The 1974 season started with the Mets dropping 11 of their first 14 games, including seven losses in a row.
New York opened the season in Philadelphia with a new uniform. Instead of the traditional “New York” script across the front of the team jersey, the Mets adopted their home “Mets” design on their road gray jersey. Leading 4-3 in the ninth, the Mets were three outs away from another season opening win, but Mike Schmidt deflated the Mets hopes when he delivered a walk-off two-run homer off Tug McGraw. Phillies – 5, Mets -4.
In a year that saw Henry Aaron tie and break Babe Ruth’s career home run record, the New York Mets experienced a much different offensive reality, struggling to score runs and win games. As a team, the Mets ranked 11th in hitting (.235), scoring 572 runs. Overall, the team finished the 1974 season (23rd) just ahead of the last place San Diego Padres (24th) in hitting.
On the night Aaron launched No. 715 off Dodgers lefty Al Downing at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, the Mets were on a flight back to New York to play their home opener and the New York Yankees were at home — Shea Stadium — completing a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians.
The most alarming situation was with Seaver and his 6.12 ERA through four starts. On April 21, the Pirates pounded him for six runs on 12 hits in five innings. He won his first game five days later with a four-hit shutout of the Giants. Then when he pitched 12 innings of three-hit ball in Los Angeles, the offense wasted it, losing 2-1 in 14 innings.
McGraw was off to a dreadful start, giving up at least one run in each of his first six appearances. He was 0-3 with an ERA of 9.00 at the end of May. Seaver was mediocre, though he mixed in another shutout and finished the month at 2-5 with a 3.89 ERA.
Hahn was hitting .328 through May and part-time Ed Kranepool was at .348. Matlack was outstanding, but Stone couldn’t
recapture the magic from the season before and saw his ERA reach five. Somehow the 20-28 Mets were only five games out of first at the heading into June.
The team never recovered from their slow start. By the All-Star Break the Mets had fallen 13 games under .500.
Jerry Grote and Jon Matlack were selected to the All-Star Game but it was also notable as the first time in Seaver’s eight-year career that he wasn’t. Seaver won his first three starts of the month but the Pirates again pounded him in an ugly 8-3 Pittsburgh win, during which both teams committed three errors in the nearly three and a half hour contest. The Mets did go 15-12 in July, the team’s only winning month of 1974.
Seemingly lifeless at 53-70 on August 24, the Mets won 10 of 11. McGraw was moved to the rotation and won a pair of starts, including a shutout of the Braves. But the Mets couldn’t cut into the insurmountable lead.
New York was one out away from winning on September 11 when Ken Reitz hit a two-run homer off Koosman to tie the game. A lot of time would have been saved as St. Louis would win in the 25th inning when Bake McBride scored from first on Hank Webb’s pickoff attempt. Wayne Garrett went hitless in 10 at-bats in the seven hour, four minute game.
The Mets would lose 20 of 28 to end the season and Bob Scheffing was done as general manager. The team was done in by close games, going 17-36 in one run games and 4-16 in extra inning games.
September 11, 1974: The Mets played their longest game in franchise history, a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium. The game lasted 25 innings and seven hours, four minutes.
The New York Mets suffered their first losing season since 1968, finishing 71-91, in fifth place in the National League Eastern Division.
Mets manager Yogi Berra would begin the 1975 season on the hot seat.
Jim McAndrew was traded to the Padres and Buzz Capra was sold to the Braves. Jon Matlack going to Baltimore for Merv Rettenmund didn’t happen. Neither did Matlack going to San Francisco for Dave Kingman. The team was content with Cleon Jones, Don Hahn and Rusty Staub starting in the outfield.
The season recap published above is written by David Russell and published in his book, Fabulous to Futile in Flushing: A Year-by-Year History of the Mets. Do you love Mets history? Pick up this book online at your favorite bookseller and enjoy season-by-season historical recaps, Mets highlights and challenging trivia that will send you on a fun journey through the Mets rich franchise history.
1974 SEASON RECAP