we're the world champions. The pressure is on us. Now we're playing against the giant-killer."

In the A's 2--1 opening-game win, Oakland pitcher Ken Holtzman, who appeared at the plate exactly once during the regular season (he walked), doubled smartly to leftfield off Mets starter Jon Matlack, striking a blow, as it were, for the liberation of hitting pitchers. The monstrous second game, won by the Mets 10--7 after four hours and 13 minutes, was the longest and quite likely sloppiest game in World Series history. The A's made five errors, two by second baseman Mike Andrews in what proved to be a fatal 12th inning.

The A's won in seven games, their second of three straight Series titles.

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PHOTOPhotograph by JERRY COOKESAY NAY After Bud Harrelson was tagged out by A's catcher Ray Fosse in Game 2, on-deck batter Willie Mays pleaded in vain with ump Augie Donatelli. Mays, then 42, went 2 for 7 in this World Series, the final games of his career. PHOTODAVID GOODNOW (MALLARDS) PHOTOTONY TRIOLO (HAGLER) PHOTODAVID WALBERG (PUCKETT) PHOTOBILL FRAKES (INGRAM) PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (LEE) PHOTONITIN VADUKUL (JETER) PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (BARKLEY) PHOTOPORTER BINKS (PUJOLS) PHOTOTED S. WARREN/AP (DAVIES) PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (ORTON) PHOTO