Feb 6, 2015

Late Seventies Mets Utility Player: Leo Foster (1976-1977)

Leonard Norris Foster was born in Covington Kentucky on February 2, 1951. He was a gifted athlete in high school playing basketball, football, baseball & track. The short guy with the tall afro, earned the nickname "Bananas" after the drink Bananas Foster.

The five foot eleven infielder was known early on as a solid fielding prospect. Foster was signed by the Atlanta Braves in the second round of the 1969 draft. He made a brief debut with Atlanta in 1971 but then spent most of his time at AAA Richmond from 1971-1973.

In his major league debut he made an error on the first ball hit to him st short stop. Later in the game he hit into a triple play as well as a double play. He was primarily a utility infielder getting into the Braves lineup in 71 games during the 1974 season, batting just .196. In April 1975 he was traded to the New York Mets for minor leaguer Joe Nolan.

He played a year and a half at AAA Tidewater, batting a career best .287 there in 1976, playing at second, short & third base. He got a call to the Mets in August of 1976, getting a chance from Mets manager Joe Frazier. Foster had played for Frazier at Tidewater the previous season.

Foster debuted on August 1st, 1976 against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium, drawing a walk in his first Mets at bat. The the second time up he singled, driving home Felix Millan, his old teammate from their Atlanta days. On the next road trip to Pittsburgh, Foster enjoyed brief success getting three hits, while driving in three runs in a Series at Three Rivers Stadium.

On September 7th he hit his only Mets HR, it came at Wrigley Field in Chicago where he enjoyed a career day. Foster had three hits & five RBIs in an 11-0 Mets rout over the Cubs. On the 1976 season, Foster hit over .200, for the first time in his career, just making it by batting .203 with a HR & 15 RBIs. He played nine games at third base, seven games at short & three games at second.

In 1977 he arrived back with the Mets in late April remaining there until May 22nd when he was batting just .133. He went to AAA Tidewater returning at the end of August hitting safely in three of his first four games back at the big league level. In September he played mostly at second base & hit safely in nine of fifteen games to finish the year at .227 with 17 hits, no extra base hits & six RBIs.

In 1978 he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Jim Burton who never cracked the Mets squad. Foster never played at the big league level again, retiring from the game after a season at AAA Pawtucket.

In a five season career the utility infielder played 62 games at short, 33 games at second, 14 games at third & two games in the outfield. He hit a meek .198 with 52 hits two HRs 26 RBIs 7 steals & a .262 on base % in 144 games.

Jan 27, 2015

One of the Best Left Handers In Mets History: Jon Matlack : 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 he 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 starting rotation, from there 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.

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.

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 alot 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.

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.

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

Darrel Chaney walked twice as they 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.

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.

Honors: Matlack is still ranks high on many Mets All Time pitching records; his 26 shut outs are tied for second 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 all time) 1445 innings (sixth best all time) 82 wins (seventh most) 199 starts (seventh all time) 1023 strikeouts (eighth) & 81 losses (fourth).

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.

Remembering Mets History: (1973) Jon Matlack Tosses One Hitter Over Houston Astros

Tuesday July 10th,1973: A crowd of 19,942 fans came out to see Yogi Berra's last place Mets (36-46) take on Leo Durocher's fourth place Houston Astros (47-44) at Shea Stadium. 

After 24 seasons of managing, this was to be Leo Durocher's last year before his retirement. It had just been 19 years prior he took the 1954 New York Giants to World Series sweep over the Cleveland Indians.

Tonight's pitching match up was certainly a good one, John Matlack (6-10) up against Jerry Reuss (11-5). The billing did not disappoint, Ruess would go the distance for his team, allowing just one run on six hits. He did walk five batters & one of them hurt him badly.

In the Mets 2nd inning, Rusty Staub drew the lead off walk, then he advanced to second on a ground out. With two outs, catcher Duffy Dyer drove a single up the middle scoring Staub with what turned out to be, the only run of the game.

Jon Matlack was outstanding; he took a perfect game into the 6th inning. Up to that point he had eight ground ball outs & two strike outs. The Houston shortstop; Tommy Helms led off the top of the 6th with a double to left field. The perfect game was gone. Matlack got himself together got another ground out from catcher Skip Jutze & then struck out Jerry Reuss, as well as former 1969 Met hero; Tommie Agee, now with Houston.

