Expectations were low for the Mets heading into the 1978 season. The Amazin’s only drew 11,736 for the season opener at Shea, which had acquired the nickname “Grant’s Tomb.” The Mets beat the Montreal Expos 3–1. Opening Day starter Jerry Koosman struck outseven in his complete game victory.
From there, things went poorly for Koosman and the Mets. He only won two more games with the Mets in 1978, versus 15 losses despite a respectable 3.75 earned run average. His third win of the season came on July 13 in Cincinnati against Tom Seaver. Following the season, Koosman would be traded to the Minnesota Twins for Jesse Orosco and Greg Field. Koosman had gone 11–35 in his last two seasons as a Met, bringing his career mark to 140–137—not nearly indicative of the stellar career he had with the Mets.
The ace of the staff turned out to be Pat Zachry, whom they’d acquired on June 15, 1977, as part of the infamous “Midnight Massacre”, when he, Doug Flynn, Dan Norman and Steve Henderson were traded to the Mets from the Cincinnati Reds for Tom Seaver.
Zachry had a 10–4 record, and was selected by Tommy Lasorda as the sole Mets representative on the National League All-Star team, but did not play. After dropping his next two decisions, On July 24, Zachry was the starting pitcher against the Cincinnati Reds for the largest crowd of the season at Shea (35,939) as Pete Rose entered the game with a 36-game hitting streak. Rose was 0–3 until a seventh inning single gave him a 37-game hitting streak to tie the N.L. record. Four batters latter, Zachry was pulled in favor of Kevin Kobel. Frustrated, Zachry went to kick a batting helmet sitting on the dugout steps, missed the helmet and kicked the step—fracturing his left foot, and ending his season. In his absence, Craig Swan assumed the role of staff ace. Swan went 7–1 following the injury to Zachry, leading the National League with a 2.43 ERA for the season.
With his defensive back-like hard physical play, catcher John Stearns emerged as a Mets fan favorite for a team with desperately few stars. On April 8, he triggered a bench-clearing brawl by running into Montreal Expos catcher Gary Carter at the plate. On June 30, Stearns defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates by tagging out Dave Parker to end the game. Parker, who had run over two other catchers in the previous two weeks, suffered a broken cheekbone in the collision with Stearns. When the Pirates in-state rivals (also the Mets’ own division rivals), the Philadelphia Phillies, next came to New York, they thanked Stearns for standing up to Parker. Stearns also led the Mets in stolen bases with 25, and in the process broke the National League record for catchers, which had been held by Johnny Kling since 1902.
1978 SEASON RECAP