Jan 21, 2018

Remembering Mets History: Regular Season Walk Off Grand Slam HRs

centerfieldmaz looks back on Mets regular season walk off grand slams of the past:

1963: On Wednesday June 26th 1963, Tim Harkness hit the first walk off grand slam HR in Mets history. The game was in the 14th inning at the old Polo Grounds in New York. Galen Cisco had just gave up a two run inside the Park HR to the Chicago Cubs future Hall of Famer; Billy Williams. With the Mets now down 6-4 in the home 14th, Jim Hickman & Ron Hunt both singled, but Hickman was thrown out trying to go to third base.

Next the wacky Jimmy Piersall  drew a walk but slugger Frank Thomas flew out for the second out. Pitcher Jim Brewer was brought in & gave up a walk to Sammy Taylor to load them up. Harkness stepped in & hit a HR down the right field line, to win the game.

It was Harkness' 7th HR of the year & thrilled who ever was left of the 8183 fans in attendance. In fact there were enough left to cheer him on at the steps of the Polo Grounds Mets club house. Harkness came out to greet the fans. Even then die hard Mets fans were there. Tim Harkness would only play two seasons with the Mets (four in the majors). In 1963 he saw the most playing time (123 games) batting just .211 with 10 HRs & 41 RBIs.

1963: Six weeks later, on Friday night August 9th 1963, Jim Hickman hit the second walk off Mets grand slam. The game was in the Polo Grounds against the Chicago Cubs & tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 9th. The Cubs'; Paul Toth was still on the mound after making the start, nine innings earlier.

With one out Jim Hicks singled, Cho Cho Coleman struckout & the Mets were down to the last out. But Al Moran doubled, putting two men on. Cubs manager Bob Kennedy brought in Lindy McDaniel to close it out.

The Cubs remembered what Tim Harkness had done to them a little over six weeks ago & weren't going to let it happen again. They gave him a free pass to first, bringing up Hickman with the bases loaded. Hickman blasted the grand slam & the Mets had a 7-3 win for the 11,566 fans in attendance. Jim Hickman led the Mets in HRs in 1963 with 17 & was second in RBIs with 51 batting just .229.

1980: It took another 17 years, before the Mets had another walk off HR. On June 11th, 1980 the Mets hosted the L.A. Dodgers in front of 23,540 fans at Shea Stadium. Craig Swan had gone the entire way for New York, allowing late HRs to Dusty Baker & Steve Garvey tying up the game.

The game now in the bottom of the 10th inning & Rick Sutcliffe was the Dodger pitcher. Mets infielder; Doug Flynn lead off with a base hit & stole second. With one out, Lee Mazzilli was walked intentionally to get to Frank Taveras, who struck out. With two outs, Steve Henderson also drew a walk, to load up the bases.

Mike Jorgensen who was on his second go around as a Met, won the game with a walk off grand slam. Jorgensen was a local boy, born in New Jersey but moved to Queens, attended Francis Lewis high school & St. Johns University.

He was a Mets reserve player in 1968, 1970-1971 then moved on to a good career in Montreal. He returned to the Mets from 1980-1983. In 1980 he hit seven HRs & batted .255 in 119 games.

1986: Six years later, on Tuesday June 10th 1986, Tim Teufel hit the next walk off granny, coming in front of 27,472 fans against the Philadelphia Phillies in Shea Stadium.

In the bottom of the 11th inning, the Mets & Phils were tied up at 4-4, as Randy Lerch gave up a lead off single to Ray Knight. After Rafael Santana grounded out, pinch hitter Barry Lyons was walked as was Lenny Dykstra. Wally Backman was scheduled to hit but as Tom Hume was brought in relief, Tim Teufel got the pinch hit assignment.

In classic 1986 Mets dramatic fashion, Teufel hit the first Mets pinch hit, grand slam in team history for the 8-4 win . Teufel was in his first year with the Mets in 1986, sharing time at second behind Wally Backman. He would hit just four HRs all year (279 at bats) & hit .247. The following season he hit a career high 14 HRs (matching his total in 1984 with  Minnesota).

