Jon Matlack Mets unsung hero of pennant team of 1973

mets-jon-matlack-felix-millan-ron-swobodaCatching up with former Retired Mets 1972 Rookie of the year winner Jon Matlack at the Baseball Assistance Team Dinner in NYC. His first year in Texas, Matlack was 15-13 with a respectable 2.27 ERA. In 1979 he had surgery to repair his left elbow. Matlack was part of the negotiating committee during baseball’s strike in 1981. After that, he found his role reduced. He has always wondered if it was a backlash for being part of the committee. The Rangers released him in 1983. His career record is a surprising 125 – 126. His pitching career ended at the young age of 33. He is currently the pitching coordinator for the Houston Astros, he has fond memories of 1973 pennant winning team and his former manager Yogi Berra who is being honored tonight by BAT.”Yogi was a players manager and a great man to play for Im very honored to have played for him”.
Early in his retirement, Matlack tried commercial real estate and then raising horses in Texas. He quickly got bored, and felt the urge to resume his life in baseball. He sent out resume’s in 1988, and was hired by the Padres as a pitching coach for the rookie league team. He has been in baseball ever since.

An interesting story from Matlack recollecting the ‘tense moments’ of the final days of Spring Training for the NY Mets in 1972: “when he counted the lockers that still had uniforms in them to see if he had made the 25-man roster. ‘I finished counting and gave a little fist pump and Gil Hodges had walked through the door and caught me,’ Matlack says. “He said, ‘That’s right, kid, you made it.’ He died a few days later.”

Matlack went on to win the 1972 Rookie of the Year award, and was All Star Co-MVP in 1975.

Matlack was the pitcher that served up Roberto Clemente’s final hit…#3,000. Says Matlack, “I had no idea he was sitting on 2,999. I was just trying to win a game. When I gave up the double – I think it short-hopped the center-field wall – there was all this hoopla. The ump presents him the ball at second and I’m glowering and thinking, ‘Hey, we have a ballgame here.’ I was just an oblivious rookie. Then I saw it on the scoreboard, that it was his 3,000th hit.”
I was quite surprised to see that Matlack finished his career one game under .500. My memories were always that he was a winner. The rotation of those years, Seaver, Koosman, Matlack…what a great staff, and in all honesty, the only staff other than those three that would come close to them in dominance, might have been Gooden, Darling, and Fernandez.
Ed Rivera Ap
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