Jan 20, 2020

Remembering Mets History: (1966) Hawk Taylor Hits Mets First Pinch Hit Grand Slam

Wednesday August 17th 1966: Just one week before the Beatles were to play Shea Stadium for the second time, Wes Westrum's 8th place Mets (52-67) hosted Harry Walker's first place Pittsburgh Pirates (70-48).

Although the Mets were not a good team yet, they had a solid fan base, many National League fans had latched on to the Mets after the Giants & Dodgers left New York to head out West. The team had various highlights in these early years, many that may have been forgotten.

On this warm summer evening, 32,461 fans came to Shea & witnessed the first Mets pinch hit grand slam HR in team history.

Starting Lineups

The Pirates started out in the 1st inning, as future Hall of Famer, Willie Stargell , the man who is one of the players who has hit the most HRs off the Mets, started out with a two run HR making it a quick 2-0. It was Stargell's 28th of the year. But in the bottom of the 1st, exciting young Mets hitter Cleon Jones hit a solo HR of his own, his 6th HR on the season.

The Pirates added HRs by Bill Mazeroski & future 1969 Mets World Series MVP; Donn Clendenon.

In the bottom of the 4th the Mets were down 7-1, Cleon Jones & Ken Boyer singled to start out the inning. Jim Hickman followed with a base hit scoring Jones. Ron Swoboda then walked to load the bases. As Ed Kranepool was scheduled to bat, Met manager sent in Hawk Taylor to pinch hit.

Pirate pitcher Bob Veale delivered the pitch to Taylor who connected for the grand slam HR, the very first Mets pinch hit grand slam in teams history. It was now a one run ball game for an excited Mets team. Taylor hit just 16 career HRs & 11 as a New York Met.

In the bottom of the 6th Jim Hickman singled & was forced on Ron Swoboda's ground out. Swoboda then stole second. Hawk Taylor came up & was hit by a pitch. Chuck Hiller was sent in to pinch hit & delivered a single. The bases were now loaded & Mets All Star second baseman punched a single to center field bringing in the tying & winning runs, making it 8-7.

The Mets held on to the lead as Bill Helper who came on relief of Jack Fisher in the 3rd inning got the win. Fifteen year Pirate veteran; Bob Friend, now winding down his career with Mets  earned the save, his first  & only one of the year.

Remembering Mets History (1976) Mets Have Three Walk Off Wins In A Week

The 1976 Mets had a pretty good team, going 86-76 but finishing in third place.  By todays standards they would have earned a wild card spot, but that position did not exist back then.

The '76 Mets had two solid months early on but then fell ten games back in the standings by early June. They were as far back as 19 1/2 games in early August. They played well enough to actually gain ten games in the standings, from late August going into late September, winning 16 of 23 games.

From September 18th to September 28th, they would win nine of ten games with a six game win streak. In an eight day period they would also have three walk off wins.

Joe Torre & Mickey Lolich
Unfortunately they finished 15 games back of the Philadelphia Phillies & it was the last season the Mets would have a winning record for eight long seasons.

Monday September 20th 1976: A small crowd of 5,922 came out to this Monday afternoon matinee at Shea as Joe Fraziers Mets (80-70) hosted Danny Murtaugh's Pittsburgh Pirates (85-64). Veteran Mets pitcher Mickey Lolich took the mound, going up against Brooklyn born John Candaleria for the Bucs.

Starting Lineups

In the home 3rd, Bud Harrelson & Lee Mazzilli got on base with base hits, next three more Mets singles from Felix Millan, Joe Torre & Dave Kingman all brought in runs.

The Pirates tied it on RBI doubles from Rennie Stennett, Bob Robertson & Frank Taveras.

In the top of the 8th, Willie Stargell hit a long HR off Lolich to put Pittsburgh ahead 4-3.

In the bottom of the 9th, Kent Tekulve, who was emerging as one of the games better relievers, came on to close it out for Pittsburgh. He got the first two outs, then John Milner came in to pinch hit & singled.

Next up, the young Lee Mazzilli, only in his 13th career game, blasted a shot over the green Shea wall, hitting his first career walk off HR to end the game. Mazzilli was highly touted & this added to the start of his popularity. Mazzilli went 2-4 with a HR, two RBIs & two runs scored on this day.

