Jul 31, 2021

Jon Matlack: Mets Hall of Fame Inductee (Part One : 1971-1973)

Jonathan Trumpbour Matlack was born on January 19, 1950 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The tall six foot three, left hander, was one of eight children to Ralph Russell & Marcella Trumpbour Matlack.

His middle name, is a tribute his mothers maiden name, honoring the family's Dutch ancestry that dates back to Saugerties, New York in the 1700's.

He was another good pitching prospect developed by the Mets in the late 1960s, early 1970s period.

#1 Draft Pick: He was the Mets 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, Jon Matlack was going 14-7 at AAA Tidewater. He followed up in 1970 with a 12-11 season striking out 146 batters in 183 innings. 

1971 Season: In 1971 Matlack was 11-7, tied for third in wins with Don Rose, behind Jim Bibby (15) & Buzz Capra (13). That's 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, 1971 in Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. He pitched seven innings, allowing two runs, while earning no decision in the Mets 5-3 loss. Matlack went 0-3 as he settled into 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. 

On July 28th, would lose to the Cardinals again, this time at Shea Stadium. He 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.

Rookie of the Year Season: In 1972, Matlack 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 in a shut out of the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium, earning his first career win.

He then went right into the Mets starting rotation, making a start on April 28th, in Los Angeles, beating the Dodgers, with a complete game, six hit, one run performance.

Next, On May 10th, beat the Giants in San Francisco to get to 3-0. He then took a no decision in a 4-3  Mets win over the Dodgers, where he went head to head with Al Downing, as Teddy Martinez won the game with a walk off single.

On May 15th, he beat the Montreal Expos, pitching into the 9th inning. On May 20th, he followed with a complete game, 3-1 victory over the Phillies, at Veterans Stadium. He beat Woodie Fryman in that game, to get to 5-0. 

On May 30th, he pitched a three hit shutout against the Phillies at Shea Stadium besting his record to 6-0 with an ERA at 1.95. 

But then he had a tough June going 2-4, although he only allowed two earned runs or less three times in six outings. On June 4th, he earned his first loss, as the Braves nailed him for five runs.

On July 12th, Matlack pitched a four hit shutout, against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium, beating Sudden Sam McDowell, striking out a season high, nine batters. 

 He then suffered two tough no decisions, the first was a nine inning, one run performance, where his run was unearned, at Dodger Stadium. L.A. won the game on a walk off HR by Frank Robinson.

On July 22nd, in San Francisco,  Matlack had an eighth inning, one run performance, but the Mets lost the game on a Danny Frisella wild pitch. 

On July 27th, he tossed a ten inning, four hit, shutout against the reigning World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. He out dueled, Nelson Briles, as The Mets won it on Wayne Garrett's 9th inning sac fly, in the first game of a double header. The Rookie was holding a 2.08 ERA at that point, impressing everyone.

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 was 1-3 with three no decisions. That win came on August 21st at Shea, beating the Astros in a complete game 4-2 victory, where he struck out eight. It was his 11th win of the season.

On September 4th, at Wrigley Field, the Mets were shut out by Fergie Jenkins. Matlack allowed HRs to Ron Santo & Carman Fanzone, as he tied his season high 9 Ks. 

After that, he would win three straight games. On September 8th, in the first of two at Shea, he allowed 12 hits but still beat the Cards 8-2. On September 13th, the Phillies knocked him out by the 4th inning, as he gave up five runs (four earned) at Veterans Stadium. 

On September 18th, he out dueled Nelson Briles with a 1-0 complete game shut out, over the first place Pirates. The Mets won the game on Duffy Dyer's walk off single scoring Rusty Staub. Next was a complete game victory at Philadelphia, where the Phils scored three unearned runs

MLB Trivia:
On the last day of the 1972 season, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Matlack went into the history books. 
In the 4th inning, he served up a double to Roberto Clemente. It was 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. Clemente was delivering supplies to earthquake victims on Nicaragua.

Matlack had met Clemente prior to the 1972 season, while the two were playing winter ball in San Juan. 

