Joseph Charles Sambito was born on June 28, 1952 in Brooklyn, New York. The family moved to Long Island & Joe became a pitcher at Bethpage high school. The lefty would dream of being Jerry Koosman while growing up during the 1969 season. He had a try out for the Mets in 1970 at Shea Stadium but they ignored him.
He went to Adelphi, University and got a job at the Long Island Lighting Company. He stayed home from work on draft day, & then got a call that he was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 17th round of the 1973 draft. He went 11-2 at AA & AAA in the minors from in 1976.
He got called up to the Astros that year and when he arrived was in awe that he was a team mate of 1969 Met, Ken Boswell. "To this day, one of my biggest thrills was dressing in the same locker room with Ken Boswell," he says. “Anybody who played on the '69 Mets was like a god to me, and here he was, a teammate."
Sambito went 3-2 with a 3.24 ERA, as a starting pitcher. He would convert to the bullpen, spending the next eight seasons at the Astrodome as one of the leagues better relievers. In 1979 he was 8-7 with 22 saves (4th most in the NL) & posting a 1.77 ERA making his only All Star team. He followed 1980 with 8 more wins out of the bullpen (8-4) 17 saves (9th in the NL) & a 2.19 ERA.
In the NLCS he took the loss in game #4 against the Phillies when he allowed back to back doubles to Many Trillo & Greg Luzinski in the 10th inning.
By the early eighties he was being ranked as one of the games top relievers by Sports Illustrated. He was certainly low profile playing in Houston and not in the national spotlight much.
He was notorious for his full head of hair, and using his blow dryer in the locker room. He was always getting ribbed by the Astros players. Once at a roast fund raiser for him, an Astros broadcaster poured a glass of water on his head, saying “I always wanted to do that”. Of course, Sambito pulled out a blow dryer and did his hair.
In the strike shortened 1981 season, he posted another ERA under two (1.81) saved 10 games (7th in the NL) & posted a 5-5 record. His post season was a nightmare, posting an ERA of 16.20. The Dodgers knocked him around for three runs on four hits in 2/3 of an inning in Game #3. He began the 1982 season with 4 saves and a 0.71 ERA until he developed bone chips in his pitching elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed the rest of the season all of 1983 as well. In 1984 he made a slight comeback pitching in 32 games but posted no record or saves, his ERA was 3.02.
In late April of 1985 he was given a shot by the New York Mets. He made his Mets debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium on April 28th pitching one hitless, scoreless inning in relief of Calvin Shiraldi. On May 1st he made his second appearance, allowing a hit while facing two batters in relief of Ron Darling. On June 9th he had his longest outing of the year, a three inning relief effort where he allowed three runs on four hits. He only made eight appearances for the Mets getting no decisions.
His last outing took place in the worst loss in Mets history. The Philadelphia Phillies scored 26 runs at Veterans Stadium on June 11th, 1985 beating the Mets 26-7. Sambito pitched three innings from the 5th through the 7th innings, allowing ten runs (eight of them earned) on nine hits, issuing five walks. He was sent down to AAA Tidewater but where he went 0-3 in 19 games with a 4.35 ERA.
He was released by the Mets in August & signed with the Boston Red Sox in January 1986. He had a good Spring Training, making the Sox staff and taking over the closer role until Calvin Schiraldi won the job. Sambito was second on the team with 12 saves, going 2-0 with a 4.84 ERA.
Post Season: He appeared in two games of the ALCS against the California Angels and then two games of the 1986 World Series facing his old Mets team mates. He allowed two hits and a run, (Ray Knights double) in Game #3 at Fenway. In Game #7 he relieved Calvin Shiraldi after the Mets went ahead for good in the 7th inning, he gave up two walks & a sac fly to Keith Hernandez, which scored the 6th run. His ERA was 27.00 in the Series.
After the 1987 season Sambito retired. In an eleven-season career, Sambito posted a 37-38 record with a 3.03 ERA and 84 saves in 461 games.
Retirement: After baseball he became a player’s counselor and representative. Some of his clients have included Jeff D'Amico, Ryan Klesko, Morgan Ensberg and Andy Pettitte.