Aug 16, 2020

Skip Lockwood: Mid & Late Seventies Mets Closer (1975-1979)

Claude Edward Lockwood Jr. was born August 17, 1946 in Roslindale, Massachusetts located just outside the Boston area.

The six foot one right hander, was originally a third baseman signed out of West Roxbury high school, where he earned 14 letters. Lockwood’s 14 yard dash school record still stands, since 1964.

He signed as a bonus baby with the Kansas City Athletics, and was brought up to the major leagues the next season as an infielder. He only had 33 at bats striking out eleven times batting .121. 

Lockwood was drafted away by the Houston Astros in 1967, but then got sent back to the Athletics organization, where he was converted to a pitcher in 1968. He was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the 1968 expansion draft, becoming a Seattle Pilot in their only year of existence.

MLB Career: He came up to the team at the end of August taking a loss to the Chicago White Sox in his first outing. In six games he was 0-1 on the year with a .352 ERA. In 1970 the Pilots franchise moved to Milwaukee, there Lockwood began his career as a starting pitcher. In 1970 he had a rough year going 5-12 with a 4.30 ERA, allowing 23 HRs in 173 innings pitched.

In four seasons in Milwaukee, he posted losing records every year with twelve or more losses in each season. In 1971 he had his best year as a starter, going 10-15 (10th most losses in the league) with a 3.60 ERA. Lockwood struck out 115 batters pitching in 208 innings, both career highs.

After going 8-15 in 1972 he spent some time as a reliever in 1973, which was his last year with the Brewers. He was 5-12 with a 3.90 ERA, pitching in over 154 innings. 

On October 22, 1973, Lockwood was traded along with Ellie Rodriguez, Ollie Brown, & Joe Lahoud, to the California Angels for Ken Berry, Clyde Wright, Steve Barber, & Art Kusnyer.

Angels Career: In his first season in California he was converted to a full time relief pitcher at a time when the spot was becoming more prominent in the game. The last place Angles had nine different pitchers who recorded saves that year & Lockwood earned one himself. On the year he was 2-5 with a save, four blown saves, one hold & a 4.32 ERA in 37 appearances.

That off season he was sent to the A.L. New York team for former Met Bill Sudakis, but got released in April of 1975. He signed with the Oakland A’s at the start of the 1975 season but was released once again.

Mets Career: At the end of July he had his contract purchased by the New York Mets. In August of 1975 Lockwood made his Mets debut, and pitched in both ends of a doubleheader loss to the Montreal Expos. 

He earned his first Mets win at Shea Stadium on August 11th, pitching five shutout innings against the San Diego Padres. A month later on September 15th, he earned his first Mets save against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium. Lockwood was used in 24 games that year going 1-3 with two saves, posting an impressive 1.49 ERA.

Bicentennial Year: In 1976 Lockwood was a pleasant surprise out of the Mets pen, taking over the wide open closer role, which was still being referred to as a fireman in those days. Since the departure of Tug McGraw in 1974, Bob Apodaca had taken over in that role but got injured & was never that effective. Pitcher Rick Baldwin who was also considered for the role, never developed like the Mets had hoped, and Lockwood soon became the guy.

In May of 1976 he started out the month with six saves and a win under his belt posting a 1.88 ERA. He came back to go through June & most of July without a losing decision.

On August 1st, the Phillies Gary Maddox singled in the top of the 11th inning to beat Lockwood & the Mets 7-6. He suffered another loss the next day allowing three runs to the Montreal Expos. 

But from there through the end of the season he saved nine games and went 4-0 with just one blown save in 19 appearances.

In the bicentennial year the Mets finished in third place at 86-76. he became one of the league’s best relievers; posting 19 saves (2nd best in the N.L.) winning ten games (10-7). He struck out 108 batters with 34 walks in 94 innings with a 2.67 ERA.

In 1977 he was established as the team's leading fireman. He saved four games in April but then suffered three losses ending May at 0-3. Lockwood had a big month of June saving eight games going 1-1, although he allowed ten runs in twenty innings pitched. In July he saved five games, with two losses coming in a three game series at San Diego mixed in between streaks of two & then three straight saves.

There weren't too many more save opportunities for the 1977 Mets who finished last, Lockwood earned just three saves in all of August & September. On the season he would save 20 games (5th in the NL), while setting a club record with 67 appearances. He posted a 3.38 ERA striking out 84 batters with 31 walks in 104 innings, posting a 4-8 record on a poor Mets ball club. 

Lockwood became the Mets Union Player Representative by mid 1977, after Tom Seaver who formerly held the position, was traded away. Lockwood spoke out on free agency saying that if salaries are made public, certain other players might question if another player is worth more to a team than they are.

In 1978 he saved five games in the month of April then followed up with four wins in the month of May. In July he posted five more saves but also was credited with three losses. He was shut down early on in September with an injury.

On the season he saved 15 games (8th in the NL) for another poor Mets team that won just 66 games (66-96). Lockwood posted a 3.57 ERA with 73 strike outs & 31 walks. He also tied for the league lead with 13 relief losses going 7-13. That year Lockwood gave up more HRs than usual, allowing ten in 90 innings pitched.

He started out 1979 well, although his 0-5 record in mid May did not show it. He had six saves up to that point & held his ERA at just under two. In mid June, he suffered arm trouble and was done for the season.

He finished up 1979 with nine saves, going 2-5 with a 1.49 ERA, striking out 42 batters in 42 innings making 27 appearances . In the off season he was fed up with the Mets organization & signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox.

Mets All Time Leader: In five seasons with the Mets he had saved 65 games, putting him at tenth on the Mets All Time list. He is 21st in appearances with 227. He led the club in both saves & appearances four years in a row, from 1976-1979.

 In his Mets years he was 24-36 pitching in 227 games (18th on the Mets al time list) striking out 368 batters with 135 walks. 

About Tom Seaver: Its hard to capture what Tom Seaver meant to me. He was the poster boy for baseball in New York. His preparation for the game was very different  than anybody else I had ever met. he was so intense & so thorough. He had a book on hitters as to how to get them out. I didn't even have a book. He was the guy I tried to model myself after & I was a veteran player at the time."

Post Mets Career: In Boston he posted a 5.32 ERA in 24 games but his arm was finished and he retired by April 1980.

In a twelve season career Lockwood was 57-97 with 68 saves, pitching in 420 Games with 106 Starts, 16 Complete Games, five Shutouts, 68 Saves, 219 games finished (207th all time), 829 Strikeouts, 490 walks & a 3.55 ERA over 1236 innings.

Education: During his baseball career, Lockwood earned a college degree at Emerson College. After baseball the always intelligent Lockwood, went to MIT and earned a Masters degree.

Trivia: Skip is also an accomplished candlepin bowler. Candlepin bowling is a variation of bowling that is played in several New England states, as well as Canada.

Family: In 2010 his wife Kathleen released a highly acclaimed book called Major League Bride. It focuses on the struggles of a baseball player’s wife in the world of Major League baseball. 

Quotes- Nancy Seaver: “Thank you Kathy for taking the time to document the life of a baseball wife with dignity, humor and fondness.”

Skip's Book: In 2018 he authored a book "Insight Pitch- My Life As a MLB Closer". Lockwood said- I wanted to write a different book, not your standard baseball memoir. The book is more about visualization & preparation. What I would like the reader to take away is that as a metaphor for other things that you do in your like, this nook can be the stepping stone to how you think about those things.".

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