Thursday, August 9, 2012

#415 - Gary Gentry

So when the Angels were looking to trade Jim Fregosi to the Mets for one of NY’s starting pitchers, this is the guy they initially wanted. Apparently Bobby Winkles, the Arizona State coach, was a consultant of sorts to California a couple years before he came on board as manager and thought his old ace would be the best fit for the team. But the Mets shot that deal down and instead shipped an inconsistent pitcher named Nolan Ryan west for Fregosi, thereby rendering one of the worst all-time deals even more one-sided. Nothing against Gary here, shown in his new home in Atlanta, but post that trade he would put up an MLB total of 12 wins while Ryan would add 295 to his total. The immediate repercussions were just as bad. In ’72 Ryan won 19 in his new home in Anaheim with the first of his three successive 300-plus strikeout seasons while still in NY Gary put up his first losing record anywhere and his highest ERA. Then, to add insult to the injury of a trade he wasn’t even part of, the trade in which he did partake was pretty much as bad as he and Danny Frisella went to the Braves for Felix Millan and George Stone, both of whom would be implemental in bringing the ’73 Mets within a game of the Series title. While Gary pitched well enough when he did pitch, it wasn’t too often as searing pain in his right arm led to surgery during the season for bone chips removal from his elbow. Poor guy. But he always has that ’69 season in his corner.

Gary Gentry grew up in Phoenix where he was primarily a position player in high school. He was also a guard in hoops and an end in football. After finishing high school in ’64 he went to Phoenix Junior College where he began pitching and in his first year took his team to the JUCO Series, which he won with a 15-strikeout game. While at Phoenix he was drafted three times by, successively, Houston (June ’65), Baltimore (January ’66), and San Francisco (June ’66). But his dad wouldn’t let him sign with any of them and so after the ’66 season he graduated and went to Arizona State where in ’67 he was 17-1 with a 1.14 ERA and a college record 229 strikeouts. Again he led his team to its series championship as he won the pivotal CWS game with a 15-inning performance and again with 15 K’s. That June the Mets drafted him and this time he signed for a pretty significant bonus. Finishing the year in Double A he only went 4-4 but put up a 1.59 ERA with nearly a strikeout an inning. Then in ’68 he moved up to Triple A where his fastball, curve, and improving slider took him to 12-8 with a 2.91 ERA. In spring training of ’69 he became the third hot prospect to reach the top in three years after Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman the past two seasons.

Gentry began ’69 with two victories in his first two starts and ultimately had a nice year for the Series champs. His strikeout totals weren’t what they were in college but he was a very self-determined thrower and had excellent poise for a rookie (though many would later attribute that poise to hot-headedness since he could have a nasty temper). He won the division-clincher in September and after a lame start in the playoffs, nabbed the start at the first Series game in Shea Stadium ever. Gary went over six innings for the win in the game Tommie Agee made his two great catches. He also laced a double over Paul Blair’s head to knock in two runs. In ’70 the elbow problems started and Gary won his last game with over a month left to the season. He later claimed that the Mets not taking his elbow injury seriously enough was what later ruined his arm. In ’71 he bounced a bit to put up a season almost identical to his rookie year. Then much of ’72 he was in pain which he pitched through but that contributed to his decline in numbers. After his initial season in Atlanta things only got worse. He didn’t respond terribly well to the ’73 surgery and in ’74 only got into three games – with a 1.35 ERA – before he was shelved for the season and had another operation on his elbow. Then in ’75 he went 1-1 with a 4.95 ERA in seven games before he was released. He hooked up back with the Mets later in the season but in a Double A game snapped a tendon in his arm in his first appearance and that sealed the deal on his career. He finished up top with a 46-49 record with 25 complete games, eight shutouts, two saves, and a 3.56 ERA. In the post-season he went 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his two games and hit .333.

Gentry returned to Arizona after his playing career ended and immersed himself in local real estate. He now manages subsidized housing for seniors in Scottsdale. He has been inducted to the halls of fame at both his colleges.

Most of the star bullets were covered above as was the cartoon. Ernie Banks broke up the first game with two outs in the eighth inning. Roberto Clemente broke up the second game in the sixth inning. I guess if you are going to lose two potential no-no’s it might as well be to Hall of Famers.

We skip a card to hook up two guys with big ears:

1. Gentry and – what the hell – Nolan Ryan ’69 to ’71 Mets;
2. Ryan and Joe Lahoud ’74 to ’76 Angels;
3. Lahoud and Don Money ’73 Brewers.

No comments:

Post a Comment