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.

Mets Career: 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. 

On July 18th, he pitched against Al Santorini in St. Louis allowing five earned runs in 6.2 innings of work taking his first loss. 

On July 28th, he would take another loss to the Cardinals giving up three runs in 1.2 innings of work at Shea Stadium. 

Matlack spent another month down at AAA Tidewater before returning in September. In his last start of the year, he allowed just one run to the Pirates in eight innings of work but earned no decision. Bob Aspromone won the game with a walk off single.

In seven appearances he was 0-3 with a 4.14 ERA & ready for 1972. 

During spring training 1972 Mets manager Gil Hodges suddenly passed away from a fatal heart attack. The organization was devastated, Yogi Berra the popular choice was named manager. It seemed Matlack would become one of Yogi's personal favorites as he got to see him start off his brilliant career.

1972 Rookie of the Year Season: 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 3rd, although he gave up four runs, he beat the Giants 8-5 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 for nine innings. Teddy Martinez won the game with a walk off single.

On May 15th, he pitched 8.1 innings & 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, allowing just a run to get to 5-0. 

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

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 not getting out of the 3rd inning. On June 9th a botched pick off play led to a run & a two run HR by Larry Howard, as he took a loss to the Astros giving up three unearned runs. Over his next five games until early July, he went 2-3 but his ERA stayed under three at 2.81.

From July 12th through July 27th, he gave up just one earned run in four straight starts over 36 innings of work. In that time went 2-0 with two no decisions.

On July 12th, Matlack pitched a four-hit shutout, against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium, beating Sudden Sam McDowell, while striking out a season high, nine batters. He would match that total five times. Two tough no decisions followed, the first was a nine inning, one run performance, where his run was unearned, at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers 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. 

In the first game of a July 27th double header, Matlack tossed a ten inning, four hit, shutout against the reigning World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. He out dueled, Nelson Briles with the Mets winning it on Wayne Garrett's 9th inning sac fly. Matlack was posting a 2.08 ERA at that point, impressing everyone.

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, matching his season high 9 Ks. On September 8th, in the first game of a Shea twin bill, he allowed 12 hits but just two runs as he beat the Cardinals 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 the Pirates Nelson Briles in a 1-0 complete game shutout, over the first place Pirates. The Mets won the game on Duffy Dyer's walk off single scoring Rusty Staub.
In his next start, on September 23rd, he won a complete game victory at Philadelphia. He gave up three runs, but all were unearned.

Trivia- Roberto Clemente's 3000th Hit: On the last day of the 1972 season, in a game 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, both 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: In 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. The Mets won the game in the bottom of the 9th when Willie Mays singled in the walk off win against former Met Dick Selma.

On April 13th, on his second start he was beat up for six runs in just four innings of work, led by Deron Johnson's three run HR at Philadelphia.

On April 18th, he lost a 1-0 heart breaker to the Chicago Cubs as Ray Burris & Jack Aker shut out the Mets 1-0. After a loss in Houston, he fell to 1-3 with a 4.21 ERA.

On April 28th, he then beat the Braves in Atlanta, in a seven inning two run performance, where he struck out nine walking two. 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, in his return to the mound, Matlack threw six shutout innings at Shea Stadium, shutting striking out six Pirates. The Mets went on to lose the game 4-1 with Matlack getting a no decision.

On the West Coast Road trip, he lost games in Los Angeles & San Francisco. On June 4th, in Cincinnati Matlack walked a season high eight batters, & gave up four runs taking his eighth loss to find 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 & the Dodgers 4-2 allowing just a run in nine innings of work. Then on June 15th, he beat Steve Arlin & the Padres 5-2 in another complete game win. 

Matlack next lost two games giving up four runs to the Phillies & three runs to the Cubs. 

The reigning Rookie of the Year was now 4-10 in double figures in losses. The Mets were 30-35 nine games back of the Cubs in first place. Injuries had taken its toll on the team & it would be two more months before things turned around.

On June 30th at Wrigley Field, Matlack allowed just a run & struck out seven in a five hit complete game victory for his fifth win. In his next start on July 10th, he went at it with the Cubs, Burt Hooton, at Shea Stadium. Matlack came out on top in the 2-1 pitcher's duel, as George "the Stork" Theodore's fielder's choice was the difference as Ken Boswell scored.

One Hitter: On July 10th, in the first game of a twi-night double header with Houston at Shea Stadium, in front 19,942 fans, Matlack pitched a spectacular one hit 1-0 shutout against Jerry Ruess & the 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. It was the tenth one hitter thrown in Mets history up to that point.

Matlack lost his next four games, On July 15th, he gave up just two runs to the Reds in Cincinnati over seven innings but took his 11th loss of the year. His next two starts were terrible as he gave up five earned runs in each game to get to 7-13 on the year.

On July 30th in the first of a twin bill at Shea against the Expos, Matlack took another hard luck loss. He & Steve Rogers went eight shutout innings, until two former Mets won the game for Montreal Ron Hunt singled to start the inning & then Ken Singleton doubled in the only run of a 1-0 loss.

Then from August until the end of the year Matlack 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 eleven batters, in a complete game win over the Cardinals. 

Two Hit Shut Out: On August 8th, he struck out nine Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium, pitching a two-hit shutout in another 1-0 squeaker. Andy Messersmith held the Mets to just one run, with the difference being Jerry Grote's 2nd RBI single.

The only two Dodger hits that night, came from Willie Davis & Manny Mota. Mota's hit came in the fourth inning, then Matlack went on to retire the last 18 batters of the game.