Trivia: Teufel was the Mets third base coach in 2014 & congratulated Ike Davis on his walk off blast as he rounded third.

1991: On Tuesday, June 25th 1991, it was the quiet Kevin McReynolds who hit the next walk off grand slam. 28,809 fans came out to see the Mets face the Montreal Expos. Many left as the Mets trailed 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Veteran Gary Templeton led off with a base hit & Keith Miller was brought inn to pinch run. He was quickly picked off, but an error made him safe. Tom Herr struck out , but Daryl Boston drew a walk & a pitching change was made, Scott Ruskin in for Barry Jones.

With Dave Magadan up, Manager Bud Harrelson called for a double steal, which was successful. Magadan was walked & up came McReynolds who took the ball over the center field wall for the game winner, 8-5 New York.

McReynolds was in his fifth season as a Met, hitting 16 HRs with 74 RBIs & a .259 average. He had hit twenty or more HRs with 80 plus RBIs the four previous years. He was a good player who never got the recognition he deserved, a true quiet professional going about his business. He returned briefly in 1994 (51games) ending his career.

2013: It was another 22 years before Jordany Valdespin did it last season against the Los Angeles Dodgers. On April 24th 2013 the Mets were in a 3-3 deadlock with L.A. going into the tenth inning. W

ith Josh Wall on the mound, John Buck singled & Ike Davis walked. Marlon Byrd sacrificed & Lucas Duda was walked intentionally. Valdespin delivered with a walk off grand slam, for a 7-3 Mets win, in front of 24,130 fans at Citi Field.

The fired up Valdespin showed a lot of emotion & this would eventually hurt him since he did not produce long enough stay in the big leagues.

He had moderate success in 2012 & had a good start in 2013. But he was sent down that June & finished up batting .188 with 4 HRs 8 steals & 16 RBIs in 66 games.

2014: On Saturday afternoon April 5th 2014, Ike Davis delivered with a walk off pinch hit grand slam leading the Mets to a 6-3 win over JJ Hoover & the Cincinnati Reds. It was the last hurrah for Ike as a New York Met. After Dillon Gee had pitched a fine game, he served up a two run 8th inning HR to Brandon Phillips putting the Reds ahead 3-2.

In the bottom of the 9th, Juan Lagares walked & was moved over on a successful bunt hit by Anthony Recker. At first Lagares was called out at second but Terry Collins challenged the call, & the new replay review showed he was safe. The call was over turned to safe & the rally continued. Ruben Tejada then walked setting the stage for Ike.

The Mets had tried to shop Davis all winter but there were no takers for the asking price. Just that week he was told Lucas Duda won the first base job & he would be a role player.

Duda had just hit two HRs the night before, leading to the Mets first win. But on this day Ike pleased the 25,424 fans at Citi Field with his walk off grand slam blast.

It was the seventh walk off grand slam in team history, the second pinch hit grand slam & it came the earliest in any season.

Note: The grand daddy of Mets walk off grand slams was Robin Ventura's walk off "grand slam single" in the 1999 NLCS. It was officially ruled a single as Todd Pratt never rounded the bases after the winning run had crossed the plate.

Former N.L. Cy Young Winner & Early Eighties Mets Pitcher: Randy Jones (1981-1982)

Randall Leo Jones was born January 12, 1950 in Fullerton, California located in Northern Orange County.  The tall six foot lefty was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the fifth round of the 1972 draft. He only spent parts of two seasons in the minors blowing through AA at 8-1 with a 2.01 ERA in 1973 getting brought right up to a needy Padre pitching staff. 

He made his MLB debut at Shea Stadium on June 16th against Jerry Koosman, allowing two runs in four innings but getting no decision in the Mets 10-2 win. Jones then lost his first two decisions before earning his first career win in Los Angeles on July 3rd. Overall he went 7-6 in 1973 with a 3.16 ERA & became known with the nickname “The Junkman”.

