Sunday, March 23, 2014

1973 Mets Fantazy Cards focus: Jon Matlack___ (Pt. 1)___1967-1973

Left-handed pitcher Jonathan Trumpbour Matlack (born January 19, 1950) was the fourth overall pick by the New York Mets in the 1967 Major League Baseball Draft. Jon'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, 1971 double header with the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched a fine game.

Reds infielder Tony Perez tagged Jon for a homer in the 2nd inning and drove in another with an RBI single in the 6th. Matlack left the game for pinch hitter Ed Kranepool in the 8th down by a score of 2-1. Ed drew a walk to open the inning and the Mets rallied and scored 2, putting Jon in line for the 3-2 win.

Tug McGraw came on to start the 8th, got one quick out and then hit a Cincinnati batter with a pitch. Being that this was the last game before the All-Star break and the Reds had their big guns coming up, Gil Hodges called on Mets ace Tom Seaver to close the game. Matlack, watching from the bench, saw Tom on the mound (Seaver had a 1.76 ERA in '71), chalked up the game as his first MLB win and headed to the showers.

Seaver was greeted by a line single from Lee May and Matlack must have been lathering up when red hot Tony "Big Dog" Perez came up and smashed his 2nd homer of the game, this a 3 run job.

New York lost the game and Matlack lost his first win. For the '71 season, Jon 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 April and May. Pitching for a light hitting Met squad riddled with injuries the tall southpaw ended the season with a 15–10 record and 2.32 ERA.

He became the second New York Met to win the National League Rookie of the Year award.

On September 30 1973, he gave up Roberto Clemente's 3000th, and final, career hit.

The young lefty did not get off to such a great start in '73. On May 8th 1973 Jon was 2-4 and set to face off against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium.

New York established a 2-1 lead going into the 7th inning of this damp, chilly night game. Matlack had surrendered a home run to Davey Johnson in the 4th for the Braves lone run. The Met pitcher had only given up 3 hits through 6 but in the 7th he ran into trouble.

With one out Jon issued a base on balls to Atlanta first baseman Dick Dietz. Catcher Paul Casinova and pinch hitter Rod Gilbreath followed with back to back singles, loading the bases. Ollie Brown popped out to Ed Kranepool at first and with two out Marty Perez came to the plate.
The Braves shortstop connected on a Matlack fastball and smacked a wicked line drive right up the middle. The screaming meemee hit the Mets pitcher on the forehead above his left eye and caromed up and through the air, landing in the Mets dugout. I was watching on TV and it was just horrifying.

Matlack lay on the mound clutching his head as his teammates rushed to his aid. Two runners scored and Perez was credited with ground rule double.

I really thought the worst, that Matlack was seriously hurt and this was the end of his most promising career. He was taken off the field on a stretcher.

Jon suffered a hairline fracture of his skull. Amazingly he recovered and returned to pitch six shutout innings only 11 days later on May 19 in Pittsburgh. This was just one of many injuries that kept knocking the team down in 1973. But they would keep bouncing back.

In August and September, during the stretch run for the playoffs, Matlack was 7-2. He had a 1.40 ERA in four September starts helping the Mets capture the National League East crown.

Overall Matlack's record dipped to 14–16 in 1973. 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 in Cincinnati.

He was equally impressive in the 1973 World Series, giving up just three hits in six innings in game one. The Oakland A's scored two runs on a Félix Millán error in the third, and held on for the 2–1 victory.
Matlack pitched superbly in game four, giving up just one run in eight innings for the win. Most unfortunately Jon 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 home runs Oakland would hit in the entire Series.

Jon Matlack went on to have a fine career and we'll get into that when we focus on 1974-1983 in part two.

Thanks for the memories Mr. Matlack. Live long and prosper.
The New York Mets Encyclopedia By Peter C. Bjarkman provided information.
Centerfield Maz for the photo of the injured Matlack on the mound.

When Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was struck by a line drive off the bat of Salvador Perez last week I was right in the middle of colorizing the Matlack mound picture for his injury card. I thought that was pretty freaky. I've seen a few custom cards reporting the misfortune and I'll add my own. I sincerely hope that Chapman can recover and return as good as ever, because pitchers of his caliber are fun to watch no matter what team they play for. Get well soon Aroldis.


  1. Thanks for the Jon Matlack interview. I went to and searched Matlack and the graphic popped up immediately. They must have used it before because that phone interview was from July. I have to say, I have been guilty of "lazy googling" before too. I used Duke Snyder's picture for a Gil Hodges card. In my defense it was next to a tribute to Hodges.

    1. I don't know if you were notified about my additional .gif comments I added last week- It's on the '72 page. Link: