Feb 28, 2018

Remembering Mets History (1977): Joe Torre Stars Out 7-1 As Mets Manager

May 31st, 1977: This was the start of some very dark years in Mets history, the Mets would fall into the depths of the NL East cellar, lose their star franchise hero; Tom Seaver, not sign any top free agents in the start of the free agent era & not have another winning season until 1984.

At this point in the year, 45 games in, the Mets were 15-30 & the front office parted ways with manager Joe Frazier. His replacement was Mets player, Brooklyn native Joe Torre. Torre was the Mets only Player/Manager in team history, although it was a short run.

Torre was just 36 years old & long away from his Hall of Fame managing days. His legacy as a Mets skipper would be 286-420 (.405%) in a five year span 1977-1981. But his first week went pretty good, here's a look back.

His first game as manager came on May 31st, 1977 in front of just 6,505 fans in a night game against the Montreal Expos. Craig Swan would pitch the Mets to a 7-2 victory as John Milner led the team with three RBI's coming on two run scoring singles. Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson & relief pitcher Bob Apodaca also added RBI hits in Torre & the Mets 6-2 victory.

June 1st, 1977: The next night the Mets went to Montreal, it would be one of Tom Seaver's last starts as a Met. All the controversy surrounding his contract was coming to a head & there was a lot of buzz about Seaver & management around Stade Olympique on this night.

Seaver went about his business on the mound, obviously the whole trade rumor situation was affecting him, in 6.4 innings he gave up four runs, including a solo HR to Ellis Valentine, only striking out three. He still earned his fifth win (5-3) as catcher, John Stearns led the way with a grand slam HR. Lenny Randle scored two runs, one on a Dave Kingman hit & another on an Expo error. Joe Torre had his second win as manager.

June 2nd, 1977: The next night, Mets completed the short two game sweep over the Expos, as Jerry Koosman beat future Mets pitching coach; Dan Warthen 7-3. Warthen gave up six runs, including a Lee Mazzilli two run HR. Mazzilli would drive in three runs on the night, Felix Millan would bring in two, John Stearns & Koosman a run each.

June 3rd, 1977: The Mets returned to Shea, for a four game set with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies of the late 70's were the elite team in the NL East, winning division titles in 1976-1977-1978 & 1980. In the first game Jim Lonborg out duled Jon Matlack in 1-0 Met loss. The next night, Torre's Mets returned to their winning ways, as Nino Espinosa pitched 7.1 innings of shut out ball & reliever Skip Lockwood closed out the rest of the game, beating Steve Carlton 2-0.

Sunday June 5th, 1977: This was a special doubleheader day at Shea & one of few highlights in the '77 season. The Mets would pull off a twin bill sweep, staring out with a walk off extra inning victory. Lenny Randle drove in two runs & John Milner another, but the Mets & Phils went to extra innings.

In the bottom of the 10th, the Phils had Tom Underwood on the mound. With one out Milner & Dave Kingman singled.

Joe Torre then placed himself in the game as a pinch hitter, the crowd of just over 30,000 rose to their feet & gave him a long standing ovation. The Shea crowd loved their new manager & it was certainly a moment to be remembered. Torre was intentionally walked to load the bases. Underwood then threw a wild pitch to John Stearns & Milner scampered home with the winning run, as the Shea crows went wild once again.

In the night cap, Dave Kingman led the charge with a long 4th inning, three run HR off veteran Jim Kaat, who go on to pitch in four different decades & become a successful broadcaster after his playing days. Craig Swan pitched another fine game earning his second win of the week & Skip Lockwood earned his 8th save, his fourth save of the week in Torre's regime.

Tuesday June 7th 1977: Two nights later would have Joe Torre get to a 7-1 start as Mets manager, as the Mets beat the two time reigning World Champion Cincinnati Big Red Machine 8-0. It was to be Tom Seaver's last start at Shea Stadium in a Mets uniform until 1983. It was his last win as a Met in that time as well. The trade, known as the Midnight Massacre was just eight days away.

Trivia: On that night Tom Seaver beat Reds pitcher; Pat Zachary, one of the players he would be later traded for.

The Mets were still in last place (22-31) & 11.5 games out of first place. That would be the closest they were to first place for the remainder of the year. Torre's Mets would finish last 64-98 a full 37 games back.

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