Jon Matlack re-lives iconic World Series near-miss before entering Mets Hall of Fame

On Saturday at Citi Field, the Mets will revive their Hall of Fame – induction-free since 2013 – after they elect infielder Edgardo Alfonzo and pitchers Ron Darling and Jon Matlack in a ceremony previous to the workforce’s evening recreation towards the Reds. The late, nice Al Jackson additionally will obtain a “Mets Hall of Fame Achievement Award” for his contributions to the group. Fans are inspired to be seated by 6:45 for the beginning of the ceremony, which was initially scheduled for final yr before COVID-19 saved crowds away.

Last week, I spoke with Matlack, the oldest of the honorees, about his honor. Here is a calmly edited transcript of our dialog in Q&A mode a la Steve Serby, solely with out the three dinner company.

Q. Congratulations on getting within the Mets Hall of Fame. When did they notify you? Was it early final yr, before the pandemic?

A. Yeah, I can’t inform you the precise date, however I can inform you I used to be driving down the highway in my automotive and I obtained a cellphone name. I answered it hands-free within the automotive. A feminine voice stated, “Can you hold for Fred Wilpon?” and I stated, ‘I certainly can,’ and I practically drove off the highway. I needed to pull over actual fast so I may communicate to Mr. Wilpon with out altering lanes with out interested by it.

Q. That’s a beautiful name. That’s nice. Could you simply inform me what it means to be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame?

A. It’s very particular. I can’t inform you it was one thing that was anticipated. It’s a humbling expertise that I’m very grateful it’s taken place.

Q. You had been drafted fourth general in 1967, which is fairly good. Growing up in West Chester, Penn., had been you a Phillies fan? What had been your baseball loyalties?

A. I had no baseball loyalties, and in all actuality, I used to be a doer, not a watcher. The solely man I watched when it was potential was (Sandy) Koufax, and it was uncommon that I obtained to see a recreation televised that he was pitching. I most likely noticed possibly 5 – 6 big-league video games before I really performed in a single.

Jon Matlack pitches for the Mets in 1976.
Jon Matlack pitches for the Mets in 1976.
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Q. Wow. Game of the Week, World Series, stuff like that?

A. It was very rare. My buddies and I, we had been all the time out enjoying one thing. If it wasn’t baseball season, it was basketball or soccer or one thing. But we had been all the time concerned in a sport someplace, and I wasn’t a watcher. I used to be a man who went and did it.

Q. Do you bear in mind a lot concerning the draft? Obviously it was a distinct universe. Nowadays there could be all of the hypothesis about who’s choosing who, however did you’ve gotten a way you’ll go that top?

A. I didn’t. We had been discussing – the household, my dad and I – what choices could be finest for me and determined that if I had been picked pretty excessive, signing would most likely be OK and if I wasn’t, that I ought to take one of the scholarship presents that I needed to college and see the place that led us. And I used to be at commencement follow really, out on the soccer discipline, when my baseball coach Charlie Perrone got here working down by the stands and out throughout the sector (saying), ‘You’ve been picked!’ to provide me the information. It was actually enjoyable.

Q. That’s nice. Do you bear in mind how a lot your signing bonus was? 

A. My signing bonus was a grand complete of $63,000, and that’s the primary time I’ve spoken it to anyone. Well, publicly, anyway.

Q. (For) 1967, that’s not dangerous….Had you dedicated to a school on the time?

A. I hadn’t actually dedicated, however I had presents from Wake Forest, University of Alabama. Actually had an appointment to (go to) West Point, which I most likely wouldn’t have taken as a result of it was going to be 9 years out of my skilled profession, if there was going to be one, before I’d also have a shot at it. …There was a man from the Phillies, I neglect his title now, he was a scout, who needed me to inform those that I used to be committing to highschool or that I used to be going to go to highschool as a result of I assume he thought that I used to be going to go greater than I did. They had been hoping to maintain me within the draft till it obtained round to them (the 14th choose). But it went the way in which it went. 

From left: Jon Matlack, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman.
From left: Jon Matlack, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman.
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Q. What is your favourite Mets reminiscence?

A. Oh, golly, it’s arduous to choose one, however I assume if I needed to, it could most likely be Game 2 of the (National League) Championship Series towards Cincinnati (in 1973). 

Q. A shutout, proper? An entire-game shutout?

A. Yeah. Following on the heels of the game (Tom) Seaver pitched the day before, placing out (13) guys. He pitched phenomenally. He gave up two solo residence runs, one to (Pete) Rose, one to (Johnny) Bench, we lose 2 to 1, and I chart that recreation as a result of I’m pitching the subsequent day. I look over that factor, I stated “I don’t know how you do any better than he just did.” And then it was type of a frightening feeling coming into that subsequent day. It made it very particular to have the ability to compete in addition to I did on that day.

Q. What was the important thing that day?

A. I don’t know. It was type of the way in which I attempted to strategy most video games, which was a single pitch at a time. Looking for pleasant contact and an out. Trying to make high quality pitches, get suggestions from the hitter, repeat the method and simply keep within the second. I used to be in a position to try this. Rusty Staub instructed me before the sport, he stated, ‘I’ve obtained a inform on (Reds starter Don) Gullet. Before the day is over, I’m gonna get him. You hold this shut.” And darned if he didn’t do it (with a solo homer within the fourth)

Q. So the way in which issues fall within the NLCS, that units you as much as begin Games 1, 4 and seven of the World Series. As we’re speaking now, 48 years after that World Series, what dominates your ideas about that World Series?

