Mar 2, 2020

Jack DiLauro: Former Italian / American 1969 World Champion Mets Pitcher (1969)

Jack Edward DiLauro was born May 3, 1943 at Akron, Ohio. At high school DiLauro was a star baseball, basketball & football player.

The six foot two, left hander then attended the University of Akron, where he was signed by the Detroit Tigers. He was also offered a pro football contract as well, but chose baseball instead. 

While in the Tigers organization in the late sixties, DiLauro pitched for the AAA Toledo Mud Hens, located within two hours of his home at Akron. In those days his family & friends would make the short drive over to Toledo to watch him pitch. DiLauro went 6-5 in 1967 as the Mud Hen’s won the Governors Cup. 

In 1968 he was 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA as the Mud Hens won the league pennant. That season the big league club Detroit Tigers won the World Series, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. The Tigers pitching staff seemed set for the next few years with guys like;  Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Earl Wilson, Joe Sparma & John Hiller. 

DiLauro was the odd man out & would not be around with the Tigers the next season. In December of 1968 he was traded to the New York Mets for catcher Hector Valle, who never caught a big league game with the Mets or the Tigers.

In 1969, DiLauro was the oldest Mets rookie at age 26, on a very young staff. When he first arrived with the Mets he thought his situation was even worse than in Detroit. He never thought he’d crack the talented pitching staff in New York with the young arms of; Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman & Gary Gentry.

He began the season at AAA Tidewater going 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA in the first month of the season. In early May when Nolan Ryan was put on the disabled list, DeLauro got the call up to the big leagues. He made his MLB debut on May 15th 1969 at Shea Stadium pitching in relief of Cal Koonce, throwing two scoreless innings in a 6-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves. 

He got his first start on June 4th at Shea Stadium against the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching nine scoreless innings allowing just two hits. At one stretch during the game he retired 19 straight batters. He got no decision but earned a standing ovation from the Shea Faithful as he walked off the mound. The Mets won the game in the bottom of the 15th inning. 

He got two starts in mid June, taking losses in both of them. The first was in Los Angeles, allowing three runs in seven innings of work & the other at home, getting shut out 2-0 by Nelson Briles & the St. Louis Cardinals.

DiLauro earned his only Mets victory at Jarry Park in Montreal, on July 20th pitching the in the 10th inning in the second game of a double header. The Mets beat the Expos when Bobby Pfiel singled home Ron Swoboda for the winning run.

He would continue to pitch in relief through August & September. On September 3rd, he came in to a tie game at Los Angeles & gave up a walk off double to Willie Davis in a 5-4 loss. 

DiLauro appeared in 23 games overall for the 1969 Amazing Mets. He got four starts on the year, going 1-4 throwing 63 innings, allowing only 17 earned runs good enough for a 2.40 ERA. That ERA is one of the Mets All Time best for pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.

His last Mets game was on the final day of the regular season, as he did not appear in the post season. DiLauro felt he didn't get a chance with Gil Hodges & later said he was never comfortable around him. 

 Ed Sullivan Show: DiLauro appeared on the Ed Sullivan show with the World Champion 1969 Mets & actually did an impersonation of Ed Sullivan himself that night; it was one of his personal proudest moments. The Mets sang "You Gotta Have Heart" as a team dressed out of uniform in plain clothes. The musical guest that night was the band Smith, fronted by beautiful singer Gayle Smith. They did a fantastic version of "Baby It's You".

He got dropped from the roster when the season ended in order to protect many of the fine young & upcoming Mets minor league prospects. DiLauro wasn’t protected & was picked up by the Houston Astros that December. 

In 1970 DiLauro went 1-3 with a 4.28 ERA for the Astros before landing back in the minor leagues. In 1971 he was traded along with Tug McGraw’s brother Hank, to the Atlanta Braves organization but would never pitch in the big leagues again.

 He would retire at the age of 29, ending his brief two year MLB career at 2-7 with a 3.05 ERA. He struck out 50 batters & walked 35 in 97 innings pitched in 65 appearances.

 Retirement: Years after his playing days he told sports writer Maury Allen, he was bitter about baseball. He felt he had been used, made no money & found himself at age 29 with nowhere to go. He regrets not getting along with his managers & the front office. 

He said there was hardly a day that went by that he didn't think about being part of the 1969 Mets. 

DiLauro went on to work for the Koenig Sporting Goods Store in Akron Ohio, becoming district manager for 31 of their stores. He was elected to the Greater Akron Hall of Fame & still lives there in a lakefront home. He has appeared at baseball card shows honoring the 1969 Mets.

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