Aug 18, 2016

1986 World Champion Mets Pitcher & Emmy Award Winning Broadcaster: Ron Darling (1985-1991)

Ronald Maurice Darling was Born August 19th, 1960 in Honolulu, Hawaii to a Hawaiian-Chinese mother and French-Canadian father. He speaks both Chinese and French fluently.

His family moved to Millbury, Massachusetts, where he grew up and later attended Yale University. He had a majored in French and Southeast Asian history, and of course played baseball. Darling was one of the best baseball players in Yale’s history & pitched in the schools most famous game.

On May 21, 1981 Darling went up against St. John’s Frank Viola, and the two tossed no hitters until the 12th inning. In the 12th St. Johns got their first hit & won the game 1-0 on a double steal. In 1981 The six foot three right handed, Darling was the first round draft pick of the Texas Rangers. The following April he was traded to the New York Mets along with Walt Terrell, for the popular Mets player, Lee Mazzilli.

Darling pitched well at AAA Tidewater in 1983 going 10-9, but gave up 102 walks in 159 innings pitched. That September he was called up to the Mets staff, getting his first start on September 6th at Shea Stadium.

He pitched 6.1 innings giving up only one run against the Philadelphia Phillies, but earned a 2-0 loss. After losing his first three decisions, he pitched a complete game victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 28th, finishing the year at 1-3 with a 2.50 ERA.

Darling got a spot on Davey Johnson’s 1984 starting staff behind Dwight Gooden & Walt Terrell. He won his first start in the second game of the season at Cincinnati, throwing six shutout innings against the Reds He won two starts in May including an eight inning, two hit shut out performance against the Houston Astros. He was 3-3 by the end of May with a 4.64 ERA and then rolled through the summer.

He won his next seven decisions, including 5-0 month of June, posting a 1.88 ERA. Darling threw a four hit shutout in St. Louis on June 14th beating John Stuper 6-0. On July 6th at Shea Stadium, he threw a four hit shutout against the Cincinnati Reds & Jeff Russell.

That summer the Mets stayed in contention for first place for the first time in a long time & there was a new excitement at Shea Stadium. He struggled from August on, going 2-6 the rest of the way. He was much better pitching at Shea Stadium than on the road, getting seven wins at home.

He finished the year at 12-9 with a 3.81 ERA gathering 136 strikeouts, walking 114 in 205 innings pitched. He came in fifth place in the Rookie of the Year voting, in the shadows of rookie super star Dwight Gooden. Darling quietly went about his business as New York's 1 & 2 pitchers were among the best in the league.

By 1985 Darling became known around the league as a good pitcher in his own right. He had a great pickoff move and was one of the best defensive pitchers in baseball.

He allowed just one run pitching seven innings in each of his first two starts of the year, but earned no decision each time, even though the Mets won both games. On April 26th he struck out eleven Pittsburgh Pirates, in his first victory tossing a five hit shutout. He won five straight decisions from May 7th through the middle of June capped off by a five hit shutout against the Chicago Cubs on June 17th at Shea.

Darling started out the first half of the season going 9-2 making his first All Star team although he did not pitch in the game. Darling had another good streak from August 19th through September 15th where he won six straight games, allowing two earned runs or less five times. Overall in that year he had seven no decisions where he had allowed two runs or less.

He finished up the year at 16-6 with his career best winning percentage (.727). His 2.90 ERA was 9th in the league, as he pitched 248 innings (8th in the NL) with 167 strikeouts (7th in the NL) throwing two shut outs. His weakness was giving up 21 long balls and leading the league with 114 walks.

In the second game of the 1986 season he allowed six runs at Philadelphia, losing to the Phillies 9-7. He only notched one victory in the month, it came in his second start his first at Shea where he always pitched better. Soon everything came together for the Mets and Darling was no exception. He won all five straight decisions in the month of May, pitching eight or more innings in three of the outings.

On May 27th at Shea Stadium he matched his personal career-high of 12 strikeouts in a five-hit complete game victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Once again Darling, pitched well at Shea Stadium, going 10-2 at home during the 1986 championship season.

In June after two straight losses, he won three straight decisions going into the All Star break. He shut out the Expos in Montreal for seven innings on June 16th but earned no decision.

Drama: On July 19, he and teammates Bob Ojeda, Rick Aguilera and Tim Teufel were arrested outside a bar in Houston, Texas for fighting with security guards, who were also off-duty police officers. In the highly publicized ordeal, the four were quickly released & ordered to pay $200 fines. Darling appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated & GQ magazine less than a month later.

His next start came in Cincinnati where he pitched eight innings, out dueling Tom Browning 3-2, allowing just five hits along the way. From mid August on he went 4-2 through the end of the season.

On September 15th, he pitched nine shutout innings, allowing just four hits in a game in St. Louis, but earned no decision as the Mets lost it in the 13th inning, when Roger McDowell walked in Willie McGee with the winning run. Darling ended the regular season with a 9-0 two hit, five inning shutout victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the last game of the regular season.