Friday September 24th 1976: Four nights later The Mets (82-71) hosted Jim Marshall's Chicago Cubs (71-84). For the Mets it was Tom Seaver, who would only win 14 games this season, second lowest win total in his career up to that point. 

Seaver did lead the league in strike outs (235) for the fifth & last time of his career. His opponent that day, future Met, Ray Burris.

Starting Lineups

Seaver & Burris would both pitch seven innings & allow three runs each. In the 2nd inning Ray Burris threw a wild pitch allowing rookie Bruce Boisclair to score.

The next inning, the Cubs Jerry Morales drove in two runs with a base hit. In the home 3rd, Mets veteran Ed Kranepool hit his 9th HR of the year. Kranepool was batting at .292 on the year.

In the 5th, the Cubs went ahead again, Pete LaCock tripled & scored as Larry Bitner drove him in.

Trivia: Pete LaCock was son of the Hollywood Squares game show host Peter Marshall.

From the bullpen, Bob Apodaca came on for the Mets & held down the Cubs the rest of the way.

In the 8th, Burris allowed hits to Felix Millan & Eddie Kranepool. Cubs Reliever Joe Coleman came on & surrendered a game tying single to Dave Kingman.

Trivia: Coleman's father; Joe Coleman & his son Casey Coleman would both play in the major leagues.

In the bottom of the 9th, another Mets September call up; Billy Baldwin (the player GM Joe McDonald insisted come over from Detroit in the Rusty Staub trade) hit an exciting walk off HR. It was Baldwins only HR as a Met, as he only play nine games for New York in his career.

Meanwhile Rusty Staub would drive in 96 runs or more in his three full seasons with the Tigers.

Tuesday September 28th: In this first game of a twi night double header, the Mets (76-71) would host Charlie Fox's Montreal Expos (53-104).  The young Dominican, Nino Espinosa would go for New York against Joe Keener.

Starting Lineups

In the 3rd, Pepe Frias singled & was sacrificed over to second. Former Met Del Unser then drew a walk, another former Met, Tim Foli would hit a sac fly scoring Frias & future Met, Ellis Valentine would bring in Unser with a base hit making it 2-0.

In the 4th, Keener walked the Mets pitcher, Nino Espinosa & then Bruce Boisclair. Felix Millan then singled & an Expos error led to both runs scoring, to tie the game.

Mets Reliever Skip Lockwood
In the 8th, Tim Foli singled & Andre Dawson doubled knocking Espinosa out of the game. The new Mets reliever Skip Lockwood, who went on to have a few fine years as a Mets closer, gave up an RBI hit to Ellis Valentine.

In the bottom of the 8th, Eddie Kranepool hit his 10th HR of the year, as he connected off Steve Dunning tying the game up at four apiece. Eddie was not done with his heroics for this night.

In the 9th, Joe Kerrigan came on to pitch for Montreal. With two outs Bruce Boisclair & newly acquired Jim Dwyer (who came from the Expos) also singled. John Milner walked to load the bases for Eddie Kranepool.

 Steady Eddie came through once again, lining the game winning single to right field scoring the rookie Boisclair. Kranepool had three hits & two RBIs on the night, he would bat .292 coming off two .300 plus seasons.

Unfortunately the Mets would lose their last five games of the seasons.

Jan 19, 2020

Remembering Mets History: (2005) David Wright's Six RBI Night In San Diego

Wednesday August 10th 2005: Although the Mets were in fifth place, Willie Randolph's team was playing its best since the pennant season of 2000. They were 58-55 just seven and one half games out of first place. Tonight they were out west in San Diego, taking on Bruce Bochy's first place Padres (57-56).

The Mets Kris Benson went out having one of his best nights in a Mets uniform. Benson would pitch into the 9th inning, giving up just one run on three hits while striking out six batters, earning his eighth win of the year (8-4). Danny Graves would come on to finish the game out.

The Mets bats would score eight runs off Padre pitcher (future Met) Brian Lawrence, collecting eight hits in just 3.2 innings.

