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Queens Chronicle

Our hometown heroes for 50 years — Part V: 1974-1978

A New York Mets anniversary special

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Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 1:26 pm, Thu Jul 19, 2012.

After the ever-so-close 1973 World Series, the Mets took a dive into fifth place in ’74. Although they improved a bit in the next two seasons, and individual players posted some records, the mid- and late-’70s were not kind to the Mets. One low point was June 15, 1977, when they traded away two of their best stars in what became known as the Midnight Massacre.


Record: 71-91, fifth in National League East.

The Mets get off to a 2-8 start — and also suffer a 2-8 finish — as they plummet to fifth place in defense of their National League title.

John Milner once again leads in homers with 20, and Rusty Staub again leads in RBIs with 78. Cleon Jones, in his final full season with the Mets, bats .282 to lead the club. Ed Kranepool goes 17-35 (.486) as a pinch hitter.

Tom Seaver (11-11, 3.20 ERA) suffers his worst season ever, as does Tug McGraw (6-11, 4.15 ERA, three saves). Jon Matlack leads the staff in ERA (2.41) and the league in shutouts (seven) while going 13-15; Jerry Koosman is the big winner at 15-11.

The epitome of the season comes on Sept. 11 at Shea Stadium, when the Mets lose to St. Louis 4-3 in 25 innings — in a game that did not end until after 3 a.m.


Record: 82-80, third in National League East.

With wholesale changes in their lineup, the Mets improve their record by 11 games in 1975. With the team struggling at 56-53, Yogi Berra is fired and replaced by Roy McMillan. Under McMillan the Mets go 16-11 to climb within four games of first in early September, before losing 16 of the final 26 to fall out of contention.

Several Mets enjoy fine offensive seasons: newly acquired Dave Kingman hits 36 home runs, a new club record; Staub drives in 105 runs, also a club record; Felix Millan is the first Met to play all 162 games and sets a club record 190 hits. Rookie Mike Vail comes up late in the season and hits in 23 consecutive games, batting .302.

On the mound, Seaver (22-9, 2.38 ERA, 243 strikeouts) wins his third Cy Young award, while Matlack and Koosman win 16 and 14, respectively. Shortly after the end of the season, the club mourns the deaths of owner Joan Payson and first manager Casey Stengel.


Record: 86-76, third in National League East.

Under new manager Joe Frazier, the Mets win the second most games in club history.

Koosman is a 20-game winner for the first time ever, going 21-10, with a 2.70 ERA and 200 strikeouts; Matlack wins a career high 17 games, while leading the NL with six shutouts;  Seaver (14-11, 2.59 ERA, 235 strikeouts) is a victim of lack of run support. Seaver’s 235 strikeouts mark his major league record ninth year in a row with 200 or more strikeouts. Skip Lockwood (10-7, 19 saves) is the new bullpen ace. The Mets staff posts the lowest ERA in the majors, 2.94.

Kingman hits 3 home runs and drives in 8 runs in Los Angeles on June 4, 1976, and despite missing six weeks with a broken thumb, hits 37 home runs and drives in 86 runs, while John Milner hits a club record three grand slams while driving in a career high 78 runs.


Record: 64-98, sixth in National League East.

The dismal season is remembered mainly for the infamous Midnight Massacre on June 15, when Seaver is traded to Cincinnati and Kingman is sent to San Diego.

Koosman falls to 8-20 and Matlack falls to 7-15; he’s traded after the end of the season. Nino Espinosa, at 10-13, is the top winner on the staff. Lockwood saves 20.

Steve Henderson, acquired for Seaver, hits .297 with 12 home runs and 65 RBIs in only 350 at bats. Lenny Randle, acquired early on, bats .304 with 33 stolen bases. Brooklyn-born Lee Mazzilli becomes a Mets regular. After a 15-30 start, Frazier is replaced by Joe Torre, who will manage the team for five years.


Record: 66-96, sixth in National League East.

Despite significant changes in the lineup, the Mets still finish last.

Newly acquired Willie Montanez leads the club with 17 homers and 96 RBIs. Mazzilli hits .273 with 16 homers. John Stearns steals 25 bases while hitting 15 homers and driving in 73 runs.

Craig Swan sports the best ERA in the league (2.43); Espinosa leads the staff with 11 wins; and Lockwood saves 15, while losing 13. Koosman (3-15) spends his last year with the Mets, his last win coming on July 14 over Seaver. He finishes his Mets career 140-137.   

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