In 1974 he led the league in losses (22) going 8-22 on a Padre team that lost 102 games. He had losing streaks of four straight to begin the season, then five straight from May into June. The year got worse as he lost seven straight including going 1-8 in the final two months. Overall he threw over 208 innings while striking out 124 batters while posting a 4.45 ERA.

Somehow Jones turned it all around in 1975, and won the NL Comeback pitcher of the Year Award. He threw a four hit shout for nine innings on Opening Day but got no decision. He threw another four hitter the next month & one July 3rd pitched a one hitter against the mighty Big Red Machine.

By the end of the first half of the season he was 11-6 with one of the league's best ERA's at 2.25. He made the All Star team earning the save pitching a scoreless 9th inning, retiring the Minnesota Twins Rod Carew for the last out.

The 1975 Padres won 71 games (71-91) finishing in fourth place under manager John McNamara, Jones finished with 20 wins himself (20-12) the second most victories in the NL. He led the league with a 2.24 ERA, was second with 18 complete games & in shut outs (6). He had the second best walks per nine innings ratio at 1.76 & made 36 starts.

In the bicentennial year, he won the Cy Young Award beating out the Mets Jerry Koosman. Many Mets fans (myself included) believed Koosman should have won the Award; he was 21-10 (second in wins) with three shutouts, 17 complete games, a 2.69 ERA (4th in the NL) & 200 strikeouts (3rd in the NL) in 247 innings pitched.

Jones led the league in wins (22) complete games (25) starts (40) and an incredible 315 innings pitched. His 2.76 ERA was sixth in the league behind some very good pitchers.

The junkman only struck out 93 batters & in his career never had more than 124 strikeouts in a season. That season Jones set a record for most chances by a pitcher without an error (112), posting a perfect fielding percentage (1.000. ) He also tied the NL pitchers season record for the most double plays with twelve.

He began the year at 4-0, in May he pitched five straight complete games besting his record to 9-2. In June he shut out the Mets at Jack Murphy Stadium allowing seven hits in a 3-0 win over Tom Seaver.

He was 16-3 at the All Star break, and got the start against Mark the Bird Fidrych at the All Star game in Philadelphia. He pitched three scoreless innings allowing just two hits earning the victory.

He had a rough August 2-6 and a rough September as well 2-4. At the end of the season he injured a nerve in his pitching arm and required surgery. He was never the same pitcher, going just 6-12 the next season with a 4.58 ERA pitching 27 games.

He then two had a pair of sub .500 seasons, first in 1978 he was 13-14 but lowered his ERA to 2.88 on a Padre team that was 84-78 finishing fourth. In 1979 he was 11-12 with a 3.63 ERA.

1980 was an injury ridden season again as he lost a month of action from June 14th -July 10th. He then was lost from August 22nd through September with more injuries. He went 5-13 with a 3.91 ERA in 24 starts.

On December 15, 1980 Jones was traded to the New York Mets, for John Pacella and Jose Moreno.

He made his Mets debut in the third game of the 1981 season at Wrigley Field, pitching six innings allowing just one run getting no decision. It was one of his best starts, after that he lost his first five decisions as a Met, pitching past the 6th inning just once. After being 0-5 he finally got a win, beating the Cubs at Shea Stadium, allowing just one run in 5.2 innings of work. 

Jones then lost three more games although he pitched well in two of them. He pitched six innings allowing two runs at Houston on June 5th but was beaten by Nolan Ryan who threw a five hit shutout striking out ten Mets. 

His next start was at Shea, Jones went into the 8th inning on a two run five hitter but lost to the Reds Mario Soto who pitched a 2-0 twelve strike out shut out. Jones then went on the DL for three months returning in September for two more appearances. He finished the year at 1-8 with 12 starts striking out 14 batters walking 38 in 59 innings pitched posting a 4.85 ERA.

1982 would be his last year pitching as he rebounded a bit, starting the year at 2-0. He was given the start on Opening Day by manager George Bamberger. Jones beat Steve Carlton in Philadelphia, allowing just one run in six innings of work. On May 2nd he pitched 8 innings of shutout ball in San Francisco as the Mets beat the Giants 3-1 in the night cap of a double header. Jones threw a complete game victory against the Padres on May 10th besting his record to 4-1.

