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Pitching Prospects of the '60's - Before The Amateur Draft, Part 2

Barry DuchanSunday, May 27, 2007
By Barry Duchan

Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. - M.S.

Anytime the early Mets acquired a pitcher under the age of 30 from another team, he could have been considered a prospect, since they were hungry for any dose of young blood they could find. Three young pitchers who got good shots with the Mets were Tom Parsons, Darrell Sutherland, and Gary Kroll.

Parsons had proven himself in Triple-A with the Pirates organization, but the Pirates of the early '60's had a solid veteran pitching staff headed by Vern Law, Bob Friend, Al McBean, and Bob Veale with Elroy Face in the bullpen. A couple of other promising young pitchers out of the Pirate chain had to go elsewhere to get their shot at the big leagues - Al Jackson with the Mets, and Tom Cheney with Washington. Parsons was tall and thin and didn't throw too hard. He was about average in every way and had a woeful record with the Mets. Something like 2-12. The Mets eventually traded him for a young catcher with Houston who was being blocked from the #1 catching spot by the far more productive and equally young John Bateman. That catcher was Jerry Grote and this was probably the best trade the Mets made to that point. Parsons did nothing for Houston, and Grote, of course, was one of the sparkplugs for the Mets over the next few years, a great handler of pitchers, top-notch defensive catcher and a clutch hitter.

Darrell Sutherland was another stringbean, who somehow wound up with the Mets' AAA team in Buffalo, out of the Phillies organization, and had a terrific record there, something like 10-1. So, as prospects go, this suddenly made him a very hot one. But when the Mets brought him up, he was very ordinary, and thus, a big disappointment. He faded away, eventually being drafted by the Indians, but his major league career was pretty much over.

Gary Kroll came over from the Phillies in the Frank Thomas deal and had carried the "potential" tag for a few years already. The Phillies, of course, were trying to win a pennant in 1964 and badly needed Thomas. At the time, if I remember correctly, they were very reluctant to give up Kroll, who looked like a future star. Kroll was a big righthander with a long windup, some deception, a nice fastball, and a wicked curve. He looked like he could be an ace. He just had to put it all together. He had a couple of decent outings with the Mets, but always seemed to run out of gas fairly quickly. He was sent to Houston after a couple of seasons with the Mets, a huge disappointment.

Steve Dillon was a little lefthander drafted out of the Yankee organization who never accomplished much on either the Major or Minor League level. He was with the Mets as a drafted player who had to stay up or be sent back to his original team. I can't say I remember him pitching in any games, although he undoubtedly did.

Larry Bearnarth was a relatively high-profile signee out of St. John's. A big, solidly built righthander who didn't have overwhelming stuff, but who was almost ready for the majors when he signed. If I recall correctly, the Mets sent him to AAA where he had a record of something like 2-13 and a high ERA. Seemed like he wasn't ready, but he quickly became the "ace" of the Mets bullpen over the next three years. Whether Bearnarth would have even reached the big leagues for a cup of coffee weith another organization is questionable. But as early Mets prospects go, he was one of the more successful ones.

Richard "Rob" Gardner was a lefty drafted out of the Twins organization who got a shot at both starting and relieving for the Mets in 1965 and 1966. He had some great games, but they were few and far between. He was traded away to the Cubs for the more experienced lefty, Bob Hendley, who had some bright moments for the Mets. Interestingly, Gardner eventually wound up with the Yankees and had a good season for them in 1972, but then faded.

Note: More of Barry Duchan's writings can be found on his own Metscentric blog.

About Barry Duchan: I've been following the Mets since 1962. Have to admit I was a Yankee fan as a kid, but I found it to be so much more interesting to see how a young team could build itself up rather than following a team where the season didn't really begin until October. I remember them all - Casey, Marv, ChooChoo, Don Bosch, The Stork, etc. As the years went on, I became more and more of a Mets fan, and a Yankee hater once Steinbrenner and Billy Martin entered the picture.   Read More -->

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