Mets Who Spent One Year in Flushing: Starting pitcher Mickey Lolich
By Tim Boyle
The 1976 New York Mets are an important part of the franchise’s history. It was the last full season with Tom Seaver. Although not as competitive as their 86 wins might suggest, the team gave fans one final chance to see a winning ball club on the field before ownership tore it all apart.
One member of the team not talked about enough is Mickey Lolich. An All-Star pitcher that started 41+ games for four straight years from 1971-1974, Lolich was coming to the Mets in the twilight of his career.
Acquired in a trade during the offseason which sent Rusty Staub to the Detroit Tigers, Lolich helped provide the Mets with something we saw often in those days: a great and complete rotation.
Mickey Lolich’s 1976 season with the Mets
Lolich arrived in New York after multiple successful seasons with Detroit. How good were they? From 1964-1975, he never won fewest than 12 games.
The term “workhorse” doesn’t even do Lolich justice. In 1971, he made 45 starts, completed 29 games, and logged 376 innings. He won a league-leading 25 games while striking out 308 batters.
These are numbers that blow my little mind away. I grew up watching baseball in the 1990s. Statistics like this are unheard of to me. So, please excuse my jaw as it drops to the ground looking over his career.
Now at 35 while with the Mets, Lolich’s best days were clearly behind him—or were they? A look at the numbers suggest he still had something fantastic left to offer his new baseball team.
Lolich managed to log 192.2 innings across 30 starts and a relief appearance. Although he completed only five games—down from 19 a year earlier—he did more than enough to help out a Mets rotation with plenty of star power in front of him.
The veteran hurler finished the year with a 3.22 ERA, showcasing his ability to limit runs. However, he was the victim of another year of less than stellar Mets offense. At 8-13, Lolich didn’t receive the run-support he deserved.
Unfortunately, this was about the end of an illustrious career. Disagreements with coaching staff prompted him to retire after the season. He would return a year later with the San Diego Padres working mostly as a reliever.
In my eyes, Lolich is one of those borderline Hall of Fame players who probably doesn’t deserve to get in but had such an incredible impact on the game during a short period of time. His 1968 World Series performance included three wins, three complete games, and a 1.67 ERA versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
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For Mets fans in 1976, he was just a blip on the radar and another arm that passed through Shea Stadium.