He had a fantastic May going 4-2 pitching seven or more innings in all but one of seven starts. On May 23rd in Houston he threw his best Mets game, a four hit six strikeout performance in 2-0 win over Joe Niekro. After entering June with a 6-3 record he then went on to lose six straight decisions going 7-10 posting a 4.60 ERA on the year.

Injuries only had him make one appearance after August 25th, on the year he allowed 11 HRs, with 51 walks, in 107 innings striking out 44 batters. The Mets released him that winter; and he finished his playing career.

In ten career seasons he went 100-123 with a 3.42 ERA & 735 strikeouts 503 walks in 1933 innings in 305 games. In 285 starts he had 73 complete games & 19 shut outs Jones is the only Cy Young Award winner to have a career losing record.

Retirement: He is the owner of Randy Jones Big Stone Lodge, the home of his catering business that sells a famous Randy Jones BBQ sauce.

In San Diego’ s Petco Park he has a concession stand named after him called the Randy Jones BBQ. He also does Padres local radio broadcast for pregame shows.

Jones was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions and has his number retired by the Padre team as well.

Short Time Met & Belinda Carlisle's ex-Boy Friend: Mike Marshall (1990)

Michael Allen Marshall was born January 12th, 1960 in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. The big six foot five right handed hitter was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 6th round of the 1978 draft.

He developed as a power hitter in the minors, winning Minor League Player of the Year as well as the Triple Crown in the Pacific Coast League in 1981. He hit 34 HRs with 137 RBIs while batting .373 at AAA Albuquerque.

The big season got him a September call up & in his first MLB at bat he hit a line drive HR over the Dodger Stadium wall. The ball hit a stairway & came back to the field where outfielder Jack Clark played the ball & threw it in to second base immediately. Marshall was robbed as the umpire called it a double due to Clark's quick reactions.

Marshall would play in 14 games and at have an at bat in the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies in the Dodgers 1981 Championship season. In 1982 he batted .388 in 66 games, winning the AAA Player of the Year Award once again. In 1984 he became the Dodgers regular right fielder batting .284 with 17 HRs & 65 RBIs.

Playing in Los Angeles has it's advantages, especially for the higher profiled players. He began dating Go-Go's lead singer Belinda Carlisle of "We got the Beat " fame & the two became a Hollywood celebrity couple. The highly publicized romance supposedly inspired Neil Simon's movie "The Sluggers Wife". The two settled in a beachfront Marina Del Rey condo where Carlisle battled an addiction to cocaine, as admitted in her 2010 book.

The next two seasons he hit twenty plus HRs making the NL All Star team in 1984 & having his best year in 1985. He batted .293 with 28 HRs (7th in the NL) 27 doubles 95 RBIs (8th in the NL) & a .342 on base %. In the outfield he posted a .991 fielding % with 10 assists in 1985 (3rd in the NL) & then led the league two seasons later at .987%.

He would lose time to injuries over the next two seasons but still had 16 plus HRs each year despite playing in no more than 104 games both years. In the Dodgers 1988 Championship season, Marshall remained healthy enough to play in 144 games, 90 in the outfield as well as 53 at first base. He led the club in RBIs with 82 (10th in the league) hitting 20 HRs (second on the club to Kirk Gibson) while batting .277.

Post Season: In Game #2 of the NLCS against the New York Mets he had three hits & drove in three runs off David Cone in the Dodgers 6-3 victory. In Game #5 he had three more hits including an RBI triple off Roger McDowell.

In the final Game #7 he reached on an error scoring a run in the Dodgers five run 5th inning at Dodger Stadium, as they went on to clinch the pennant. He drove in five runs in the series batting just .233. In the World Series he hit a HR in Game # at Dodger Stadium in the Dodgers 6-0 win over the Oakland A's.

1989 was another season where he battled injuries; playing 105 games with 11 HRs 42 RBIs & a .260 average, as he was back as a full time outfielder. That December Marshall along with team mate Alejandro Pena got traded to the New York Mets for Juan Samuel.

