The Best of 2016 on ’80s Baseball

I started this blog 364 days ago. Since then, I’ve published 64 posts, including guest posts, for which I’m very grateful.

It’s been a great year and I thought I’d take a look back at the Top 5 posts of 2016 based (unscientifically) on page views.

Number 5: George Brett’s amazing 1980

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Brett was absolutely ridiculous in 1980 and this post tells the story of his remarkable season. If you’re going to hit .400, or even have a shot, it helps to have a summer like George Brett did in 1980.

 

Number 4: Schmidt and Brett in 1971

The Reds passed on a kid in their back yard. The Phillies snapped him up

The most important day of the 1980 baseball season may very well have taken place in 1971. One decision would have put Mike Schmidt in a Royals uniform and given the 1980 World Series a completely different look.

 

 

Number 3: Missed it by That Much: The Mike Parrott Story

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Mike Parrott was the opening day starter for the Seattle Mariners in 1980. Unfortunately for him, 1980 was just a horrible year, in more ways than one.

 

 

Number 2: You Forgot How Good J.R. Richard Was

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James Rodney Richard was absolutely dominant and 1980 was shaping up to be the best year of his career. Then tragedy struck and he never pitched again.

 

 

 

Number 1: Missed it By That Much: The Drungo Hazewood Story

<a rel=Drungo Hazewood had all the talent in the world. He was a can’t miss prospect for the Baltimore Orioles. Then he missed.

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to 2017!

-J.D.

Missed it By That Much – The Mike Parrott story

Every baseball player has bad years. Both Cy Young and Walter Johnson posted 20-loss seasons. Mike Schmidt hit .196 in his first full year. But few players had a year as miserable as Mike Parrott‘s 1980.

Mike Parrott was a first-round draft choice of the Baltimore Orioles in 1973. He worked his way up to AAA two years later and won 15 games with the Rochester Red Wings in 1977.

“The guy is a major league pitcher,” said his AAA manager Ken Boyer, who spent 15 seasons in the big leagues as a player.

“Poise, character, relaxation, concentration, movement on the ball, velocity – when you break him down in all those areas he’s been outstanding.”

Those traits made him the 1977 International League Most Valuable Pitcher and earned him a September call up at the end of the year. But at the Winter Meetings, the Baltimore traded Parrott to Seattle. What looked like a career setback proved to be the break he needed and he became the ace of the Mariners pitching staff. By 1979, his 14 wins lead the team and as the 1980 season dawned Mike Parrott had his sights set on winning 20 games.

Nightmare Season

Mike Parrott Seattle Mariners
Parrot got the nod on Opening Day

Parrott was the Opening Day starter and despite giving up two home runs to John Mayberry, he picked up the win against the Toronto Blue Jays. But at the end of April his season took a turn for the worse.

On April 30th, Parrott was facing Roy Smalley in the bottom of the 5th inning in Minnesota. The Twins’ shortstop sent a hot shot back up the middle and Parrott was unable to defend himself. The ball hit him squarely in groin. He wasn’t wearing a cup. Parrott collapsed on the mound and was eventually taken off the field on a stretcher. Newspaper reports called the injury a “severe bruise.”

In Rochester, former teammate Ed Farmer advised Parrott that he should get used to wearing a cup because big league hitters are much better at hitting the ball up the middle than minor leaguers are. Parrott wore a cup once and pitched poorly.

“It wasn’t comfortable,” he told the Associated Press after the injury. “But I’m superstitious and I wanted to go back to the old way. Let’s just say I learned a lesson. A very good lesson.”

The injury kept Parrott out of action for a month. It would be tough for your season to get much worse after an incident like that, but for Parrott that’s exactly what happened.

He returned to the mound at the end of May to face the Brewers and didn’t last long. Milwaukee scored six runs on seven hits in just two innings and Parrott’s day was over. On top of that, Cecil Cooper hit a line drive up the middle that nearly hit him.

His next start came against the Cleveland Indians. Parrott allowed five runs in 4.1 innings but only two were earned. Unfortunately the unearned runs came as a result of his own throwing error. By the end of May Parrott’s record stood at 1-6.

Bad Pitching & Bad Luck

His June starts were maddening both for him and the Mariners. The Boston Red Sox knocked him out after just one inning on June 9th. On the 19th, he pitched well enough to win, but Bob Stanley shut out Seattle and Parrott was the losing pitcher. Six days later he gave up two first-inning runs against the Rangers, but then held them scoreless for four innings. Again the Mariners offense didn’t produce, and again Parrott got the loss. Five days after that, he was perfect through two innings but gave up six runs in the top of the third.

“It’s got me down,” he said. “In the first two innings I had better stuff than I had all year. Then six runs. It’s hard on me and it’s hard on the team. This is the worst stretch of my career.”

In two July starts he lasted just 3.2 innings, giving up seven earned runs on ten hits. By the end of the month he was seeking help from a hypnotist.

“I went to see… if he could change my thought train,” he told the L.A. Times. “The hypnotist told me to reach back for something positive. I told him I couldn’t, that it had been so long I just couldn’t think of anything positive.”

The Mariners were also at a loss as to what to do with their Opening Day starter and sent him back to AAA Spokane. The move seemed to work as he gave up just two runs in 22 innings of work in the Pacific Coast League.

The Beat Goes On

He returned in September, made three starts and lost them all, allowing 13 earned runs in 21.1 innings. A move to the bullpen netted him three saves in four appearances but there was more misery to come.

On the final day of the season, Parrott entered the Mariners game against the Rangers with a one run lead and a runner on second. He got Billy Sample to hit a ground ball to 3rd, but Jim Anderson made a throwing error which allowed Bump wills to score to tie the game. Three innings later, Johnny Grubb‘s walkoff double won it for Texas and Parrott’s season from hell was over.

#Mariners pitcher Mike Parrott went 1-16 in 1980 and that wasn't the worst of it. Click To Tweet

Mike Parrott was the Mariners ace heading into the 1980 season. He started on Opening Day and got the win. From then on he lost 16 straight decisions and got hit in the groin with a one hopper that caused him to miss a month. He finished the year with a 1-16 record and a robust 7.28 E.R.A. American League hitters batted .348 against him.

“I think I’ll know how to handle adversity in the future,” he joked after the season was over. “I had enough this year, didn’t I?”