He finished the season posting a 2.18 ERA (third-best in the N.L.) with a 15-6 record (8th most wins in the league) 184 career high strikeouts (7th in the NL) four complete games, two shut outs, pitching in 237 innings making 34 starts (10th most in the NL). He lowered his base on balls allowed to 81, which was 33 less than the previous year. For the second straight year he led all NL pitchers in assists on the mound, and at the plate he added ten sacrifice hits.

Post Season: The 1986 NLCS was tied at one game each, when Darling started Game #3 at Shea Stadium. But he allowed four runs on seven hits and left the game losing 4-0 after six innings. The Mets recovered to win the game on Lenny Dykstra’s walk off HR in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Darling then opened the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Shea Stadium. He pitched well in Game #1 allowing only one unearned run (coming on Tim Teufel’s error) with eight strike outs, through seven innings, but lost a hard-luck 1-0 game to Bruce Hurst, who blanked the Mets bats. With the Mets in danger of falling into a 3-1 series deficit, Darling started Game #4 at Fenway Park.

He pitched seven shutout innings in his home town, with four strike outs & six walks allowed. He got out of jams when he had to & extended his 0.00 ERA to 14 World Series innings as the Mets easily won this game 6-2.

In the legendary Game Six at Shea Stadium, Darling gave a high five to Mike Sergio who jumped out of a small airplane landing on the Shea infield in a parachute & a sign that read Lets Go Mets.

Game Six ran so long, past midnight, NBC had to start Saturday Night Live later than usual. That night Darling recorded a video message apologizing for the late start & the bit opened up the night's show.

Then he got the ball to pitch for the final Game # 7 to close out the Series.

The Sox scored three early runs in the second inning, including back to back HRs by Dwight Evans & Rich Gedman. Darling appeared tired & shaky getting only into the fourth inning. He was relieved by Sid Fernandez who shut down the Sox, and the Mets went on to win the World Championship.

In the World Series he was 1-1 posting a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 innings pitched with 12 strike outs & ten walks.

Darling & his model wife Terri were big hits at the ticker tape parade held in the Mets honor in New York City. The pretty couple enjoyed the spot light at many of the New York hot spots as well being treated like celebrities.         

He had a rough start as did the whole ball club coming off the Series Championship & the drama of Dwight Gooden’s drug problems. He was given the role of taking over as the ace of the staff when Gooden was off to rehab as the season began. He earned no decision in the second game of the season, pitching into the 7th inning in the Mets 4-2 win over the Pirates. In his next start he pitched eight innings at Philadelphia allowing five runs, but still got the win as the Mets scored seven runs in his support.

In April Darling was 2-1 but his ERA was over six. Then he didn't win a game in all of May or June, going 0-4 with eight no decisions. On June 28th he had a no-hitter going through seven innings in Philadelphia, but Greg Gross broke it up with a lead off triple in the 8th inning. Juan Samuel drove in the first run & the Mets wound up losing the game 5-4.

In July he began to get better then after the All Star break he really got it going, winning six consecutive starts. On August 7th he struck out eleven Chicago Cubs, pitching a four hit one run victory at Shea Stadium.

From July 7th through the end of the season he was 10-2 keeping the Mets in contention. On September 11th during the heat of the pennant race with the rival St. Louis Cardinals, Darling pitched six shutout innings against the Cards, when he tore his thumb fielding a Vince Coleman bunt.

He got to the bench & realized his season was over. Darling said; “They put me in my car and told me, ‘drive over to Roosevelt Hospital, take X-rays and they’re gonna repair your thumb.’ I said, ‘okay, fine,’ got in my car…and back in those days we parked out past center field…and as I got in my car Terry Pendleton’s homer nearly hit me in the head.”

The Mets lost the game and it was this night that people look back on as the Mets elimination from contention.

Without Darling their finish was even tougher, needless to say they finished second that year. He finished the year at 12-8 with a 167 strikeouts (7th in the NL), 96 walks (4th most in the NL) and a high 4.29 ERA, the worst of his first seven seasons.

In 1988, Darling bounced back strong; he pitched three hit complete game win at Shea beating the Expos for his firts win of the year. On April 22nd he shut out the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in another complete game. On May 8th Darling pitched a three hit one run victory over the Reds and went 4-2 in the month. In June he tossed another complete game, a seven hitter over the Pirates in a 9-0 Mets win.

Darling had ten wins in the first half of the season (10-5) with a 2.70 ERA. He had a great finish helping lead the team to another Eastern Division title, winning seven of nine games from July 31st through the end of the year. He won his last five decisions in August & September, tossing two complete games in that period. On September 2nd, Darling struck out eight Dodgers pitching a five hit shut out to beat former Met Tim Leary.

On September 22nd he beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 allowing just six hits to clinch the NL Eastern title for New York, their second divisional title in three years.