Marshall began the year as the Mets Opening Day first baseman. He hit HRs in back to back games against the Cubs in mid April, & had the teams first game winning walk off hit of the year, an infield hit on April 24th against the Atlanta Braves. On May 22nd he had a huge day in Los Angeles against his old Dodger team mates.

In the 6th inning he hit a grand slam HR off Mike Hartley & drove in two other runs, totaling six RBIs in the Mets 8-3 win. After 53 games in early July, Marshall was batting .239 with 6 HRs & 27 RBIs when the Mets traded him to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later. By this time the Mets had fired Davey Johnson & Bud Harrelson took over as manager. Dave Magadan took over as the first baseman. He would bat .328 on the season.

Marshall played with the Red Sox through the following summer when he was released. He was picked up by the California Angels playing in just two games before injuries ended his playing career at age 31. In 11 seasons he batted .270 with 971 hits 148 HRs 173 doubles 8 triples & a .321on base % in 1035 games.

Retirement: For the past decade Marshall has been a manager, team president & general manager for teams in the Independent Northern League. Marshall was of course mentioned in Belinda Carlisle's 2010 autobiography " Lips Unsealed".

Jan 20, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (2015) Mets Open Up Five Game 1st Place Lead in Big Labor Day Matchup

September 7th 2015: After stumbling, losing two of three games in Miami, the Mets had also lost 2 1/2 games in their lead in the NL East. Terry Collins first place Mets (75-61) came to Washing DC to face Matt Williams Nationals (71-65) for a Labor Day matinee.

The Nats arranged their pitching staff so their ace Max Scherzer would face the Mets in the opener, the Mets sent the struggling Jonathan Niese to the mound.

Today the Nats faced a much different Mets team then they had known earlier in the season. In the 2nd inning, two of the Mets "new comers" helped put New York on the board, as Rookie Michael Conforto hot a solo HR (his 6th HR of the season) & veteran Kelly Johnson added another making it 2-0.

In the 4th Yoenis Cespedes hit a towering Dave Kingmanesque HR into the flower pots in left field, putting the Mets up 3-0. For Cespedes it was his 31st HR of the year, his 13th as a Met & his 30th RBI as well.

In the 4th inning, Jonathan Niese fell apart once again, loading the bases with a pair of walks & then giving up a grand slam to Wilson Ramos. After blowing the lead he served up an RBI double to Werth putting the Nats up 5-3.

Neise has now allowed the most five run innings in Mets history, now including the last three. He's lucky to get a bullpen spot if the Mets do get to the post season, he has been horrible.

In the 5th the Mets fought back, Ruben Tejada got a hit & was driven in by Curtis Granderson.

In the 6th Cespedes doubled and then danced around second base, distracting Scherzer enough to balk. With Cespedes on third, Travis d'Arnaud hit a sac fly to left field that Jason Werth had to slide to catch. He never had a chance to throw out Cespedes, as the Mets tied it up at five.

In the 7th the Mets got Tejada & Granderson on base. David Wright had maybe his biggest hit in eight years, as he singled to center field scoring Tejada. Wright, as well as us fans, has been waiting eight long years for the Mets to be in a pennant race.

Next Cespedes continued his big day & hot hitting driving a base hit to Bryce Harper in right. There was a play at the plate as David Wright gave a good old fashioned slide into the plate, making it 8-5 Mets. He let out a loud safe call himself & showed some happy excitement on his way to the dug out.

The Mets bullpen were super as well, Eric Goeddel threw a scoreless inning & then Carlos Torres did a fine job until he went out of the game with a calf strain.

In that 6th inning, after Torres left the game, Dario Alvarez made his 2015 debut & struck out Bryce Harper after he had fallen behind 3-0. Alvarez was the pitcher of record & got his first win.

Hansel Roebles has everybody thinking about his quick pitching & has shown he cane pitch in big situations. He was perfect over two innings, while striking out four. In the 9th Jeurys Familia got his 37th save, as he struck out Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper & Ryan Zimmerman.

