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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday …Jon Matlack

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In the 90’s the Braves had their big 3 of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz well the Mets had their big 3 in the early 70’s of Seaver, Koozman and Matlack.

Jon Matlack compiled 1,023 strikeouts and a 3.03 earned run average as one of the “Big Three” pitchers the New York Mets were built around in the 1970s, along with Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. Unfortunately, the Mets were also a light hitting team at the time,and his 82–81 record is not nearly indicative of how well he pitched for the club.

Rookie of the Year

Matlack’s best minor league season was 1968, when he went 13–6 with a 2.76 ERA for the Raleigh-Durham Mets of the Carolina League. During his fifth season in the Mets’ farm system, Matlack debuted with the Mets in the second game of a July 11, 1971double header with the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched seven innings, and left the game with a 3–2 lead, however, Tug McGraw and Tom Seaver were unable to close the game. For the season, Matlack went 0–3 with a 4.14 ERA in seven appearances (six starts). His finest pitching performance was his last, when he gave up just one run in eight innings of work against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Matlack made the team out of spring training 1972, and got off to a 6–0 start with a 1.95 ERA in the first two months of the season. He ended the season with a 15–10 record and 2.32 ERA to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. On September 30, he gave up Roberto Clemente‘s 3000th, and final, career hit.

On May 8, 1973, a vicious line drive off the bat of Marty Perez of the Atlanta Braves struck Jon’s head so hard that the ball rebounded into the dugout. Matlack suffered a hairline fracture of his skull, but recovered quickly enough to return and pitch six shutout innings at Pittsburgh on May 19. He ended up winning 14 games for the division champion Mets.

1973 NLCS & World Series

Matlack’s record dipped to 14–16 in 1973, however, he was 5–1 from August 18 on, helping the Mets capture the National League East crown. Perhaps his most memorable moment with the Mets occurred on October 7, 1973 when he held the “Big Red Machine” to just two hits in game two of the 1973 National League Championship Series. Both hits were by reserve outfielder Andy Kosco.

He was equally impressive in the 1973 World Series, giving up just three hits in six innings in game one of the World Series, however, the Oakland A’s scored two runs on a Félix Millán error in the third, and held on for the 2–1 victory. He won game four, giving up just one run in eight innings. However, he lost the seventh and decisive game of the series 5-2; in the third inning of that game, he gave up two-run home runs to both Bert Campaneris and Reggie Jackson—the only two home runs Oakland would hit the entire Series. His fast ball wasn’t working on account of pitching on only 3 days rest.

All-Star

Matlack was an All-Star for the Mets for the next three seasons, sharing MVP honors in the 1975 game with Bill Madlock.In 1976, Matlack went 17–10 with a 2.95 and a league leading six shutouts to finish sixth in N.L. Cy Young Award balloting.

In 1977, Matlack’s record dipped to 7–15 with a 4.21 earned run average (he had entered the season with a career ERA of 2.88) for a Mets team that lost 98 games and finished last in the N.L. East. Following the season, Matlack was included in an unusual four team off-season trade that sent him to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers sent Adrian Devine,Tommy Boggs, and Eddie Miller to the Atlanta Braves, a player to be named later and Tom Grieve to the Mets and Bert Blyleven to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets received Willie Montañez from the Braves, and sent John Milner to the Pirates. The Pirates sent Al Oliver and Nelson Norman to the Rangers. The Rangers later sent Ken Henderson(March 15, 1978) to the Mets to complete the trade.

Texas Rangers

Matlack went 15-13 with a 2.27 ERA (second to Ron Guidry) and earned his first career save his first season in Texas, however elbow surgery limited him to just thirteen starts in 1979. He rebounded to make 34 starts in 1980, one of which was on August 19, when he held George Brett, who was batting over .400, hitless, ending his thirty game hitting streak.

Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday…spotlights …Jon Matlack.

MLB debut
July 11, 1971 for the New York Mets
Last MLB appearance
September 15, 1983 for the Texas Rangers
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 125–126
Earned run average 3.18
Strikeouts 1,516
Teams
Career highlights and awards
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