Joe Sambito: Former Italian / American New York Born Mets Pitcher with the Best Hair in Baseball (1985)

Joseph Charles Sambito was born on June 28, 1952 in Brooklyn, New York. All four of his grand parents were born in Italy, eventually settling in America in Brooklyn. His parents, Anthony & Jennie had three children, two boys & a girl, eventually moving the family to Long Island. 

Joe got his love of baseball from his father. He would become a pitcher at Bethpage high school. He was named All American in 1973, becoming the first at Adelphi.

The  six foot lefty would dream of being Jerry Koosman while growing up during the Mets 1969 season. He had a try out for the Mets in 1970 at Shea Stadium but the team did not offer him a deal.

He attended Adelphi University and then got a job at LILCO- the Long Island Lighting Company. 

In 1973 he stayed home from work on draft day hoping to hear good news about himself. Sure enough, he got a call saying that he was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 17th round.

Sambito, spent four years in the Astros minor leagues. In 1976 he went 11-2 between AA Columbus & AAA Memphis. He got called up to the Astros in July of that Bicentennial year.

 Astros Career: When he arrived with the club, he was in awe that he was now a team mate of 1969 World Champion Amazing Mets second baseman, Ken Boswell. Boswell was nearing the end of his career.

Quotes- Joe Sambito: "To this day, one of my biggest thrills was dressing in the same locker room with Ken Boswell. Anybody who played on the '69 Mets was like a god to me, and here he was, now a teammate."

He debuted on July 20th 1976, coming in with the bases loaded, he walked Richie Hebner on four pitches & then gave up a bases clearing double to Manny Sanguillen. His manager Bill Virdon kept him in for four innings. 

1976: 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.

1977: That year he recorded seven saves, second to Joe Niekro who also won 13 games & made 14 starts. Six different Astro pitchers had saves that season. 

1978: The following year was emerging as the Astros reliever who would close out the most games, he led the team with 11 saves & finished 45 games. He struck out 96 batters in 88 innings going 4-9 with a 3.07 ERA.

1979: In '79 he was 8-7 with 22 saves (4th most in the NL) posting a 1.77 ERA, he struck out 83
batters in 91 innings over 63 appearances finishing 51 games. 

On June 10th & 11th he pitched at Shea Stadium in two games, throwing nine scoreless innings. Quite a thrill for the New Yorker. That year he made the All Star team & pitched to three batters in the NL's 6-5 win at the Kingdome in Seattle.

In 1980 with the NL Western Champion Astros, he earned eight wins out of the bullpen, going 8-4 with 17 saves (9th most in the NL) & posting a 2.19 ERA.

1980 Post Season: In the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies, he took the loss in Game #4, when he allowed back to back doubles to Many Trillo & Greg Luzinski in the 10th inning.

Trivia: By the early eighties Sambito was being ranked as one of the games top relievers by Sports Illustrated.

Best Hair in Baseball: 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 & the center of all jokes about hair. 

Once at a fund raiser for him, an Astros broadcaster poured a glass of water on his head, saying “I always wanted to do that”. In response, Sambito pulled out a blow dryer and proceeded to dry his hair.

In the strike shortened 1981 season, he posted another ERA under two (1.81) saved 10 games (7th best in the NL) while posting a 5-5 record. The Astros finished first in the second part of that season, losing a tough Division series to the eventual World Champion Dodgers.

1981 Post Season- NLDS: In Game #2 of that series Joe Niekro & Jerry Ruess shut out their opponents, leaving it up to the bullpens. Joe Sambito struck out two Dodgers, pitching a scoreless top of the 11th. In the bottom of the 11th he earned the win, when Denny Walling singled in Phil Garner with the walk off run.

The next game, Game #3 was a nightmare for Sambito, he came on down 3-1 in the 8th inning, then the Dodgers knocked him around for three runs on four hits in 2/3 of an inning. It sent his ERA to 16.20 in the two games.

1982: Sambito began the 1982 season with four saves and a 0.71 ERA until he developed bone chips in his pitching elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery& missed the rest of the season as well as all of the 1983 season. 

1984: He made a slight comeback pitching in 32 games with a 3.02 ERA . He was released by the Astros at the start of the 1985 season.

Mets Career: On April 26th, 1985 he was given a shot by the New York Mets & inked a deal. While playing with the Mets he stayed with his mother who was living on Long Island about 20 miles from Shea Stadium. 

He made his Mets debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium on April 28th pitching one hitless, scoreless inning of relief of Calvin Schiraldi.

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 one of the worst losses in Mets history.  On June 11th, 1985, the Philadelphia Phillies scored 26 runs at Veterans Stadium 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. 

Red Sox Career: He played winter ball in Venezuela & had a good Spring Training with Boston, being very effective against left handers. He made the club & turned things around.

In Boston he got to be a team mate of another 1969 Met, the great Tom Seaver.

Quotes- Joe Sambito: "I think Tom Seaver is the guy that I am the most glad I got a chance to play with a little bit & get to know. It was really interesting how he would sit in the clubhouse & start talking about pitching, and those guys would crowd around him hoping to get an earful."

On July 1st he saved a game in relief of Seaver at Fenway Park. He took over the closer role until Calvin Schiraldi won the job back. Sambito finished second on the AL Champis staff, with 12 saves, going 2-0 with a 4.84 ERA.

1986 Post Season-ALCS: He appeared in two games of the ALCS against the California Angels, pitching two thirds of an inning combined, with no runs on a hit & a walk.

 1986 World Series: He appeared in two games of the 1986 World Series facing his old Mets teammates. 

In Game #3 at Fenway Park, he allowed two hits and a run on Ray Knights double, in the Mets 7-1 iwn.

In Game #7 he relieved Calvin Schiraldi in the 7th inning, after the Mets went ahead 5-3. He walked Mookie Wilson intentionally & then walked Wally Backman. He then gave up a sac fly to Keith Hernandez, which scored the Mets 6th & final run. 

After recording just 0.1 innings of work, his ERA was 27.00 in the Series. He pitched one more season in Boston, going 2-6 in 47 games. 

In an eleven-season career, Sambito posted a 37-38 record with a 3.03 ERA , notching 84 saves in 461 games with 271 games finished. He struck out 489 & walked 195 in 629 innings.

Retirement: After baseball he became a player’s counselor and agent
representative. Some of his clients have included Jeff D'Amico, Ryan Klesko, Morgan Ensberg and Andy Pettitte.

Family: Joe has been married twice. His second wife Jennifer is an attorney. They have a daughter & a son together, they reside in Southern California. 


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