Remembering Rob Gardner: Mid Sixties Mets Pitcher (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.

Mets Career: Gardner was called up to the Mets for September. He arrived late so the team had him go straight to the hotel here he was watching the game & learned he was starting tomorrow's game. He debuted in New York on September 1st, 1965, getting a start against in the second game of a double header with 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. He made two more appearances that month giving up four runs in four innings.

15 Shut Out Innings: 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. His last batter was Dick Allen & he had a 3-2 count on him.

Quotes- Rob Gardner: "I was almost out of the game, I thought, I'm not going to walk this guy. I just threw the ball as hard as I could & he swung through it. As I walked off the mound, he just looked at me & shook his head".

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. There was a 1:00 am curfew at the time & game was called at 12:50 am. It was the first time since 1920 that two pitchers went 15 innings each in the same game. In five appearances that year (four starts) he went 0-2 with a 3.21 ERA.

1966:  Gardner worked with pitching coach Harvey Haddix & began the year as the teams fifth starter. On April 21st he made a start 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. On May 29th he gave up a season high six runs to the Dodgers then matched that on June 16th in Atlanta, taking losses both times.

He soon found himself in the bullpen again, where he did not earn another victory until July 3rd. That came in relief. 

On July 26th he pitched four shutout innings, earning his first save, in a 5-4 win at Houston. In the final three months he was used mostly as a mid-reliever, earning a win over Pittsburgh on August 18th & a loss in the last game of the year.

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. 

1967: At Spring Training manager Wes Westrum told him that he was placed on waivers. It wasn't until he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Bob Hendley on June 12th, that he found out the word was he had a bad arm.

Post Mets Career: 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.

Quotes- Rob Gardner: "I just keep getting the feeling that Ralph Houck (manager) didn't particularly care for me for some reason. I pulled them out of a tough situation last year."

Baseball card trivia: 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 their flashy gold or green jerseys, as well as home whites with a large A's on the left breast.

Gardener finished his MLB career in Milwaukee late in 1973. He did pitch in the minor leagues through 1975. 

Career Stats: 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.

Retirement: After his playing days, Gardner joined the Binghamton, NY Fire Department. He was one of the first fire fighter to become a paramedic there. After retiring from the Binghamton FD, he moved to south Florida.

Family: Rob & his wife Kathryn were married in 1965, together had two children together.

Passing: Gardner passed away on October 21st, 2023, at age 78.

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