Matlack allowed a walk to "the toy cannon" Jimmy Wynn in the 7th, but Duffy Dyer nailed him trying to steal second. In the 8th, Matlack allowed another walk, this one to "the Red Rooster" five time Gold Glover at third base; Doug Rader. Matlack then got Tommy Helms to ground into a double play, ending the inning.

In the 9th he secured his one hitter, by striking out the side, with Tommie Agee going down for the last out. Matlack earned the one hit shutout, as well as the tenth one hitter in Mets history. Along the way he struck out seven batters, while walking two.

Matlack went to 7-10 on the year at this point, mostly due to lack of run support. From August through the end of the year he would go 7-2 to finish at 14-16 with 205 strike outs (3rd in the NL) & a 3.20 ERA. He was to be outstanding in the post season.


Remembering Mets History: (1974) Jon Matlack's Second Career One Hitter

Saturday June 29th 1974: A crowd of 37,317 came to Shea to see Manager Yogi Berra's struggling NL Champion Mets (30-42) in last place, take on Red Scoendienst first place St. Louis Cardinals (38-34). The Cards John Curtis (4-7) took on The Mets Jon Matlack (5-5). 

In the 1st inning, Matlack allowed a walk, but struck out all three of the batters for outs. In the home 1st, Wayne Garreyy led off with a base hit, then Cleon Jones blasted a two run HR giving the Mets a 2-0 lead. In the 3rd inning, Matlack allowed a base hit to pitcher John Curtis. It was a terrible break, since it was the only hit Matlack would allow the rest of the way. In fact he would allow just one more base runner the rest of the way, a 6th inning walk to pinch hitter Tom Heintzelman. 

Matlack walked three in the one hitter, while he struck out seven. This was the 11th one hitter in Mets history, Matlack had pitched the last one in July of 1973. The win was his sixth on the year lowering his ERA to 2.47. Matlack led the league in shut outs with seven, he went 13-15 on the year with 195 strike outs (4th in the NL) & a 2.41 ERA (3rd best in the NL), taking a lot of hard luck losses.

In the 5th, Wayne Garrett had hit a lead off solo HR, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead. Cleon Jones added an RBI double in the 7th, scoring Garrett who had two hits & three runs scored on the day. 

The 1974 Mets disappointed, finishing up fifth (71-91) a terrible follow up after the Pennant of '73.

Remembering Mets History: Jon Matlack Tosses Back to Back Shut Outs (1977)

The 1977 Mets didn't give the fans much to cheer about. It was the beginning of one of the worst periods in Met history. During the middle of May left hander; Jon Matlack, gave New York something to cheer about, as he pitched back to back shut outs.

On Friday May 13, 1977 in front of 19,448 at Shea Stadium, Matlack threw a seven hit complete game shutout against the first place Los Angeles Dodgers. Matlack walked just one batter that night, while striking out four.

The Mets provided all their offense in the 1st inning as Lenny Randle led off Rick Rhoden. After a single by Ed Kranepool, Dave Kingman followed with a two run shot for his 8th HR of the season. The three runs were all Matlack would need on the night.

On May 18th, just five nights later, Matlack he went up against the San Francisco Giants; Jim Barr to tiny crowd of 7,000 on a Wednesday night at Shea. Barr was good only allowing one run through seven innings, but Matlack was better. He didn't allow any runs, didn't walk any body & struck out seven Giants on just five hits.

It was the tenth time in Mets history that pitchers had thrown back to back shut outs. Tom Seaver & Jerry Koosman had done it four times each up to that point & Jim McAndrew had done one time.

Lenny Randle came up big for Matlack once again, getting three hits and scoring both Mets runs. In the 3rd inning, Randle doubled and reached third on an error. He then scored on a wild pitch by Barr.

In the 8th inning, he singled and later scored on catcher Jerry Grote's base hit off pitcher; Gary Lavelle.

Jan 26, 2015

Late 2000's Mets Utility Player: Nick Evans (2008-2011)

Nicholas Reginald Evans was born January 30, 1986 in Glendale, Arizona. The six foot two, right handed hitter was drafted out of high school in Phoenix, by the New York Mets in the 5th round of the 2004 draft.

Evans was primarily a first baseman in the Mets organization, in 2007 he batted .286 with 15 HRs at A ball St. Lucie. In 2008 he was at AA Binghamton when he was brought up to the Mets in May to replace an injured Marlon Anderson.

