Oct 21, 2014

Early Eighties Mets Reliever & One of the Top Closers of His Era: Jeff Reardon (1979-1981)

Jeffrey James Reardon was born October 1, 1955 at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The six foot right hander was signed to a minor league deal out of the University of Massachusetts with the New York Mets in 1977.

He won 17 games at AA Jackson the next season getting pushed up to the next AAA level. He was 5-2 with five saves & a 2.09 ERA, at AAA Tidewater in 1979.

He made his MLB debut in June 1979 earning a win in his first game, pitching one inning relief against the Atlanta Braves. He was back down in Tidewater after that game returning to Shea Stadium at the end of August. Reardon earned his first career save on September 28th against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a double header. In 18 appearances he earned two saves posting a 1.74 ERA going 1-1 for the '79 Mets.

In 1980 he returned to the Mets staff as a reliever, but the closer position was held down by Neil Allen at the time. On May 5th he earned his first win when Ron Hodges doubled in the bottom of the 10th for a walk off hit against the Cincinnati Reds.

By the All Star break he was 4-4 with three blown saves to his credit. In ten July appearances, he only allowed runs in two of those games. One was a five run nightmare where he took the loss to the Montreal Expos.

In August, Reardon allowed earned runs in three of his twelve outings, going 2-2 with a pair of saves. On September 29th, he pitched four innings of scoreless relief against the Pittsburgh Pirates & got the win when Joel Youngblood hit a walk off HR.

Reardon pitched well showing a lot of promise for the future going 8-7 with six saves while posting a 2.61 ERA & getting credit for two holds. He struck out 101 batters in 110 innings pitched, he finished 33 games which was sixth most in the league.

In 1981 the year began on a sour note when he blew a 1-1 tie in the 8th inning of the third game of the season, as the Mets went on to a 3-1 loss. His ERA was up around eight as he closed out the month of April. He appeared in just 18 games going 1-0 with two saves, for the Mets, striking out 28 batters in 28 innings by May 29th.

The Mets had Allen as their closer & were in need of an outfielder with some power. They made a deal with the Montreal Expos sending Reardon along with Dan Norman to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Ellis Valentine. The deal did not work out as planned, Valentine batted just .207 in 48 games the rest of the year. In 1982 he did bat .288 but only hit 8 HRs in 111 games.

In Montreal, Reardon immediately became the Expo closer, going 3-0 with eight saves for the rest of the strike shortened 1981 season. He got to his first post season, with a good Expos team that season.

Post Season: In the 1981 NLDS, he got credit for a save in the first playoff win in the franchise’s history. Reardon save both Games One & Two of the 1981 NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies, but then took a loss in Game #4.

As the Expos advanced Reardon pitched one game of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Reardon would become one of the league’s best relief pitchers over the next five years, saving 20 or more games each year, earning the nickname “ The Terminator”.

In 1985 he led the N.L. with 41 saves posting a 2-8 record with a 3.18 ERA. He made his first of four All Star appearances that season & won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award. In 1986 he saved 35 games, going 7- with 62 appearances & a 3.94 ERA. In the 1986/1987 off season he was traded to the Minnesota Twins, along with Tom Nieto for Neal Heaton, Yorkis Perez and Jeff Reed.

He would save 31 games (2nd in the league) for the 1987 World Champion Twins, going 8-8 with 83 strikeouts in 80 innings posting a 4.48 ERA. He appeared in four games of the ALCS earning two saves against the Detroit Tigers, including one in the final Game #5 clincher.

He allowed three runs in five innings of work. He earned one save in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, it came in Game #7 when he pitched a perfect 9th inning in relief of Frank Viola giving Minnesota it’s first ever Championship.

Reardon returned in 1988 making history be becoming the first pitcher to save 40 games in both leagues. His 42 saves & 58 games finished were second best in the A.L.as he posted his personal best ERA while pitching in the American League at 2.41.

For the third straight season he posted a perfect .1000 fielding % as well. He saved 31 more games the next year (second in the AL once again) going 5-4 but then left Minnesota to sign with his home town Boston Red Sox as a free agent for 1990.

In Boston he went 9-3 with 21 saves and a 3.16 ERA his first season there, as the Red Sox won the A.L. East. They lost to the Oakland A’s in the ALCS and Reardon was roughed up for two runs & three hits in two innings work.

The next season he saved 40 games for the third time in his career ( fourth best in the AL) and in 1992 passed Rollie Fingers for the most saves on the all time list. That record was broken the next year by Lee Smith.

That same 1992 season, he was nearing the end of his contract; & on August 30th he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for their stretch run. He went 3-0 with three saves posting a 1.15 ERA in 14 appearances, helping Atlanta win their second straight Western Divisional Title.

Post Season: He appeared in five post season games getting a save in the NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game #4. In the World Series against the Toronto Blue Jays he allowed a top of the 9th inning two run HR to Ed Sprague in Game #2 which ended up being the game winning runs.

Reardon signed a one year deal with the Cincinnati Reds for 1993, and then finished out his career in New York with the A.L. team in 1994.

He retired at age 39 finishing a 16 season career with 367 saves (7th all time) going 73-77 with 877 strike outs in 1132 innings pitched. Reardon finished 695 games (7th most all time) & made 880 appearances (31st all time). He has posted a 3.16 ERA (230th all time). 

Retirement: After baseball he & his family moved to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida just a few blocks from his former Expo team mate; Gary Carter.

In 2004 Reardon’s son; Shane, tragically died from a drug overdose. The tragedy destroyed the former MLB pitcher. Reardon fell into a depression & did not leave his house for months. He  soon became addicted to anti depressants & mood stabilizers.

On the day after Christmas 2005, he robbed a jewelry store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida while leaving his younger son unattended at his pent house suite.

Quotes: Jeff Reardon: "Because I was taking these heavy psychotic drugs when this heart thing happened, I guess the mixture of it, kind of sent me nuts. I don't remember one minute of that day. All I remember is the cops pointing the guns at me. That's all I remember."

Reardon was arrested but eventually found not guilty due to insanity over his child’s loss & his drug addictions. He was also not required to be committed.

Today he is doing much better & still on the long road to recovery. Although he will never get over the loss of his middle child, he is now closer to his other two children.

Honors: He was on hand for the 50th anniversary of Twins baseball events in Minneapolis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reardon's first major league win actually came in August of 1979. The June game for which he was the winning pitcher was suspended and completed in August after he was called up to the majors. Jeff did not pitch for the Mets in June of '79. He just got the win for a game played in that month. Strange, but true.