Starting Lineups

The most production came from second year Mets third baseman; David Wright, he collected four hits, a HR, three runs scored & six RBIs.

In the 1st inning, a David Wright single brought in Miquel Cairo with the games first run. With Mike Piazza up next, Carlos Beltran stole home making it 2-0.

In the 3rd Cairo & Beltran were both aboard as Wright doubled down the left field line bringing in both runs.

In the 4th, Beltran doubled down the left field line, & Cliff Floyd was intentionally walked. Wright came up with two on & hit his 17th HR of the year, a three run shot putting the Mets up 8-0.

The six RBIs was Wright's biggest run production night of the season, as he went putting him over the .300 mark.

He would finish the year batting .306 the first of five straight .300 plus seasons for Wright. He would drive in 102 runs the first of four straight 100 plus RBI seasons.

Remebering Mets History (1972): Rusty Staub Misses 96 Games With Misdiagnosed Fractured Wrist

Saturday June 3rd, 1972: Prior to the 1972 season Rusty Staub had come over from the Montreal Expos in a deal that sent youngsters Ken Singleton, Tim Foli & Mike Jorgenson to the Expos.

It was a lot to give up but Staub was on of leagues better, proven hitters. Gil Hodges had all but signed the deal. But when Staub arrived Hodges had passed away suddenly to a heart attack. The Players were also on strike to begin the season. Yogi Berra was named manager & everything eventually got underway. The Mets had the pitching but needed to score runs.

By June 3rd, 1972 the Mets were in first place, with the best record in baseball (31-12  with a .721 winning %) & a five game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.

On this Saturday afternoon over 41,947 showed up at Shea Stadium to watch future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver at 7-2 go up against Atlanta's Tom Kelley. Eddie Mathews Braves (19-23) would finish fourth in the NL West in 1972.
In the 2nd inning, Cleon Jones singled 7 Wayne Garrett walked. Mets catcher Duffy Dyer then hit a three run HR. In the 7th, In the 4th Seaver doubled, Bud Harrelson singled & when Teddy Martinez grounded out, Seaver scored. Cleon Jones doubled in a run to cap off the 5-2 win.  
Dusty Baker drove in both Braves runs.Seaver got his 8th win, pitching into the 8th inning striking out nine Braves, allowing two runs, two walks & seven hits. Tug McGraw closed it out with his 8th save of the year.
But the Mets suffered a huge loss that day, that would play a big part in the rest of their season. In the bottom of the 7th inning, the Braves brought in George Stone to pitch, as Rusty Staub led off the inning. Stone struck Staub on the wrist with a pitch, that would later prove to be very damaging.

Staub attempted to play through the pain, he would play through June 18th when he was removed from a game against the Cincinnati Reds. In that time he went from batting .313 to .298. In those 15 games he hit two HR & drove in eight runs, but was not at full strength. The Mets were still in first on June 18th, but only by  a half game over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Staub had no grip & would miss a month of action. He attempted a return on July 18th, he went 1-4 with a double but the pain was too much.

When he was hit by George Stone's pitch, it caused a fracture. The Mets diagnosed him with tendonitis listing him as day to day all along. Not until he got to Los Angeles did hand specialist Dr. Herbert Stark see the fracture & it was agreed upon by Mets physician Dr. Peter LaMotte. Staub agreed to surgery & entered the Roosevelt hospital  in New York on July 20th. He would miss two months of action,  not returning until September 18th. By then the Mets were 73-67 in third place 15 games out.

 Staub had only missed seven games in the past four seasons while playing in Houston & Montreal. It was a big blow to the Met offense, since he was hit by the pitch, the Mets would go 52-61 the rest of the way, finishing in third place, fourteen & a half games behind Pittsburgh Pirates & two games behind the second place Chicago Cubs.

Quotes: Mets Pitcher Gary Gentry- “Rusty was supposed to be the answer to a lot of our problems when we got him and we counted on him."
The Mets would aquire pitcher George Stone (along with second baseman Felix Millan) from Atlanta for the 1973 season, Stone would go 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA helping lead the '73 Mets to the NL Pennant.

