Lawrence Donald Bearnarth was born on Staten Island in New York City on September 11, 1941. He earned an English literature degree at St. Johns University where he also pitched for the Red men baseball team. He was a member of the St. Johns team that won the 1960 College World Series.
In 1961, the expansion New York Mets were looking for some home grown talent & they didn’t have to go too far in finding a pitcher.
The six foot two right hander was signed & sent directly to AAA Syracuse. Obviously he was rushed through the ranks of a young organization eager to push a local player to the ballclub. In his first year of minor league ball, Bearnarth went 2-13 with a 6.67 ERA in 1962. It didn’t matter, the 21 year old right hander was still brought up to the 1963 Mets pitching staff.
Bearnarth made his MLB debut on April 16th pitching in relief at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He went three innings allowing just one run, finishing up a 7-4 Mets loss.
One of his best early outings was on May 5th, at the Polo Grounds when he pitched four shutout innings against the San Francisco Giants. Bearnarth got his first victory a week later, coming against the Cincinnati Reds.
He earned his first career win on June 2nd in the Polo Grounds, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets won it in the 10th inning, as Hot Rod Kanhel scored the winning run on Willie Stargell error.
In a rare start on July 6th he gave up four runs on twelve hits, pitching seven innings innings against the San Francisco Giants.
Bearnarth would earn two saves in August although he lost three straight decisions as well.
On August 16th he came in to pitch in the 4th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings pitched taking the loss.
On September 1st, he earned another victory, coming in relief of Roger Craig in the 10th inning. Bearnarth went on to pitch through the 16th inning, getting the win when Tim Harkness hit a walk off HR.
Overall Bearnarth would have his best year in his 1963 rookie season. He made 58 appearances, going 3-8 with four saves, posting a 3.42 ERA. Between his saves & victories, he was involved in almost one quarter of the Mets 40 wins that season. He was the best of the bunch in the bullpen that year and his aggressive pitching style along with his name, earned him the nickname of Bear.
In 1964 he began the month of April going 0-3 with a 6.97 ERA. In May he had a solid month, going 3-0 with a pair of saves. That month he was on the positive side of almost half of the Mets 12 victories.
On June 9th he had an epic outing at Shea Stadium, pitching ten innings of relief & allowing just one run, to earn his fourth win of the season. On the year he made 44 appearances, going 5-5 with three saves & a 4.15 ERA while pitching in 78 innings.
In 1965 he pitched well enough to go 3-1 into early July, but then was hit hard the rest of the month. In five separate outings, he retired just one batter or less each time. In early August when he was sent down to AAA Buffalo, where he went 3-2 returning at the very end of September to the Mets bullpen.
Overall for the '65 season, he made 40 appearances going 3-5 with one save, striking out just 16 batters in 60 innings. He walked more batters than he struck out over the 1964-1965 seasons posting ERA’s averaging near five.
In 1966, he was 2-3 with a 4.45 ERA, giving up 11 HRs in 54 innings of work. He was sent back to the minors in early August.
He pitched in the minor leagues for the next five seasons & then was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1971.
He made two brief appearances in Milwaukee, allowing six runs in three innings of work. He decided to retire that season, at the age of 30. In his five year career he was 13-21 with eight saves, 124 strike outs, 135 walks & a 4.13 ERA in 322 innings over 173 appearances.
Retirement: After his playing career he became a successful minor league coach in the Montreal Expos organization. He became their pitching coach for seven years under his friend, Expos manager Buck Rogers.
In 1990 in Montreal, he put together a staff which led the league in ERA and a bullpen that tied the NL for the most saves.
In 1993 Bearnarth became the first pitching coach for the expansion Colorado Rockies staff. He later scouted for the Detroit Tigers from 1996-1999.
Passing: In 2000 he suddenly passed away from a heart attack in Seminole, Florida he was just 58 years old.