On August 13th, he struck out ten batters giving up three runs in San Diego where he took another loss.

On August 18th, Matlack won his tenth game, coming in a 12-1 walloping of the Reds at Shea Stadium. The Mets collected sixteen hits in the game. His next win came at the end of August, where he got more run support as the Mets put up eight runs in the 8-6 win. 

In that game Tug McGraw earned his second save in as many games, after struggling mightily up until that week, he made his famous "You Gotta Believe" speech & would go on to save 12 straight games with four wins & no losses thru the regular season.

Mets September Pennant Run: In the final month the Mets team was healthy & they all came together at once, going 19-8 down the stretch, Matlack joined in, going 3-1 the rest of the way 

On September 7th, Matlack won yet another 1-0 game. This time beating former Mets prospect Steve Renko in Montreal. Matlack pitched into the 9th inning, striking out seven along the way.
Tug McGraw helped out with his 17th save, getting Mike Jorgensen to ground into a double play. Jorgensen also a former Met.

Five days later on September 12th, Matlack etched out a 3-2-win beating Wayne Twitchell in Philadelphia while striking out nine Phillies. At this point the Mets had moved up to just 2.5 games out of first place, although it was 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 in a no decision against the first place Pirates. 

The win brought the Mets back to 2.5 games of Pittsburgh, with the Expos & Cardinals ahead of them. 

On September 22nd, Matlack did all to eliminate the Cardinals from the pennant race, when he pitched a 2-0 four hit shut over St. Louis at Shea Stadium. That 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 in Chicago, the Mets were scheduled for a twin bill at
Wrigley Field, 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 for the winning run. Rick Reuschel & Bob Locker shut down the Mets scoreless.

The Mets clinched at least a tie for the division winning the second game of the double header. They then won the first game of another scheduled twin bill the next day at Wrigley. They did have to play the nightcap as they were NL Eastern Champs.

1973 Stats: Matlack 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. 

Quotes- Yogi Berra: Berra told NBC's Tony Kubek, during a pre-game World Series interview. that he would never trade Matlack away saying “my God, what a career he has ahead of him". 

1973 Post Season- NLCS: The Mets had lost Game #1 of the NLCS 2-1 to the Reds on a 9th inning walk off Johnny Bench HR off Tom Seaver. Matlack got the start in a very important Game #2. 

Matlack stepped up & 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, walking three at Riverfront Stadium. The win evened the Series to a game apiece. 

The Reds veteran, Andy Kosco, got both Reds hits & also drew a walk. Darrel Chaney also reached base twice, drawing two walks. Kosco & Chaney were the only Reds to reach base that day. Outfielder Cesar Geronimo struck out three times against Matlack.

For the Mets Rusty Staub homered in the 4th inning. In the top of the 9th, Cleon Jones collected an RBI single, Jerry Grote a two-run single & Bud Harrelson another RBI single for the Mets five runs.

 It was after Matlack's pitching performance that Bud Harrelson remarked to the press that the Reds “looked like me hitting out there” in that game. Those were the words that angered the Reds, especially Pete Rose looking to motivate his team. This was a lead up to the Harrelson/ Rose bench clearing brawl in Game three at Shea.

The Mets would win the series in five games, winning their second pennant five years.

1973 World Series: Matlack would get three starts in the 1973 World Series, pitching well in the first two. He was the starting pitcher in the opener at the Oakland Coliseum going up against Ken Holtzman & the defending World Champs. 

Matlack was outstanding going six innings, allowing two unearned runs, on just three hits against the mighty A's lineup. He struck out three and walked only two along the way.

In the 3rd inning, Oakland pitcher Ken Holtzman doubled to left field with two outs. Bert Campaneris then reached base on a Mets error, as a ground ball went under the usually sure handed Felix Millan's legs. 

Holtzman came around to score the first run. With Campy aboard, the American League's best base stealer, Matlack botched a pickoff attempt allowing him to move up to second base. Joe Rudi then drove in Campaneris in what turned out to be the games winning run, as the Mets lost the game 2-1.

Matlack came back to pitch Game #4 at Shea Stadium, with the Mets down in the series two games to one. On this night he would get plenty of run support, thanks to Rusty Staub’s big five RBI night in the Mets 6-1 win. Staub hit a three run HR off Ken Holtzman in the 1st inning. Matlack was fantastic again, allowing just 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 collect hits that night. 

Matlack also hit the pesky Bert Campaneris with two pitches, late in the game without any incidents taking place. This victory turned out to be the only World Series win in Matlack's career.

The Mets won Game #5 at Shea Stadium as well, with Jerry Koosman & Tug McGraw combining on a shutout. The Mets went back to Oakland needing one win leading the Series three games to two.

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

To this day it is one of long time Met fans biggest questions: Why didn't Yogi Berra start George Stone in Game #6? He would have had a rested Jerry Koosman as well as Tom Seaver ready to go in Game #7 if needed! But things didn't turn out that way.

Seaver took the loss in Game #6 as Catfish Hunter shut the Mets offense down in the 3-1 loss.

Matlack took the mound on Sunday afternoon in Oakland for the deciding Game #7. It turned out to be his worst post season outing, as he allowed four runs on four hits in 2.3 innings pitched. He gave up the big HRs to Reggie Jackson & Bert Campaneris taking the 5-2 loss.

Post Season Stats: 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 twenty batters & walked eight in his only postseason appearance.

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


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