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Plink Floyd

Last night I posed the question to someone who would know, from having faced him a couple dozen times. What kind of pitcher was Brian Bannister's father?

"Floyd? He was nasty..."

The Mets found that out firsthand during the 1977 season when the elder Bannister, then a rookie not long removed from being the No. 1 overall draft pick, faced them three times. He was quite nasty on each occasion. On the first, on June 12, he more than held his own against Tom Seaver and carried a 1-0 lead and three-hit shutout into the eighth inning before faltering slightly. The Mets tallied twice, scoring the second run on a wild pitch to send Bannister down to an eventual 3-1 defeat (with Seaver retiring Art Howe for the final out).

The story in Houston that day may have been Bannister's tough-luck performance and fifth straight defeat, but there was a much greater story brewing in New York. Seaver was on the verge of being traded. He would be dealt to the Reds three days later.

Seaver's turn in the rotation was filled in by one of the players obtained from the Reds for him, Pat Zachry. When Bannister met the Mets at Shea Stadium five days following his first outing, he was just as sharp, but Zachry was no Seaver. This time, Bannister both started and finished strong, tossing an eight-hit complete game in a 7-1 win victory.

That victory got Floyd Bannister headed in the right direction. He shut out the Expos on four hits in his next start and added a victory against the Braves before running into a little trouble against the Reds and Cubs in his next two outings. After lasting only two innings in Chicago, Bannister went on the 21-day DL with a sore arm. His return came nearly a full month later, and it so happened to be against the team he'd had the most success against, the Mets.

Bannister's pitches didn't quite have the same strikeout-producing zip that they had against the Mets in his previous outing, when he whiffed eight, but he was respectably effective. Through six innings he fanned only two, but more importantly only allowed six hits and no runs. Fortunately for the Mets, they were getting just as good an effort from Nino Espinosa, who blanked the Astros through the first seven.

The Mets had to be quite pleased when Bannister was pulled prior to the bottom of the seventh, even after Houston scored in the top of the eighth to go ahead, 1-0. The Mets rallied to tie in the last of the eighth on a clutch pinch-hit double by Ed Kranepool, then beat reliever (and future Met) Joe Sambito in the last of the ninth when Leo Foster singled, advanced on a sacrifice and wild pitch, then scored on a walk-off single by Lenny Randle. It gave the Mets a rather insignificant win in the grand scheme of things and handed the Astros a rather frustrating defeat.

For all his good work in three appearances against New York that season, Bannister managed just one victory. In 23 innings against him, the Flushing Nine had managed just three runs (two earned). He didn't fare too well against others that season, so it would seem to indicate that looking back on the first season of a fairly successful 15-year career, he found the Mets very much to his liking. Hopefully Brian has the same feelings after his rookie season as well.

True Mettisters know...Brian Bannister had a no-hitter flirtation in his big league debut. Floyd Bannister had his share of such performances during his major league career. The elder Bannister threw one one-hitter (Harold Reynolds had the only hit for Seattle against Bannister, a third-inning single) and five two-hitters. His longest no-hit bid within those six starts was 5 2/3 innings against the Red Sox in a 9-1 two-hitter on May 23, 1987.

Floyd Bannister's last major-league win also happened to be a walk-off win, a 4-3 triumph for the Rangers against the White Sox on May 27, 1992.

For another take on Brian Bannister, go to this link


Anonymous said…
On July 3, 1984, Tom Seaver beat the Tigers for the White Sox, 9-5, one day after Floyd Bannister defeated Detroit for Chicago, 7-1. They were at last reunited.

And beating a team that started 35-5, no less.

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