Jan 18, 2020

Jon Matlack: One of the Best Mets Left Handers of All Time (Part Two - 1974-1977)

In 1974 Jon Matlack began the year with a 9-2 win in Philadelphia, as he allowed just one run, pitching into the 8th inning with seven strike outs. In his next start he struck out ten Phillies at Shea Stadium, but earned no decision.

He was soon 1-1 then won four straight games, which included pitching three complete games, & two shut outs. Both shut outs were four hitters, the first in San Francisco on April 28th beating Tom Bradley. 

The next was on May 18th at Shea Stadium, against Steve Rogers & the Montreal Expos where he struck out nine. Back on May 4th he set a season high, with 12 strike outs in a home game against the Giants.

He lost his next four decisions due to lack of run support, as he only gave up more than three runs one of those times. On June 29th he pitched a one hitter at Shea Stadium, against the St. Louis Cardinals striking out seven walking just three. The only hit was a single in the third inning coming from the opposing pitcher John Curtis. He then won four of his next five games, which were all complete games victories.

1974 All Star: At the All Star break, Matlack was 9-6 with a 2.55 ERA, and his manager; Yogi Berra (who was also the NL All Star Manager), brought him to Pittsburgh for the first of his three straight All Star appearances. 

With the game being held in Pittsburgh, the hometown fans were upset at Berra naming his own player; Matlack n the team over their new hometown hero- a young Dave Parker. Matlack would pitch a scoreless sixth inning in the game, allowing a hit & a walk in the 7-2 Mid Summer Classic, NL victory.

After the All Star break he threw three more complete game shutouts, the first came on August 3rd in Montreal, a seven hit performance. On August 13th at Shea Stadium he tossed a four hitter against Al Downing & the Dodgers. 

To start out September he then tossed another four hitter at Wrigley Field, reaching the ten strike out mark for the fifth time on the season.

On September 22nd he threw a 4-0 three hit shutout at Three Rivers Stadium, in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Although he pitched brilliant at times he lost seven decisions from August to the end of the season. He had only allowed more than three earned runs in one of those games, and more than two earned three times.

Matlack finished the disappointing Mets 1974 season with one of his best years, leading the league in shutouts (7) & leading the Mets staff with a 2.41 ERA (3rd best in the league). He had 14 complete games (5th in the NL) and 265 innings pitched (7th in the NL). 

He also struck out 195 batters (4th best in the league) & had five different games where he struck out ten or more batters. His record certainly didn’t reflect how good he was that season. He went 13-15 suffering a lot of hard luck losses, on a team that didn’t score many runs & followed up a pennant year in fifth place.

In 1975 he allowed two runs over seven innings in the second game of the season, but earned no decision as the Mets fell to the Phillies 3-2. After going 2-3 he had a five game win streak from May 12th into the start of June. In that time he only allowed six earned runs over 38 innings. The streak was topped off with a June 2nd, 2-0 our hit shutout victory, over the Houston Astros.

1975 All Star MVP: He went to his second All Star Game that year, with the 1975 Mid Summer Classic being held in Milwaukee's County Stadium. He followed Tom Seaver in the 7th inning, after Seaver served up a three run game tying HR to Carl Yastremski. Matlack held his own, pitching two scoreless innings while striking out four American leaguers (Rod Carew, Bucky Dent, Gene Tenace & Fred Lynn) in the 6-3 National League win.

He ended up sharing the All-Star MVP Award honors with the Chicago Cubs Bill Madlock, who drove in the game winning runs off Rich Gossage in the top of the 9th inning.

At the end of July he went on to a six game win streak, which took him right into September. By that time the Mets were just four games in back of Pittsburgh, involved in a four team race. 

It seemed he was on his way to his first twenty win season, joining Tom Seaver on the staff, who would win his third Cy Young Award that year. But September would be Matlack's worst month as he went 0-4 with two no decisions as the Mets faded from the race.

That season he finished up 16-12 (7th most wins in the league) with 154 strikeouts (10th in the league), He posted a 3.38 ERA with eight complete games & three shutouts (tenth in the NL) in 33 games.