The Mets lead the NL East by five games over the Nats.

Mid Sixties Mets Catcher: Jesse Gonder (1963-1965)

Jesse Lamar Gonder was born on January 20, 1936 at Monticello, Arkansas. Gonder’ s family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in Oakland during his teen years.

There he played high school ball with the likes of Frank Robinson, Curt Flood & Vada Pinson. Robinson was the first to get signed by a Cincinnati Reds scout Bob Madic, who later became a GM in Toronto. He ended up signing all three players for the Reds including the more out spoken Gonder in 1955.

Gonder hit over .320 in his first two years at the AA Level, but fell off to .238 when he reached AAA IN 1959. He was traded over to the A.L. New York club in 1960 but didn’t have a chance to beat out Elston Howard, who had just secured the catcher’s job from Yogi Berra. Gonder batted .326 that year at AAA & got a September 1960 call up debuting for seven brief games going 1-7 mostly as a pinch hitter. The next year he went 4-12 gathering his first three career RBIs in another September call up. That December he was traded back to the Reds for Marshall Bridges.

He spent most of 1962 at AAA in the Pacific Coast League, leading the league in batting (.342) & RBIs (116). The scouting reports said; he was a good left handed hitter, but lacked power and solid defense with his glove. On July 1st, 1963 he was traded to the New York Mets for Charlie Neal & Sammy Taylor.

Jesse debuted with the Mets on July 6th 1963 at the Polo Grounds. He was behind the plat, as batterymate for Al Jackson in game against the Pittsburgh Pirstes, where he got two hits with a walk. He had a pair of hits in three of his first four career Mets games. On July 11th he hit two HRs against the Los Angeles Dodgers driving in all three Met runs, in a 4-3 loss at the Polo Grounds. Later that week, he had a four hit day against the Houston Colt 45's making a quick impact on a poor hitting team.

On July 17th he hit a three run HR off the Giants Gaylord Perry helping the Mets to a 9-7 win at the Polo Grounds. On August 2nd in the second game of a doubeheader in Milwaukee, Gonder had a big four hit day. He also drove in the first run of the 3-1 Mets win. He saw less playing time in the final two months & an 0-11 September neded his season at .304.

Overall Gonder hit .304 becoming the second Met in history (Ritchie Ashburn was first in 1962) to finish a season batting over .300. He was the only player on the 1963 team to do so. He hit three HRs, with four doubles & 12 RBIs in 42 games for the ’63 Mets as a backup catcher to Choo Choo Coleman & Norm Sherry. He made the Topps All Star Rookie team batting .304 with 6 HRs & 20 RBIs in 73 games overall on the season.

In 1964 Gonder was the Mets primary catcher behind the plate catching 97 games. He was second in the NL, nailing 33 base runners attempting to steal, throwing out 43% of would be base stealers overall. In the first game ever played at Shea Stadium, he was the starting catcher batting in the clean up position. In the bottom of the 4th inning he drove in the Mets first run at Shea, with a base hit off the Pirates Bob Friend, scoring Ron Hunt. He was then the second Met to cross the plate in Shea Stadium history, as he scored on Amado Samuel's double.

On June 9th he had a bottom of the 9th inning, game winning base hit off Lindy McDaniel, to beat the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium. On June 28th in San Francisco, with the Mets down 3-2 in the 9th inning, Gonder hit a two run  HR off Bobby Bolin, leading to a 4-3 win.

In mid July he had a big road trip, with three straight multiple RBI games, while hitting HRs in back to back games. He kept his average up over .290 in July, in a month where he had eight multi hit games. He blasted a three run HR in Philadelphia on Augsut 8th & brought his average right up to the .300 mark. He slowed up in September but closed out the season hitting safely in 10 of 14 games.

Gonder ended the year at a solid .270 which was third best average among the regular starting players. He hit seven HRs with 11 doubles, had 29 walks with a .329 on base % (fourth best on the team) & 35 RBIs.

In 1965 Chris Cannizzaro had taken over as the clubs main catcher, & Gonder only was used behind the plate in 13 games going into July. He hit well in a pinch hitting role but as a regular his overall average fell to .238 with 4 HRs & 9 RBIs.