Jon Matlack pitches in Game 4 of the 1973 World Series.
Jon Matlack pitches in Game 4 of the 1973 World Series.
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A. The finish of the season and the playoffs had been extra nerve-wracking. Being within the World Series was, I wouldn’t say it was a stroll within the park by any stretch, however it was extra enjoyable than it was nerve-wracking. Looking again on it, I don’t know if there’s loads I’d change. I hung a curveball to Reggie (Jackson) in Game 7 that you simply most likely may have hit out. I tip my hat to Campy (Bert Campaneris) as a result of he hit a fairly good curveball the opposite approach for a house run in the identical recreation. And that just about turned that one round. The relaxation of the time, Felix (Millan) makes an error in the first game, however I quit the hit to (A’s beginning pitcher Ken) Holtzman of all individuals, that (units up the successful rally). So if I get Holtzman out, …who is aware of what occurs in that recreation? We could win that one. I don’t know. The strangest factor about that sequence was I felt like we outplayed them for six video games and solely gained three of them. Game 7, they had been equal to the duty, they got here to complete the job. I wasn’t in a position to maintain them down. That was the way in which it went.

Q. Would you agree that ‘74 was your finest yr, personally?

A. Yeah. Hands down. Hands down. ‘74 was as good as I can be, I think, throughout the course of the season. A lot of innings. A lot of complete games, shutouts. Very few home runs. It was my best effort all-told, I’d must say, however it didn’t pan out in wins and losses. When it got here time to barter a contract, that’s what the Mets pointed to: “Hey, you’ve got to win more games.” I stated, “It takes more than just me to win the ballgame.” It was an attention-grabbing dialog.

Q. So fast-forward, the commerce (during which) you went from the Mets to the Rangers was a blockbuster. Bert Blyleven, Al Oliver. Just an insane commerce, proper?

A. Yeah, completely loopy. Four groups, 11 gamers. They had been all over. It was very, very, very bizarre and I used to be completely blindsided by the truth that, now it’s a enterprise. It’s now not loyalty and all that sort of stuff. If you had requested me to call one participant on the Texas Rangers the evening I obtained traded, I may not have been in a position to do it.

Q. That was after the ‘77 season. Obviously they traded Tom in ‘77. Clearly they had been going to lose for just a few years. You nonetheless had been disenchanted to depart the Mets at that time? 

A. Absolutely. I used to be a bit vocal through the yr…I don’t bear in mind the precise timing, however what I used to be attempting to (convey) was, “We have a good nucleus here of pitching and defense. If we can generate a few more runs, we’re going to win a lot more ball games.” And I talked a bit bit about that to some of the press, and I feel the entrance workplace took that as me being disgruntled…I used to be requested that immediately by the entrance workplace and I instructed them no, I used to be simply on the lookout for further help and that’s what I used to be voicing. It should have fallen on deaf ears or they thought they had been getting the higher finish of the deal. I don’t know….The approach it was offered to me on the cellphone was, (Mets normal supervisor) Joe McDonald known as and stated, “I’ve got good news and bad news. We’ve made a trade. The good news is we’ve obtained Willie Montanez and the bad news is we traded you to get him.”

Q. And then you definately had some fairly good years in Texas, too. You weren’t carried out.

A. No. I felt like I did OK down there. It was a distinct ambiance. First yr, I did very properly. Second yr got here up with bone chips and had some points there. The strike yr (1981) was a troublesome yr, I used to be a participant rep and we had been out for 80-some-odd days. But it was sizzling, it was completely different. The league was completely different. The strike zone was completely different. You weren’t dealing with the pitcher. The technique was completely different. Certain changes wanted to be made.

Q. What connection do you’re feeling to the Mets group as you put together for this final honor?

A. It’s an excellent connection. I spent loads of years there. I obtained drafted there at 17 and was there by 27. I used to be with them for 10 years. It took me some time to search out my approach by the system and get to the massive leagues, however I feel it was an apprenticeship properly spent as a result of after I obtained there, I used to be ready for what was coming. Put in a bunch of different guys who had been in a position to assist me by some of the tough spots. It was an excellent expertise and I’m very grateful I used to be in a position to have it.

Q. Now you’ll get your day within the solar.

A. That’s a bit extra nerve-wracking than dealing with the Reds. 

Thanks to Jon Matlack for his time. Here’s betting he overcomes his anxieties to crush his speech.


This week’s Pop Quiz query got here from Anthony Piantieri of Riverdale: When Sonny beats up Carlo within the 1972 basic movie “The Godfather,” a ballgame could be heard on the radio. What legendary participant is up at bat?


Baseball podcasts don’t get any higher than Major League Beginnings, a easy premise executed flawlessly: Hosts Mark Sweeney (the previous big-league participant), Mike Pomeranz (a broadcaster) and Barry Axelrod (a longtime participant agent) chat with former massive leaguers about their careers, with a give attention to their beginnings. I just lately listened to the dialog with Bret Saberhagen who, along with discussing how he made it massive with the Royals, was characteristically forthright about his time with the Mets.


Your Pop Quiz reply is Joe DiMaggio. If you’ve gotten a tidbit that connects baseball with well-liked tradition, please ship it to me at kdavidoff@nypost.com.

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