Remembering Mets History: (Opening Day 1981) Lee Mazzilli & Rusty Staub HRs Lead Mets To Opening Day Victory

April 9th 1981: The New York Mets began the 1981 season in front of 37,030 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. 

Manager Joe Torre & the Mets were coming off another bad season, going 67-95 & finishing fifth. It was the teams fourth straight losing season.

In the off season the Mets had signed veteran Rusty Staub. He was popular Mets player from the 1973 NL Championship team. 

Although Staub was in the twi-light of his career, he was still a fine hitter. He would become one of the games best pinch hitters over the next few years. 

Also that winter the Mets traded away Steve Henderson, who had come over in the Tom Seaver trade & got back slugger Dave Kingman.

1981 would be a strike shortened season, being split two ways in the standings. The Mets finished fifth going 17-34 in the first half & then 24-28 in the second half, finishing fourth.

Starting Lineups

The Mets sent Pat Zachry to the mound, (6-10 with a 3.01 ERA in 1980) against Joey Amalfitano's Cubs, & pitcher Rick Reuschel. (In 1980 he fell to 11-13 leading the NL in hits allowed & complete games).

All the scoring in this game came in the top of the 4th inning, from the two most popular figures on this Mets team. Lee Mazzilli led off the inning with a solo shot making it 1-0. After Dave Kingman struck out, Rusty Staub homered to make it 2-0.

Dave Kingman then went down on strikes. Next Rusty Staub batting in the fifth spot hit a HR of his own. Staub would bat .317 in 70 games that year.

Trivia: 1981 would be Mazzilli's last year in his first time around with the Mets. In 95 games he would bat .228 with 6 HRs & 34 RBIs. He was traded to the Texas Rangers for Ron Darling. In 70 games Staub would bat .317 with 5 HRs & 21 RBIs.

It was all the Mets needed as they went on to the 2-0 win.

Zachry pitched 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing six hits with four walks & one strike out. 

Tom Hausman relieved him finishing off the 6th inning. The fine young reliever; Neil Allen then pitched three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit earning the save.

1981 suffered from a two month Players strike (June -August). The season was split into two parts with the Mets finishing fifth & fourth. Overall a fifth place (41-62) finish.

Trivia: Pat Zachry would lead the NL with 14 losses that year going 7-14. Niel Allen would go 7-6 with 18 saves &a 2.97 ERA in 43 appearances.

That year the Mets were lucky to have future Hall of Famer & St. Louis Cardinal great Bob Gibson on hand as a coach.

Coaches Rube Walker, Bob Gibson & Manager Joe Torre


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