The bicentennial year began to bring changes to the Mets family, but it still was the last year before the bottom fell out. Matlack probably had his best Mets start to a season. 

In the second game of the season, he beat Woody Fryman & the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium pitching a four hit shutout. Two starts later he shutout the Cardinals in St. Louis on a six hitter striking out seven. A modest May had him win two games against one loss, as he improved to 5-1.

In June he threw three straight complete game victories, beating the Dodgers & Giants on the West Coast. He then beat the Dpdgers & Burt Hooton in a 2-1 pitchers classic at Shea Stadium. 

On June 20th he had a terrible seven run, three inning outing against the Giants at home taking a 9-2 loss. On July 1st he threw a five hit shutout, in a 13-0 Mets blowout against the Cardinals. That brought his record to 10-2 with a 2.65 ERA leading all NL pitchers.

On July 6th at Shea Stadium, he pitched shutout ball for 10 innings but lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to J.R. Richard & the Houston Astros. He went to another All Star game in 1976, along with Mets teammates Tom Seaver & Dave Kingman, in the bicentennial year game held in Philadelphia. 

He had a rough start to the second half, losing four straight games, although he allowed three earned runs or less in all of the games. He rebounded to finish up 7-7 from there through the end of the season.

This year Matlack was overshadowed once again on his own staff, this time by Jerry Koosman who won twenty games for the first time in his fabulous career. Matlack won a career high 17 games (17-10) seventh most wins in the league.

 He led the league in shutouts for a second time in his career with six. He pitched 16 complete games (Third most in the NL) with 262innings pitched (6th in the NL). Matlack posted a 2.95 ERA (tenth in the NL) with 153 strikeouts (8th in the NL) walking 57 batters.

It all went downhill for the Mets as well as Matlack in 1977, as the team sunk to last place. He started out the year at 0-4 but then threw back to back complete game shut outs on a West Coast road trip in Los Angeles & San Francisco. It was a short lived streak as he lost seven straight decisions including a 1-0 loss to the Phillies Jim Lonborg.

On June 15th the night when Tom Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, Matlack got the start in Atlanta. He allowed five runs in six innings but earned no decision as the Mets rallied to beat the Braves 6-5. Matlack missed a month of action due to injury from the end of August to September 30th.

When he returned to make one last start on the year, it turned out to be his last as a New York Met. He won that game pitching into the 5th inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, beating the Cardinals. On the year he went 7-15 with a 4.21 ERA. He gave up a career high 19 HRs, and allowed 176 hits in 169 innings.

The Mets were cleaning house quickly and were dumping all the players from their glory days. Tom Seaver had been dealt away earlier that year & Matlack was no exception. 

That December he was traded as well, in a strange four-team deal involving a number of players, Matlack went to Texas along with John Milner (who then went to Pittsburgh) in exchange for Willie Montanez, Ken Henderson and Tom Grieve.

Quotes: Jon Matlack on pitching on the Mets "That was a staff that knew how to compete and was willing to do whatever it took to be successful and put zeros on the board. We all fed off each other and it snowballed into not wanting to be the one who was the weak link.

It’s easy to focus when you have to follow greatness and it became a very professional approach. I would do what ever I had to, to work on an aspect of my delivery or the details of the grip on a specific pitch. No matter how long it took, or how much work I needed to do I was willing to do it and so was the rest of the staff."

In his first year in the Arlington/Dallas area he went 15-13 & was second in the American League with his 2.27 ERA. He threw eight complete games (4th best in the AL) struck out 157 batters (6th in the AL) pitching in 270 innings (8th in the AL) in 35 starts. 

Matlack helped the Rangers tie for a second place finish with the California Angles, finishing five games behind the mighty Kansas City Royals of the late seveties.

In 1979 injuries limited him to only 13 games, going 5-4. It was his last year with a winning record as he’d go 10-10 in 1980 with a 3.68 ERA. That year he began the season with a three hit shutout against the AL New York club, in Texas Stadium. In August he broke up George Brett's 30-game hitting streak in August, holding him to an 0-3 night in Arlington. 

In 1981 he was limited to just 17 games going 4-7 with a 4.14 ERA. Matlack was the Texas Rangers Opening Day starter for three straight seasons. He was released by the Rangers in October 1983 and retired at age 34.

