Pat Zachary 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for September 14, 2017

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Pat Zachary reminds me of how I look at the universe and what we control and what we can not control.

Trust me, I am being serious.

Zachary had ups and downs in the early part of his career, as many players do, managed to survive for a while, made some adjustments and played a decade in the majors.

And circumstances he had no control over put him front and center in glories for all time and having his name be cursed by a city from this day forth.

The Texas native was a 19th round pick by the Reds in 1970. 19th round picks are not supposed to make it to the major leagues, let alone have any success. 19th round picks were supposed to fill out minor league rosters and maybe have an outside shot at the proverbial “Cup of Coffee” in the majors.

But the 19 year old Zachary won 12 games and posted a decent 3.21 ERA for the Reds Single A Tampa team in 1971. As the Big Red Machine was having success without a solid ace, Zachary was moving up the minor league chain.

In 1974 and 1975, he was having success with the AAA Indianapolis team. But the Reds teams were so dense that there was no chance for a call up.

Here is an example of Zachary not having control of his circumstances. He pitched well. He did well enough to play on the big league level. If he was with San Diego or Atlanta, he would have been in the starting rotation in 1974 and 1975. But he was drafted by Cincinnati, therefore he was a minor leaguer.

In 1976, he earned a spot on the big league team and made the most of it. He won 14 games, put together a 2.74 ERA over 204 innings pitched. He had pitched well enough to be a major league for the previous 2 seasons and now was showing it.

Because it was his debut MLB season, the 24 year old was a Rookie. He and Padres reliever Butch Metzger tied for the Rookie of the Year. Unlike Metzger, Zachary’s season extended into October. He wasn’t called up to the Padres. He was part of the Big Red Machine.

Zachary was supported by Perez, Rose, Morgan, Bench, Foster, Concepcion, Geromino and Griffey. He had the deepest bullpen in the game saving his starts. Zachary started Game 2 of the 1976 NLCS. He pitched 5 innings and was hardly dominant. But the Reds lineup scored 6 runs off of the Phillies and Pedro Borbon saved it and he got the win.

Zachary pitched into the 7th for the Game 3 win in the World Series and a day later, the Reds were the World Champs again.

Pat Zachary was a young World Champion. Part of that was by his work. He pitched well up through the Reds farm system and did the job well. Part was because of circumstances beyond his control. He was drafted into a team that was already an All Time great squad.

That is similar to how we live our lives. Part of our success or failures are based upon our work and effort and some is based upon factors beyond out control.

In 1977, Zachary got off to a rough start, losing 7 of 10 decisions and seeing his ERA soar to 5.04. But then he was sucked into a vortex of circumstances beyond his control.

A public contract dispute between Tom Seaver and the Mets management in 1977 got ugly and the most popular player in franchise history was traded out of spite.

The Reds, off to a let down of a start after back to back titles, tried to get a boost for their team with a new superstar. So Tom Seaver became a Red. The key part of the trade for the Mets, beyond venom, was bringing in defending Rookie of the Year Pat Zachary.

Zachary did not pitch badly over the second half of 1977 and actually was named to the 1978 All Star Game. But injuries an ineffectiveness hurt him in 1979.

But his decent pitching did not matter. He was NOT Tom Seaver, who continued to dominate with Cincinnati. As the Reds won the Division in 1979, Zachary played only 7 games. Zachary became a symbol of Mets mismanagement and the loss of their beloved player.

Eventually Zachary became a Dodger and pitched well out of the bullpen for the 1983 NL West champs as Tom Seaver returned to the Mets for one season.

But in a way, Zachary shows how the universe unfolds. Somethings we control, others we can’t. Some parts of the perception people have of us are based on effort and others are based on factors that have nothing to do with us.

Zachary was a World Champion and a pariah, all the while having a nice career that he could not totally control.

Will McEnaney 1980 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for September 5, 2017

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Well, I covered the three people who made the final outs of the 1975 World Series. Might as well honor the pitcher who got the three outs to clinch possibly the greatest World Series of all time.

He only played 6 seasons in the major leagues but man he shoved in some serious glory along the way.

McEnaney was from Springfield, Ohio, which is somewhere between Columbus and Cincinnati. He was drafted out of high school by the Reds in 1970, a good time to be drafted by the Reds.

At age 18, he flopped badly as a starting pitcher in Single A Sioux Falls. But the next year he got another chance and pitched well as a starter in Tampa. By 1972, he was a prospect as the left hander threw to a 2.80 ERA in 138 innings at Double A. He spent all of 1973 as a starting pitcher for Triple A Indianapolis but never did crack the big league roster.