In his first MLB at bat he doubled off Colorado’s Jeff Francis, & then hit two more doubles in the same game. He was the first Met since Kaz Matsui in 2004 to have three extra base hits in his MLB debut. He got to play regularly for a week but after his hot start was batting .174 when he was sent back down in June. At Binghamton overall he would bat .311 with 14 HRs & 53 RBIs on the year, finding his way back up to the majors in the summer when Ryan Church got injured.

On August 31st he hit his first career HR coming against the Florida Marlins. In 50 games at the big league level he hit .257 with two HRs ten doubles & nine RBIs. 

By now Evans had become a highly touted prospect, although a first baseman by trade his future would soon be in jeopardy with the emergence of Ike Davis. 

Evans also did not hit for power, but the team was hoping he could be more of a doubles hitter, especially in Citi Field where he had little chance to hit HRs in the big ball park. 

In 2009 he began the year at AAA Buffalo but got sent down to AA Binghamton when he struggled. At the end of June he was back with the Mets for a month.

He hit a HR in his second game back, gathering two hits & two RBIs at Citi Field in the Mets 11-0 win over the Cardinals. The bouncing around of Evans continued as he was back at the end of August through September. On the year he hit .231 with one HR five doubles & seven RBIs in 30 games (15-65).

In 2010 he hit well at both AAA Buffalo & AA Binghamton batting .300 with 20 HRs 44 doubles & 80 RBIs getting a brief two game call up to fill a roster spot in July, but then returned as a September call up.

On September 19th his RBI single off Chan Ho Park beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the 9th inning at Citi Field for an exciting walk off win. In 20 games he hit .306, with one HR 3 doubles & 5 RBIs in 36 at bats.

In 2011 he continued to hit at the minor league level batting .313 with 13 doubles 8 HRs & 32 RBIs at AAA Buffalo. 

When he was brought up to the Mets in May after David Wright went on the DL, it took him ten games to get his first hit. He was sent down to make room for Lucas Duda, but returned to the club in July and over a month got his average to peak at .300. He saw alot of playing time in August & September since Ike Davis was gone for the season with injury. 

In early September he hit HRs in back to back games then two days later had a three RBI day in Florida against the Marlins. He drove in 14 runs in the month and finished the year batting .256 with 4 HRs 10 doubles 26 runs scored 25 RBIs & a .214 on base % in 59 games. At first he posted a .993 fielding % making just three errors.

The Mets decided to part ways with Evans as he was let go to free agency in November 2011.

He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates two weeks later & played just 21 games in their minor leagues in 2012. He was granted free agency getting signed & released quickly by the L.A. Dodgers.

In Spring Training of 2013 he signed with the Arizona D-backs. He played 133 games as an all around guy for AA Mobile batting .267 with 19 HRs & 81 RBIs. 

In 2014 he made the D-backs playing in 18 games from May through July. On June 3rd he hit a HR at Colorado & on July 26th he hit a three run, tenth inning pinch hit HR at Philadelphia helping in a 10-6 Arizona win.

In a five year career he is batting .257 with 30 doubles 3 triples 10 HRs 56 runs scored & 53 RBIs posting a .305 on base % in 177 games.

Original 1962 Mets Infielder: Charlie Neal (1962-1963)

Charles Leonard Neal was born on January 30, 1931 in Longview Texas. Neal began his career in the Negro Leagues with the Atlanta Black Crackers. The five foot ten, right hand hitter was signed as an infielder by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950.

It took him six years to crack the big league Dodgers squad with such a talented infield of Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson & Jim Gilliam. In his minor league years he hit over .300 three times & hit below the .270 mark just once.

Neal debuted in the majors with Brooklyn in 1956 in another Dodgers NL pennant season. He appeared in 62 games, batting .287 (136 at bats) with two HRs, five doubles & 14 RBIs. He got to play in his first World Series against the AL New York club in the last year of the subway series matchup between the two clubs. Neal was 0-4 as a pinch hitter in the Series.

1957 would be the Dodgers final season in Brooklyn, as they finished in third place. Neal took over as the Dodgers main short stop, when Pee Wee Reese moved over to third base. Neal batted .270 with 12 HRs 13 doubles 11 stolen bases (9th most in the NL) & 62 RBIs. In 1958 at the Dodgers moved west, Neal then moved over to play second base. Long time second baseman Jim Gilliam moved to play the outfield & Don Zimmer took over at short stop.

