Dec 5, 2014

Mid Sixties Mets Pitcher: Rob Gardner (1965-1967)

Richard Frank Gardner was born December 19, 1944 in Binghamton, New York. The six foot left handed pitcher batted right handed, getting signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1963.

He was drafted away by the New York Mets that same year. At A ball Orlando (33 games) & Wilson (two games) that year he went 17-11 with a 2.46 ERA. In 1964 he rose through the ranks, reaching AAA Buffalo. In 1965 he began the year at AA Williamsport going 5-3 then was an impressive 4-1 with a 1.70 ERA at AAA Buffalo getting a big league call up.

Gardner debuted in New York on September 1st 1965 getting a start against the Houston Astros. Rusty Staub & Jim Gentile both hit HRs spoiling his debut, as Gardner exited after three innings taking the loss. In his next game he pitched six innings allowing just two runs, but he lost to Ray Washburn & the Cardinals in St. Louis.

On October 3rd in Gardner pitched an incredible 15 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies, allowing no runs and striking out seven batters without getting a decision. That day his opponent, Philadelphia’s Chris Short matched him while striking out 18 Mets; the game was called after 18 innings with no score. In five appearances that year (four starts) he went 0-2 with a 3.21 ERA.

In 1966 he began the year as the teams fifth starter, making a start on April 21st earning no decision in a 5-4 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis. At the end of April he allowed one run in nine innings at Pittsburgh but got no decision, as the Mets went on to a 5-2 win in extra innings.

In his next outing he threw a four hitter allowing only one run against the Chicago Cubs at home, earning his first victory of the year. After that he would suffer six straight losses and find himself in the bullpen again, where, he did not earn another victory until July 3rd. In the final three months he was mostly a mid reliever going 1-1 with a save & a hold to his credit.

On the year he was 4-8 with one save pitching in a career high 41 games, making 17 starts. Gardner had 74 strikeouts with 64 walks in 133 innings pitched, posting a 5.12 ERA. He started out 1967 in the Mets minors and then got traded to the Chicago Cubs for Bob Hendley on June 12th.

He pitched a handful of games for Chicago Cubs (1967) & Cleveland Indians (1968) before spending two full seasons in the minor leagues. In 1970 he had a huge year with the AAA Syracuse Chiefs. He went 16-5 with a 2.53 ERA, winning the International Leagues Pitcher of the Year award. He spent then parts of the 1970-1972 seasons with the A.L. New York team, going 8-5 with a 3.06 ERA in 1972 as the club finished fourth.

Trivia: He is the only person in history to be traded two times for two of the three famous Alou brothers. In 1971 he was traded from the AL New York team to the Oakland A's for Felipe Alou. A month later he was sent back to New York in trade for Curt Blefary. The next year he was traded back to Oakland for another Alou brother, this time Matty Alou.

The 1973 Topp Rob Gardner is one of the worst air brush jobs of that years set. His cap was painted green with a white A's logo on the front & the uniform was painted grey with green sleeves, pre 1972 Oakland. At the point the team went with teir flashy gold or green jerseys, as well as home whites witha large A's on the left breast.

He finished his MLB career in Milwaukee late in 1973. He did pitch in the minor leagues through 1975. Gardner finished his eight season career with a lifetime 14-18 record & two saves. In 109 games he had 193 strikeouts & 133 walks, posting a 4.35 ERA in 109 games pitched.

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