Sammy Stewart does not look happy in this pic.
Perhaps it was because he joined a Cleveland team that in 1987 looked like it was going to be a good squad but stunk.
Maybe he was still bitter that he sat unused in the bullpen as other relievers kicked away the 1986 World Series.
Either way, he was about to enter a dark part of his life around the time this pic was snapped, one that thankfully he has emerged on the other side from with a smile on his face.
The North Carolina native was signed by the Orioles in 1975. The team was making the transition between the Brooks Robinson days to the Eddie Murray years.
He made his big league debut as a September call up in 1978. He set a new record for consecutive strikeouts in a big league debut on September 1, 1978, when he struck out 7 straight White Sox batters.
By 1979, he was a valuable member of a bullpen in a pennant race. He threw 117 2/3 innings despite making only 3 starts. He won 8 games and saved 1 but many was used in middle relief.
Along side Don Stanhouse, Tim Stoddard and Tippy Martinez, Stewart locked down the innings not thrown by the Orioles stellar rotation. The combination of Dennis Martinez, Mike Flanagan, Steve Stone, Scott McGregor, Jim Palmer and eventual Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan made Baltimore formidable.
In the post season, he appeared in Game 4 of the World Series, throwing 2 2/3 shutout innings. The Orioles would win the game but lose the Series.
He remained a key reliever for the Orioles over the years and found himself back in the post season in 1983. In Game 3 of the 1983 ALCS in Chicago, Stewart pitched 4 shutout innings out of the pen, allowing 1 hit and no walks. He earned the save.
Stewart’s impressive October continued with 5 shutout innings in the World Series against the Phillies. The Orioles would win it all and Stewart would get his ring.
After briefly taking over the closer role in 1984, Stewart found himself dealt to the Red Sox after the 1985 season.
In Boston, Stewart was expected to give the team much needed bullpen depth. Despite losing opening day, Stewart was one of the Red Sox most reliable relievers in the first half of the season. His ERA dipped under 1 for a while in May and was a solid 1.71 in early June when he got sidelined with an injury.
He came back and was terribly ineffective in August and September as Boston clinched the Division.
In the post season, manager John McNamara stuck with Bob Stanley, Joe Sambito and Calvin Schraldi out of the pen. Meanwhile Al Nipper, Steve Crawford, Tim Lollar and Sammy Stewart sat in the bullpen like the Maytag Repair man.
Schraldi and Sambito blew key leads against the Angels in the ALCS, but McNamara held true. Circumstances forced him to use Crawford in Game 5 and he got the win.
The Sox went on to the World Series. Al Nipper got a start and Steve Crawford was added to the World Series mix, leaving Lollar and Stewart as the remaining unsued pitchers.
With the issues of Calvin Scharaldi and Bob Stanley in the post season so pronounced, it is odd that manager John McNamara would not give a pitcher with a 0.00 post season ERA just 3 years prior a shot.
Stewart himself believes that McNamara didn’t like him after an incident where he nearly missed the team bus.
Either way, despite warming up and throwing a few times, Stewart never made it into a game and the Red Sox bullpen lost Games 6 and 7 of the World Series.
In 1987, he joined the Indians and pitched from July on but was not effective, finishing with a 5.67 ERA.
His baseball career ended and his life fell apart. One of his children died of cystic fibrosis. His fortune and family were destroyed as he became a crack addict.
Soon the one time millionaire World Champion pitcher was homeless and he even got stabbed.
His addiction led to years of imprisonment and incarceration. Released from prison now, he is trying to live a simpler life and fight off his additions. He is back in North Carolina and teaches kids pitching.
Stewart also teaches life lessons to avoid his fate.
Lives can be judged based upon the times one succeeds and the times they fall and get up.
Sammy Stewart’s life s a combination of both of those attributes.