In a 13-year career, he was 125-126 with 1516 strikeouts (179th all time) with 638 walks, posting a 3.18 ERA, with 97 complete games, & thirty shutouts (110th all time) He pitched in 2363 innings pitched in 361 games. At the plate he hit .129 (57-441) with three doubles & 23 RBIs.

METS ALL TIME LIST: Matlack is still ranks high on many of the Mets All Time pitching records; his 26 shut outs are tied for second most on Mets all time list, with Jerry Koosman behind Tom Seaver. His 3.03 ERA ranks fourth best on the Mets all time list, with pitchers pitching 500 innings or more in a Mets career.

He pitched 65 complete Mets games (fourth best most on Mets all time list) 1448 innings (sixth best most on Mets all time list) 82 wins (seventh most on Mets all time list) 199 starts (seventh most on Mets all time list) 1023 strikeouts (eighth most on Mets all time list) & 81 losses (fourth most on Mets all time list). 

Retirement: Matlack resurfaced in the short lived Senior Professional Baseball Association where he had a solid 10-2 record. Outside of baseball he sold commercial real estate & also raised horses.

In 1988 he was a minor league pitching coach for the San Diego Padres for a few seasons & then moved on the Chicago White Sox organization. He was a pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers for part of the 1996 season. 

From 1997 to 2012 he was a roving instructor for the Detroit Tigers. He was instrumental in helping develop talent for the 2006 & 2012 AL Champions.

He recently had a "roving" job as a minor league pitching coordinator for the Houston Astros.

He currently lives comfortably, in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, while spending some winter time in Florida.

Jan 17, 2020

Jon Matlack: One of the Best Left Handers In Mets History (Part One : 1971-1973)

Jonathan Trumpbour Matlack was born on January 19, 1950 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was another good pitching prospect developed by the Mets in the late 1960s, early 1970s period.

He was their number-one selection in the June 1967 draft, the fourth pick overall. The Mets didn’t rush him; he was brought up slowly because the Mets were loaded with good pitching in those days. This certainly helped his development along the way as he posted three straight winning seasons with double figures at the AAA level.

In 1969 as the Amazing Mets were winning the World Series & doing evrything but walk on the moon, Jon Matlack was going 14-7 at AAA Tidewater. He followed up with a 12-11 1970 season striking out 146 batters in 183 innings. 

In 1971 Matlack was 11-7, tied for third in wins with Don Rose, behind Jim Bibby (15) & Buzz Capra (13). Thats how talented those Mets minor leagues were in those days. Overall he posted a 3.97 ERA, striking out 145 batters in 152 innings.

He was brought up midway through the 1971 season and debuted on July 11th in Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. He pitched seven innings allowing two runs while earning no decision in the Mets 5-3 loss. went 0-3 as he settled in to the big leagues.

On July 18th he pitched against Al Santorini in St. Louis & took his first loss, allowing five earned runs in 6.2 innings of work. He would lose to the Cardinals at Shea on July 28th & then spent another month down at AAA Tidewater before returning in September. In seven appearances he was 0-3 with a 4.14 ERA & ready for 1972.

In 1972 he started out the year in the bullpen. He relieved Gary Gentry in the second game of the season pitching the final two innings of a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh. On April 23rd he pitched four innings of relief shut out the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium & earned his first career win. 

He then went right into the Mets starting rotation, from there on, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers on the road with a complete game, six hit, one run performance. He then beat the Giants in San Francisco & the Phillies at Veterans Stadium. On May 15th he earned his first starting win at Shea Stadium, beating the Montreal Expos 5-3 pitching into the 9th inning. 

He then went 6-0 through May & earned two no decisions in games where he allowed three runs or less. On May 30th he pitched a three hit shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium besting his record to 6-0 with an ERA at 1.95. He had a tough June going 2-4 although he only allowed two earned runs or less three times in seven outings.

In July he pitched a four hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium, beating Sudden Sam McDowell, striking out nine batters. He then suffered two tough no decisions, the first was a nine inning performance at Los Angeles where he allowed one run that was unearned. 