In 1974, at age 22, he got his first taste in the majors. He had been converted to the bullpen and found his way into manager Sparky Anderson’s rotation of relievers.

In 1975, McEnaney made the club out of spring training. The team did not have a dominant ace starter. But with Rawly Eastwick, Pedro Borbon and Clay Carroll, they had an enormously deep bullpen. Fred Norman would sometimes relieve but with the emergence of McEnaney, he was inserted into the rotation for most of the year.

This was before managers had to constantly insert the same closer day in and day out. The save total among Reds relievers was spread out. Eastwick led the club with 22 but McEnaney picked up 15, Borbon got 5 and Carroll got 7.

On May 10th, McEnaney threw 3 2/3 innings for a save against the Mets. He had 2 other 3 inning saves and a 3 1/3 inning hold. The formula worked as the Reds won 108 games, more than any other National League team in the 1970’s.

In the NLCS against the Pirates, Anderson called in McEnaney to pitch with a 1 run lead in the 8th. He got out Rennie Stennett, Richie Hebner and Al Oliver. No easy task.

In the 9th, with the Reds 3 outs from the World Series, McEnaney let up a single to Willie Stargell before striking out Dave Parker. Rawley Eastwick came in to close out the pennant but allowed the tying run to score.

The Reds would take the lead and Pedro Borbon would get the save. I’m telling you, they used relievers differently then.

Truth be told, he had a rough post season. That run in the NLCS was charged to him. He also let up runs in his 2 innings of work in Game 1 of the World Series and his 1 2/3 innings in Game 3.

In Game 6, he came in with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the 9th with the game tied at 6 after the Bernie Carbo homer. Fred Lynn hit a fly ball to left field that looked like it was deep enough to score Denny Doyle. But George Foster threw him out at home and McEnaney got Rico Petrocelli to make the final out of the inning.

It would be his only inning in that classic game.

In Game 7, Sparky Anderson had Rawley Eastwick and Pedro Borbon available to close out the greatest World Series of all time.

Instead he handed the ball to McEnaney. And if you have been reading these entries, you know that he got out Juan Beniquez, Bob Montgomery and Carl Yastrzemski to clinch it. He jumped on Johnny Bench and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The Reds fought through some slumps and injuries in 1976 but still won 102 games and ran away with the West.

McEnaney slumped badly, posting a 4.85 ERA and getting only 7 saves. Eastwick took the bulk of the work. McEnaney did not even appear in the NLCS sweep of Philadelphia.

The Reds took the first two games of the World Series from the Yankees without McEnaney throwing a pitch.

In Game 3, with the Yankees clinging to hope that they could get back into the World Series, Pat Zachry started. He saw the Yankees pull closer and with the score 4-2 Reds in the 7th, they had the tying runs on base and the go ahead run at the plate. The batter was ALCS hero Chris Chambliss. He got Chambliss to ground out.

After the Reds extended the lead to 6-2, McEnaney stayed in, working around hits in the 8th and 9th to earn the 2 1/3 inning save.

Game 4 was delayed a day and Anderson had a fresh bullpen for the clincher. Once again, McEnaney came into the game in the 7th, this time relieving Gary Nolan. Once again he had to retire Chris Chambliss who was again the potential go ahead run.

He did and threw a scoreless 8th to make the score 3-2 heading to the 9th. Johnny Bench hit a 3 run homer to put the game away.

McEnaney came out to pitch the 9th. He got Otto Velez, Mickey Rivers and Roy White out 1-2-3.

He became the third pitcher in the history of baseball to throw the clinching pitch of the World Series in back to back seasons. Art Nehf and Bob Kuzava were the first two. Mariano Rivera would eventually become the fourth to.

That would be his final pitch as a member of the Reds. In the off season, he and Tony Perez would be traded to the Expos. He had one decent but unspectacular season there. He was traded to the Pirates in 1978 but suffered through an injury plagued season.

In 1979, he wound up with the Cardinals and had a nice comeback year. His 2.95 ERA was his lowest since 1975 and he appeared in 45 games in relief. But that would be the of his big league career.

He played 1980 in the yankees system and then missed all of 1981. He tried comebacls with the Rangers in 1982 and the Independent Miami Marlins in 1985 before calling it quits.

One of the players he played with on that 1985 Marlins team was Mike Torrez. Now remember, McEnaney threw the clinching pitch of the 1975 and 1976 World Series. Torrez threw the clinching pitch of the 1977 World Series.

Those are some choice stories they could tell on the bus of an independent minor league team.

Don Gullett 1980 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for August 26, 2017

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Don Gullett started three straight World Series openers. Chances are he isn’t the name you would think had accomplished that feat. But for a stretch in the 1970’s, Don Gullett was as close to a good luck charm as a team could have.