On July 21st, 1965 he was traded to the Milwaukee Braves for Gary Kolb. Gonder hit just .151 & spent the next two years of his career in Pittsburgh as third string catcher. He played out two more seasons in the Pacific Coast League not reaching the major league level again.

He finished up his eight year playing career in 395 games with a .251 average 220 hits 28 doubles 26 HRs 94 RBIs throwing out 39% of would be base stealers from behind the plate.

Retirement: After baseball Gonder worked for the Bay Area Rapid Transit Company driving a bus in San Francisco Bay for twenty years. He passed away in Oakland, California on November 14, 2004 at the age of 68.

Former Met With Club Record Five Straight Pinch Hits: Jordany Valdespin (2012-2013)

Jordany V. Valdespin was born December 23rd 1987 in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. The six foot left hand hitter was signed by the New York Mets in 2007. 

He began as a second baseman & hit well through the ranks ofthe minors. In 2009 he hit five HRs 7 batted .279 in just 18 games at A ball Brooklyn. He was at St. Lucie the next season, moving up to AA Binghamton.

In 2011 he stole 33 bases (6th in the Eastern league) while batting .297 & hitting 15 HRs at AA Binghamton. He was promoted to AAA Buffalo toward the end of the season showing promise at the plate.

But on the field he was terrible, making 35 errors getting switched to the outfield for 2012. After 17 games he was batting .276 when he was called up after Ronny Cedeno got injured.

Valdespin debuted on April 23rd as a pinch hitter at Citi Field going 0-1 against the San Francisco Giants. On May 7th with the score tied at 2-2 against the Phillies at Citizen's Bank Park, he hit a dramatic three run HR off Jonathan Papelbon, winning the game 5-2. It was his first career HR & a big one. Overall he was struggeling, as he was hitting just .091 at the start of June after 16 games.

In June he drove in two runs in the June 10th subway series match up although the Mets lost 5-4. In his next game he drove in four runs at Tampa in a 11-2 win over the Rays. In July he hit brought his average up to .277, hitting five HRs and was seeing more playing time.

On July 24, he broke a Mets franchise record by hitting his fifth pinch-hit home run of the season, off of Ryan Mattheus of the Washington Nationals. In August he began to slump off hitting just one more HR for the rest of the season.

He finished up batting .241 with 8 HRs nine doubles 26 RBIs ten stolen bases & a .286 on base %. In the outfield he made no errors posting a perfect fielding %, making one assist.

In 2014 he was penciled in as a centerfield platoon with Colin Cowgill. On April 24th he hit the first Mets walk off grand slam since Kevin McReynolds did it back in 1991.

His down fall began in May when he hit a HR against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium & celebrated while the Mets were down four runs. This did not go over well with his team, manager, fans or the opposing team. The next day he was put in as a pinch hitter & was hit by a pitch. The scenario made it look like manager Terry Collins put him in there, to teach him a lesson.

He struggled at the plate batting just .188 & was sent down to AAA Las Vegas. At that point he referred to Collins with a curse word, demanding to be put on the DL. In August he was suspended for 50 games for using a performance enhancing drug. At the end of the season he was non tendered by the Mets.

He signed on with the Miami Marlins for 2014 & played just 52 games hitting .214. In 2015 he played just two games for Miami at the big league level. He then went on play in the Mexican League through 2017.

Jan 19, 2018

One of the Best Mets Left Handers of All Time: Jon Matlack: 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.

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.

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 a8 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. In 1988 he was a minor league pitching coach for the San Digo Padres & then moved on the Chicago White Sox organization.

In 1996 he was the Detroit Tigers pitching coach. Recently, he became the Organizational Pitching coordinator for the Detroit Tigers, and was instrumental in helping to develop the talented young staff of the 2006 & 2012 A.L. Champions. 

Currently Jon has a "roving" job as a minor league pitching coordinator for the Houston Astros.

He currently lives comfortably, in the Adirondak Mountains of upstate New York.