By Barry Duchan
Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. - M.S.
With all the posts I've done about pitching prospects of the early years, I'm a little surprised I completely overlooked Larry Bearnarth. But then again, based on his 2-13 record with a 6.67 ERA in his only minor league season, it was hard to even consider him as a prospect. The Mets signed Bearnarth out of St. John's and sent him to their AAA Syracuse farm club in 1962 where he had, at least statistically, an awful season.
Nevertheless, he was a member of the Mets' pitching staff opening day the following year and remained with the Mets for the better part of the next four seasons. Bearnarth, who featured a sinker and slider, was almost exclusively a reliever, starting only 7 games, but never registered a single save for the Mets. When the Mets started getting better, Bearnarth was sent to AAA in 1967 where he remained for the next four years. He got a brief and extremely ineffective shot with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1971, but later became a successful pitching coach.
As for his major league career, you'd have to say Bearnarth was in the right place (the Mets' organization) at the right time (when the team was in desperate need of pitching). Had he signed with another organization, it's entirely possible he would never have even gotten a shot at the major leagues. I wish I could recall some highlights of Larry's Met tenure, but frankly, I can't. So, I looked it up and here they are:
1. In a game against San Francisco, Stengel went out to talk to Bearnarth with two on, no outs and future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda at the plate. "Tra-la-la," was all that Stengel said before walking off, leaving a puzzled Bearnarth. On his next pitch, Cepeda grounded into a triple play to end the inning. Bearnarth couldn't wait to ask Stengel what "Tra-la-la" meant. "Tra-la-la, triple play," replied Stengel.
2. In a relief appearance for the Mets on June 14, 1965 in Cincinnati, Bearnarth came on in relief in the 9th. To that point, the Mets had not yet managed a single hit off Jim Maloney, but Bearnarth was able to keep the game scoreless until the 11th, when right-fielder Johnny Lewis broke the no-hitter with a lead-off home run. Bearnarth pitched another scoreless inning in the bottom of the 11th and got the win.
Few pitchers in the Mets' early years lasted as many as four seasons with the team, so that was an accomplishment in itself. However, unlike a lot of other young pitchers, Bearnarth really didn't show a whole lot of promise of getting much better and it just seemed like a matter of time before he'd be displaced.
In retrospect, Bearnarth was a hard working and dedicated student of the game who did the most with what he had, but simply didn't throw hard enough to be anything more than what he was.