By Barry Duchan
Editor's Note: I've been privileged for the last couple of years to run Barry's pieces on Mets history on this site. Barry isn't blogging currently, but I will rerun some of my personal favorites of Barry's writings once or twice a month for the benefit of new readers. - M.S.
Warren Spahn was one of the greatest lefthanded pitchers of all time. Warren Spahn also pitched for the Mets. Unfortunately, those two facts are mutually exclusive.
Spahn was a great pitcher for the Braves for many years, a perennial 20-game winner and a real workhorse, regularly logging over 250 innings and 20 complete games a year. In an era when most pitchers called it quits at around age 35, Spahn was still a big winner, a 23-game winner in fact, at the age of 42 in 1963 with a 2.60 ERA, one of his very best years. With his big high kick and great assortment of stuff, he was truly a legend in his own time.
Then, in 1964, he seemingly lost it. His record with the Braves plummeted to 6-13 with an ERA over 5 and only 4 complete games. His Hall Of Fame career was coming to an end, and perhaps it was time to bow out gracefully. But Spahn was convinced he could still pitch and following the 1964 season, his contract was sold to the Mets.
The Mets not only expected him to be their number one starter, but also gave him the job as pitching coach, presumably assuming that someone who had been so successful as a pitcher would be highly qualified to teach their pitchers. Big Mistake.
Not only did Spahn never regain his form, but he was constantly focused on doing so, to the detriment of the rest of the Mets' pitching staff who needed all the help they could get. Spahn appeared to be a coach in title only. His primary job was trying to get Warren Spahn back on track. Maybe at the age of 44, he had just had it. In July, with a 4-12 record, the Mets released Spahn. He immediately got picked up by the Giants where he ultimately ended his career, posting a 3-4 record and pitching decently.
He was later deservedly elected to the Hall Of Fame, but his brief tenure as a Met may be best forgotten.