Born in Lynn Kentucky, Gullett excelled in many high school sports and was a big football prospect. He also was worth of being a first round pick for the Cincinnati Reds in 1969.

He spent less than a year in the major leagues before he joined Sparky Anderson and the Reds in 1970. That was a pretty good time to show up in Cincinnati with Sparky Anderson.

The 19 year old Gullet was used primarily out of the bullpen and pitched to a 2.43 ERA in 77 2/3 innings pitched. He wound up pitching in the post season, earning a save in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Pirates.

In the potential clinching Game 3, he came into a 3-2 game in the 9th. There were 2 outs but the tying run was on. Willie Stargell singled but he got Al Oliver to ground out. Less than a year and a half out of high school, Don Gullett clinched the pennant for the Reds.

He would throw 3 games in the Reds 5 game defeat at the hand of the Orioles. But the kid who could not legally buy a drink yet was now established in the brand new Big Red Machine.

He joined the rotation in 1971, going 16-6 and leading the league with a .727 winning percentage.

Gullett was in the rotation when they won the 1972 pennant and 1973 NL West.

By 1975, he was money in the bank to throw 200 some odd innings and win in double figures with a low ERA. The Reds were better known for their bullpen, but Gullett was a good go to man in the rotation. Injuries kept him from pitching 200 innings in 1975 but he made up for in in October.

In Game 1 of the NLCS, he threw a complete game victory against the Pirates and drove in a run with a single and cracked a 2 run homer. He was a one man wrecking crew. The Reds would sweep the Pirates and the 24 year old was off to his third trip to the World Series.

Gullett pitched the opener of the World Series against the Red Sox. He matched Luis Tiant with shutout inning after shutout inning until a 7th inning rally put the Red Sox up for good.

He made up for the Game 1 loss by pitching into the 9th inning in Game 5. He went 8 2/3 innings, allowing 2 runs and earned the 6-2 decision that put the Reds on the verge of the World Series title.

A series of rain delays and the epic Game 6 gave Gullett a chance to pitch Game 7. He let up 3 early runs and was lifted but the Reds bats and bullpen came to his rescue to win it in the 9th. Gullett was a World Series champ.

1976 saw another season interrupted by injuries for Gullett has he managed only 126 regular season innings over 23 games. But by the time the post season began, the Reds were back in it and Gullett took the ball.

In Game 1 of the NLCS, he held the Phillies to 2 hits and 1 run and the Reds took the opener, 6-3. Cincinnati would sweep the 3 game set and lined up the World Series for Gullett to throw the opener.

He would pitch into the 8th, allowing 1 run over 7 1/3 innings and earned the 5-1 win. The Reds would have a perfect post season, sweeping the NLCS and World Series. Those would be Gullett’s only 2 post season starts as he picked up his second ring.

Free Agency was brand new after the 1976 season and Gullett threw his hat into the proverbial ring. After a few weeks, he joined the team he beat and became a New York Yankee through 1982 with a contract that would make him a millionaire.

Not bad for a 26 year old. Yankee manager Billy Martin and pitching coach Art Fowler got a lot wins out of Gullett, going 14-4 with the best winning percentage in the AL. But his shoulder issues kept him from reaching 200 innings again.

He was ready, however to start the playoffs. This time however, he got clobbered hard in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Royals. He did not appear in the rest of the series. The Yankees would come back and win it in 5.

With starters Ron Guidry and Mike Torrez used in the ALCS finale, Martin once again turned to Gullett in a Game 1. For the third straight year, and with two different teams, Don Gullett opened the World Series as a starter. He pitched into the 9th inning but did not get the decision. Paul Blair got the walk off hit in extra innings, putting the Yankees up 1-0.

In Game 5, Gullett took the ball with the Yankees up 3-1 in the Series and a chance to win their first title since 1962. But the Dodgers jumped all over Gullett, as he allowed 7 runs in 4 1/3 innings. The Yankees would win it in 6, giving him World Series ring number 3.

The World Series Game 5 start in 1977 exposed a series of shoulder injuries to Gullett that reduced his 1978 season to just 8 starts. He would earn World Series ring number 4 that year, but he was in trouble at age 27.

This card was issued including his 1979 stats. The picture must have been taken in 1977 or 1978 because he didn’t pitch a game in 1979. Nor did he in 1980. In fact he never pitched in the majors again after 1978.

Like a meteor going through the atmosphere, he burned up before his career reached its 10th season.

Still a beloved Red, he served as the team’s pitching coach for a while and is in the team’s Hall of Fame. In a career that started before he was 20 and ended before he was 30, he packed more Championships and post season appearances than most players see in their lifetime.