May 10, 2016

Early Eighties Mets Pitcher: Walt Terrell (1982-1984)

Charles Walter Terrell was born on May 11, 1958 in Jefferson-ville, Indiana. The six foot two right hander attended Moorehead Sate University, which was the same school NFL quarterback, New York Giants Super Bowl XXV MVP Phil Simms came out of. Simms & Terrell are two of the schools most famous sports alumni.

Terrell was originally drafted by the New York Mets in 1979 but did not sign. He got drafted way down in the 33rd round of the 1980 draft by the Texas Rangers. Two years later on April 1st, 1982 he was sent to the New York Mets after all, in a famous trade that involved pitching prospect Ron Darling coming to New York for the popular Lee Mazzilli.

In 1982 he went 7-8 at AAA Tidewater, getting a September call up, debuting against the World Champion St.Louis Cardinals who greeted him with six runs in six innings in his first MLB start. He went 0-3 that month, taking losses in every game he appeared in. In 1983 he went 10-1 with a 3.12 ERA at AAA Tidewater & was the International League Pitcher of the Year.

He got called up on June 20th and earned his first MLB win beating the Cardinals at Shea Stadium 6-4. He followed that with four straight losing decisions into mid July although he did not get much run support.

On July 17th he beat Houston at the Astrodome allowing just one run in on four hits in six innings. His highlights on the season were two four hit complete game shutouts both pitched at Shea Stadium. On August 12the he beat the Chicago Cubs striking out seven batters in a 2-0 win.

Two starts later on August 23rd he threw another complete game this time an 8-3 Mets win over the Padres in San Diego. On the last day of the season, he threw another four hit shutout beating Charlie Lea & the Montreal Expos 1-0 in the first game of a double header. Terrell finished the year at .500, going 8-8 with a 3.57 ERA, striking out 59 batters walking 55 in 133 innings pitched in 21 games.

In 1984 as Dwight Gooden was stealing the show, and the Mets staff was developing to one of baseball’s best, Terrell struggled to go 11-12. In the third game of the season he made his first start & pitched a complete game one run, four hit shutout at Houston to beat the Astros. After starting out 3-1 he lost four straight in May getting to 7-7 by the All Star break.

In August he pitched another complete game five hitter beating the Pirates in Pittsburgh 4-1. From July 29th on he pitched into the 8th inning five times in 13 starts. Although he led the staff in starts (33) he also led the club in losses (12) hits (232) & runs (99). He allowed 16 HRs as well, and by the end of the year he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Howard Johnson.

It turned out to be a great trade for the Mets, but it worked well for Detroit too. Terrell won 15 games for the Tigers in both 1985 & 1986, although he yielded over 98 runs & 90 walks each season. He was in the top ten in shutouts in the A.L. every season from 1985-1987. On August 20th 1986 he had a no hitter going into the 9th innings at Tiger Stadium, when the Angel’s Wally Joyner hit a double with two out. He finished the night with a one hit shutout. 

In 1987 he was second on the A.L. Eastern Champions Tiger staff, to Jack Morris going 17-10 (8th in the league in wins) throwing ten complete games with career highs in strike outs (143) & innings (244). In the ALCS he started Game #3 allowing six runs over 6.1 innings earning no decisions although Detroit won the game 7-6.

Terrell gave up 30 HRs for three straight years in Detroit and his 187 HRs allowed in his career put him at #227 all time. In 1988 he fell to a 7-16 record although his ERA was it’s lowest in three years (3.97).

In 1989 he lost a major league leading 18 games pitching for the San Diego Padres going 5-13 & then the A.L. New York team going 6-5. In 1990 he signed with Pittsburgh then went back to Detroit for three final seasons. In 1991 he won 12 games (12-14) but led the league in hits allowed (257).

His last season was 1992 and he finished his 11 year career at 111-124 with 929 strike outs & 748 walks in 1986 innings pitched, in 321 games while posting a 4.22 ERA. 

Honors: Terrell was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.

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