He then had an eighth inning, one run performance in San Francisco, but the Mets lost the game on a Danny Frisella wild pitch. His next outing on July 27th was a ten inning, four hit, shutout against the reigning World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. That night he outdueled Nelson Briles when the Mets scored the only run of the game on a Wayne Garrett sac fly.

In the month he went into the 8th inning or beyond five straight times, allowing only three earned runs overall, but earned just two victories. In August he pitched well but not his best as he was 1-3 with three no decisions.

In mid September he pitched a five hit shutout against the Pirates at Shea & followed up with another five hitter, against the Phillies. In that game he allowed three runs but all were unearned.

Trivia: On the last day of the season at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Matlack went into the history books, giving up Roberto Clemente’s 3000th hit. It was also the last hit of Clemente’s career, as he would tragically be killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve later that year. 

Matlack had met Clemente prior to the 1972 season playing winter ball in San Juan. Clemente invited some of the American Players to his home & Matlack was one of them. In his trophy room, he showed them one of his huge bats, Matlack was in awe.

When Clemente got the hit, Matlack was unaware of the significance of it. Clemente just raised his hat to the 17000 plus fans who actually knew what was happening. The game went on, bot have times changed.

That season Matlack became the first Mets player to win a Rookie of the Year Award. He was also named to the Topps All Star Rookie team & with his addition to a staff that already included Tom Seaver & Jerry Koosman, had  a lot of teams taking notice.

Matlack finished the year 15-10 (7th most wins in the NL) with a team leading 2.32 ERA (4th in the league). He also led the talented Mets staff with four shut outs (sixth in the NL), while throwing eight complete games and posting 169 strikeouts (tenth in the NL) in 244 innings walking 71 batters.

In the 1973 Mets pennant season, Matlack like the rest of the team struggled at the start. He pitched in the second game of the season beating the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 allowing just four hits in nine innings of work. On April 13th he was beat up for six runs in just four innings of work at Philadelphia.

On April 18th he lost a 1-0 heart breaker to the Chicago Cubs as Ray Burris & Jack Akers shut out the Mets. After falling to 1-3 he beat the Braves in Atlanta in a seven inning two run outing on the 28th of April. 
Hit In the Head With A Line Drive: On May 8th at Shea Stadium in a game against Atlanta, Braves shortstop Marty Perez lined a shot that hit Matlack in the fore head, fracturing his skull. He was carried off the field in a stretcher and it was feared his season was over, or maybe even worse. His record fell to 2-5 three more losses were to follow into early June.

Incredibly, after suffering the injury, the tough work horse returned to the mound eleven days later, to throw six shutout innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates .

He found himself at 2-8 with a 4.55 ERA at the start of June. Matlack then won two games, as the West Coast teams came to Shea for a Mets homestand. He beat Al Downing of the Dodgers & then Steve Arlin & the Padres with complete game wins. 

The Mets were still struggling, mostly due to injuries of their key players. Matlack slowly bettered himself to 7-10 after wins on the road in Chiaco & Montreal.

On July 10th in front of just under twenty thousand at Shea, he pitched a spectacular one hit, 1-0 shutout against Jerry Ruess & the Houston Astros. The only hit was a sixth inning double from short stop Tommy Helms. But the rest of his month went 0-4 although he allowed two runs or less in two of those losses.

Then From August until the end of the year he was brilliant, going 7-2, pitching five complete games, with three shut outs. He struck out nine batters or more in six of twelve games. 

On August 8th he struck out nine Dodgers & pitched a two hit shutout at Dodger Stadium. It was another 1-0 squeaker, as Andy Messersmith also held the Mets in check. The only two Dodger hits came from Willie Davis & Manny Mota. Mota's hit came in the fourth inning, as Matlack retired the last 18 batters.

He won two more games in August with the help of the Mets finally giving him some run support. He also had two games where he struck out ten or more batters, including an 11 strike out season high against the Cardinals at Shea on August 3rd.