Clemente invited some of the American Players, including Matlack to his home. Matlack was in awe, as Celemente showed them one of his huge bats in his trophy room.

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.




Rookie of Year Award: 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 1972 season 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 most in the NL), while throwing eight complete games and posting 169 strikeouts (tenth most in the NL) pitching in 244 innings, walking 71 batters.

1973 Mets Pennant Season:
I
n the 1973 Mets pennant season, Matlack like the rest of the team struggled at the start. On April 7th, he started in the second game of the season beating the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2. He allowed 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 a loss in Houston, he fell to 1-3, then beat the Braves in Atlanta, in a seven inning two run performance, where he struck out nine. On May 3rd, the Big Red Machine got him for five runs in a 6-5 loss.

Hit In the Head With A Line Drive: On May 8th, at Shea Stadium in a game against Atlanta, Braves, Matlack suffered a horrible blow.

In the top of the 7th inning, with two men on & the Mets leading 3-1, Shortstop Marty Perez lined a shot back to the mound, that hit Matlack in the fore head. He fell to the ground, the liner fractured his skull. 

The play resulted in a double that tied the game.  Matlack was carried off the field in a stretcher and it was feared his season was over, or maybe even worse. 

Incredibly, after suffering the horrible injury,  Matlack returned to the mound eleven days later.

Return to the Mound: On May 19th, he threw six shut out innings at Shea Stadium, shutting down the Pirates. The Mets lost the game 4-1.

After two losses on the West Coast & another in Cincinnati, 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 4-2, then beat Steve Arlin & the Padres 5-2, as both games were complete game wins. He then lost two games & saw his ERA go over four.

The Mets were still struggling, mostly due to injuries of their key players. 

On June 10th, he went at it with the Cubs, Burt Hooton, at Shea Stadium. Matlack winning the 2-1 pitchers duel, as George "the Stork" Theodore's fielders choice was the difference as Ken Boswell scored.

One Hitter: On July 10th, in front of just under twenty thousand fans at Shea, Matlack 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. It was the first of two Mets career one hitters he would toss. I was the tenth one hitter in Mets history.

 For the rest of his month went 0-4, giving up six runs twice & two runs or less the other two outings.

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 3rd, he struck out a season high 11, in a complete game win over the Cards. 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 difference was Jerry Grote's RBI single.

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.

After a no decision, where he struck out 10 ore batters, he won two more games in August, a 12-1 walloping of the Reds & then an 8-6 win, with the help of some run support, against the Padres. 

September Pennant Run: 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. Matlack pitched into the 9th inning, with 7 Ks.

Tug McGraw helped out with the save, getting Mike Jorgensen to ground into a double play.. 

 Five days later on September 12th, he etched out a 3-2 win beating Wayne Twitchell in Philadelphia striking out nine Phillies. At this point the Mets were just 2.5 games out of first in a five team race.

On September 18th, at Three Rivers Stadium, the Mets were down 4-1, when they rallied for five runs in the top of the 9th inning, helping Matlack from taking a loss against the first place Pirates. 

The win brought the Mets again to 2.5 games of Pittsburgh, but the Expos & Cardinals were also ahead of them. 

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

On September 30th, after four days of rain, the Mets went to Wrigley Field for a twin bill, with a chance to clinch the division.

In the first game , Matlack lost a 1-0 heart breaker when Ron Santo singled home Dave Rosello in the 8th inning with the winning run. Rick Reushel & Bob Locker held down the Mets.

The Mets clinched the division winning the second game of the double header &  then the first game of a scheduled twin bill the next day at Wrigley.

1973 Stats: 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 angered the Reds and led to the Harrelson/ Rose bench clearing brawl in Game three.

1973 World Series: 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.

1 comment:

Little Met in Brooklyn,1973 said...

JT Matlack is probably the best farmhand the Mets ever bred,step by step. His 1973 late/post season performance was almost Koufaxian,except for Game7 of the WS. Sadly,a fatal exception.The law of averages catches up with everyone,and with his third start (second on three-days rest) G7 was the breaking point.Nonetheless,a memorable run,not possible without him.