Neal posted a .976 fielding % (5th in the NL) making 343 assists (5th in the NL) with 334 out outs (3rd in the NL) making 17 errors (3rd most in the NL). At bat he had his most productive year in HRs with a career high 22, also belting nine doubles, six triples, drawing 61 walks 65 RBIs while posting a .341 on base % & batting .254.

In 1959 the Dodgers won their first Championship on the West Coast. Neal led the league in triples (11) & sacrifice hits (21). That season he hit 19 HRs, scored 103 runs (6th in the league) and had career highs with 83 RBIs, 30 doubles (9th in the NL) 60 extra base hits & 17 stolen bases (7th in the NL) . 

He was such a good all around player, he received 20% of the MVP voting. He was such a valyable player, even with team mates like Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Wally Moon, Jim Gilliam, Don Demeter & John Roseboro.

Defensively Neal led the NL second baseman in fielding (.989) double plays (110) & put outs (386) which won him a gold glove.

Post Season: In Game #2 of the 1959 World Series against the Chicago White Sox, he hit a pair of HRs off pitcher Bob Shaw. He drove in three runs that day in the game at Comiskey Park, leading the Dodgers to a 4-3 win. In Game #3, the first World Series game on the West Coast, he drove in Maury Wills in the bottom of the 8th inning with an insurance run in the Dodger 3-1 win.

Overall he had a big World series, hitting .370 (10-27) second only to Gil Hodges with players who had more than four at bats. He hit two HRs driving in six runs, with two doubles and four runs scored in the Series.

After hitting only .235 with 10 HRs 6 doubles 48 RBIs& a .297 on base % in 1961 he was traded to the expansion New York Mets for $100,000 & a veteran named Lee Walls.

Neal was an original Met, playing second base and batting third in the first game in Mets history on April 11, 1962 in St. Louis. St. Louis. In the 3rd inning of that game, he singled and drove in the first run in Mets history, scoring Ritchie Ashburn. In the top of the 5th, he hit the second HR in Mets history, it came off pitcher Larry Jackson. He had a great day going 3-4, driving in two runs & scoring a run.

On April 28th at the Polo Grounds he hit two HRs against the Philadelphia Phillies helping the Mets to their second win an 8-6 victory against ten losses. In the month of April Neal hit three HRs drove in nine runs & batted .310 leading the team as one of their top hitters. On May 15th 1962, he salvaged a rare Mets comeback with a 10th inning base hit off the Cubs Don Elston, tying up the game 5-5. The Mets would have a rare win on a Hobie Landrith bases loaded walk off future Met Cal Koonce.

On May 20th he hit the first of three Mets HRs in the top of the 7th inning against the Milwaukee Braves. Earlier he had a two run double helping the Mets to a 9-6 win. 

On June 8th his sac fly in the top of the 9th inning was a Mets game winner, 4-3 over the Chicago Cubs. Two days later he hit a HR in the first game of a double header at Wrigley, helping Roger Craig to a 2-1 win over the Cubs. In that stretch in mid June he drove in runs in five of seven games. From July 6th through August 6th he hit six HRs, including back to back games at the start of the month.

In the first week of August had six RBIs, which was productive on a the poor team. In the month drove in 17 runs with nine multi hit games. In September he would hit safely in ten of all eleven games he played in that month. His season ended a bit early by September 15th.

Neal would play in 136 games for the first year 1962 Mets, leading the team with nine triples & nine sacrifice hits. He batted .260 with a 11 HRs, 14 doubles, 9 triples, a .330 on base % & 58 RBIs. He primarily played second (85 games), but also had time at third & short. By far he was their best defensive infielder posting a .970 fielding %.

In 1963 he struggled at the start not getting to the .200 mark until May. He hit his first HR that month then two more in June, but after 72 games he was batting .225 with just 18 RBIs. The Mets traded him to the Cincinnati Reds along with Sammy Taylor for catcher Jesse Gonder. Neal finished out his career that year, posting the leagues fourth best fielding % as a third baseman (.955) batting just .211.

In his eight season career he hit .259 with 858 hits 87 HRs 113 doubles 461 runs scored 38 triples 48 stolen bases a .329 on base % & 391 RBIs. The versatile Neal, played 663 games at second, 162 games at short & 120 games at third.

Passing: In 1996 Neal passed away from heart failure in Dallas, Texas at age 65.