In the final month the whole Mets team came together at once, Matlack joined in, going 3-1 down the stretch. On September 7th he won yet another 1-0 game, beating former Met prospect Steve Renko in Montreal. Tug McGraw helped out with the save. Five days later on September 12th, he etched out a 3-2 win beating Wayne Twitchell in Philadelphia striking out nine Phillies.

On September 18th the Mets rallied for five runs in the top of the 9th inning, helping him from taking a loss against the first place Pirates. The win brought the Mets to 2.5 games of Pittsburgh, but there were also the Expos & Cardinals ahead of them.

On September 22nd, he did all but eliminate the Cardinals when he pitched a 2-0 shout against them at Shea Stadium. This night the Mets sat up in first place in the NL East & would hold the lead until clinching the NL Eastern Division on the last day of the season.

On September 30th, Matlack lost a 1-0 heart breaker game at Wrigley Field, delaying the Mets clinching by another day. He finished the year at 14-16, second on the staff (tied with Jerry Koosman) behind Tom Seaver in wins. He struck out 205 batters (3rd in the league), and his strikeout per nine inning ratio (7.6) was also third best in the N.L.

Matlack made 34 starts, pitched 242 innings, with 14 complete games (4th in the league) and three shutouts. He posted a 3.20 ERA and walked just 76 batters. He was a favorite of his manager Yogi Berra, who said he would never trade Matlack away, “what a career he has ahead of him" Berra told NBC's Tony Kubek, during a pre game World Series interview. 

1973 Post Season- NLCS: In Game #2 of the 1973 NLCS, Matlack pitched one of the best Mets post season games ever. He threw a two-hit shutout against “the Big Red Machine” of Cincinnati. He struck out nine Reds & walked three in Riverfront Stadium. The win evened the Series to a game apiece. The Reds veteran, Andy Kosco, got both Reds hits & drew a walk.

Darrel Chaney also reached twice, drawing two walks Kosco & Chaney were the only Reds to reach base that day.

 Outfielder Cesar Geronimo struck out three times against Matlack. It was after this pitching performance that Bud Harrelson remarked the Reds “looked like me hitting out there” in that game. Those words angering the Reds and led to the Harrelson/ Rose bench clearing brawl in Game three.

Matlack would get three starts in the 1973 World Series, and pitch well in all of them except the last start. He was the starting pitcher in the opener at Oakland against the A's Ken Holtzman. 

Matlack was superb going six innings, allowing two unearned runs, on just three hits against the mighty Oakland line up. He struck out three and walked only two along the way.

In the third inning, Oakland's Bert Campaneris reached base on a ground ball that went through the usually sure handed Mets second baseman Felix Millan's legs. 

With Campy aboard (the American League's best base stealer), Matlack botched a pickoff attempt allowing Campy to move up to second base. He then scored what would be the winning run on Joe Rudi’s base hit, as the Mets lost the game 2-1.

Jon came back to pitch Game #4 at Shea Stadium and would get plenty of run support this time, thanks to Rusty Staub’s big five RBI night in the Mets 6-1 win. Matlack was fantastic again, allowing only one run, on three hits, while striking out five Oakland A’s, walking only two.

Reggie Jackson, Gene Tenace & pinch hitter Deron Johnson were the only A's to gather hits that night. Matlack also hit Bert Campaneris with two pitches, late in the game without any incidens taking place. It turned out to be the only World Series win in Matlack's career.

A tired Matlack was called upon to pitch Game #7 on three day’s rest, over a well rested George Stone. That year Stone was 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA & had only made a relief appearance in Game #2. 

To this day it is one of Met fans biggest questions: Why didn't Yogi Berra start Stone in Game #6 & have a rested Matlack as well as Tom Seaver ready to go in Game #7?

It turned out to be Matlack's worst post season outing, allowing four runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings pitched. He gave up the big blows, HRs to Reggie Jackson & Bert Campaneris as he took the 5-2 loss.

Overall Matlack went 2-2 in the post season, allowing only four earned runs in 25 innings pitched for a fantastic 1.40 ERA. He struck out 20, & walked eight batters in his only postseason appearance.

Trivia: Jon Matlack & Ron Darling are the only two Mets to start three World Series games in a single World Series. They both got the starts in games one, four and seven.