Darling was an incredible 14-1 at Shea Stadium for the year and his ERA was twice as low at home than on the road. Overall he finished 1988 with a career high 17 wins (8th most in the league) going 17-9.

That year he was third behind David Cone (20 wins) & Dwight Gooden (18 wins) on the Mets strong staff. Darling pitched four shut outs (6th in the NL) & seven complete games. He threw 240 innings, with 161 strikeouts (10th in the NL) and 60 walks (lowest in his career up to that point) posting a 3.25 ERA. At the plate he batted .220 with six extra base hits, ten sac hits & four RBIs.

Post Season: Darling was terrible in the 1988 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the series tied 1-1, he fell behind 3-0 in Game #3 pitching in six innings before getting relieved by Roger McDowell. But the Mets came back to win the game 8-4.

In the deciding Game #7 he went up against Orel Hershiser, giving up six runs while getting knocked out in the second inning. The Dodgers won the game & moved on to the World Series, as the Mets season came to a shocking end.

In 1989 the Mets would finish second, six games behind the Chicago Cubs. Darling started out the year at 0-3 not winning his first game at the end of April. He would stay around the .500 mark all year. At the start of August he pitched two straight complete games, first allowing just two runs to the Expos & then allowing just one run to the Cardinals, both at Shea Stadium. On August 26th he allowed just one run while pitching into the 9th inning, in a 4-1 win against the San Francisco Giants.

During the summer, he hit HRs in back to back games that he started, the only two HRs of his career. That year he also had a career high, five RBIs while at the plate. In September he lost four of six decisions, although he allowed two runs or less in four starts.

That season Darling became the first Mets pitcher to win a Gold Glove Award making just four errors in 56 chances. He had a .500 season going 14-14 with 153 strike outs in 207 innings over 33 starts (7th most in the NL) posting a 3.52 ERA. He also threw 12 wild pitches, six most in the league.

In 1990 he struggled again and was sent to the bullpen for a while to work things out. He made 18 starts in 33 appearances, didn’t get any saves and went 7-9 on the year, having the first losing season of his career. In 126 innings he struck out 99 batters, walked 44 & posted a 4.50 ERA. The 1990 Mets fell short again, coming in second place four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 1991 he was back on the starting staff again but continued to struggle. He was 2-4 by mid June & got himself to .500 by the end of the month. He pitched a two hit, eight inning shut outs in Montreal on July 3rd against the Expos, in a game which turned out to be his last good outing as a New York Met.

He was 5-6 by mid July, and on July 15, 1991 Ron Darling was traded to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Tim Burke. After just three games the Expos sent him to the Oakland A’s two weeks later, in exchange for two minor leaguers. On a good Oakland A's club Darling won his first three decisions, but then got wild & lost seven straight.

Overall in 1991 he was 8-15 with a 4.26 ERA for the three teams. In 1992 he made a solid return, having his last quality year. He pitched over 200 innings, going 15-10 with 99 strike outs & a 3.66 ERA. He tossed three shut outs (4th in the AL). On May 24th he he pitched a two hit shutout in his home town of Boston to beat the Red Sox. Later in the year on July 12th, he pitched another two hitter against the eventual World Champion Toronto Blue Jays. Later In the ALCS he pitched Game #3 against the Blue Jays & gave up two HRs taking the loss.

In 1993 he struggled, at 5-9 with a 5.16 ERA, as the A's fell to a 7th place last place finish, their worst run since 1979. Darling came back with a good 1994, leading the Athletics staff going 10-11 as the only pitcher in Oakland to win double figures. He posted a 4.50 ERA leading the league with 25 starts. He was released in 1995 ending his playing career.

In his 13-year career, he was 136-116 with 1,590 strikeouts (174th all time), 13 shut outs, 37 complete games in 2360 innings pitched and a 3.87 ERA. He made 364 starts (182nd all time) allowing 906 walks (156th all time) 97 wild pitches (111th all time) & 239 HRs (138th all time).

At the plate he is a .144 hitter with 76 hits in 526 at bats, 2 HRs 21 doubles & 21 RBIs.

Mets All Time List: In his Mets career he is fourth all time in wins (99) & innings pitched (1620). He is sixth all time in strike outs (1148) fourth in walks (614) seventh all time in shut outs (10) tenth in complete games (25) & sisteenth in games pitched (257).

Trivia:Darling was the last N.L. pitcher to win the Gold Glove award before Greg Maddux's remarkable streak of 13 consecutive Gold Gloves.

Retirement: Ron began his career as a broadcaster for the Oakland A's & also had a FOX show called Baseball Today.

In 2005 he was commentator for the inaugural season of the Washington Nationals. In 2006 he came home to the New York Mets on the new SNY Network as a color commentator & studio analyst.

Since 2007 he has worked the post season, for the TBS network. For his outstanding television work, he was won an Emmy Award. Darling lives in Manhattan with his wife. The Mets broadcast team of Darling, Kieth Hernandez & Gary Chen have created a website & hold various events with the proceeds going to charities.

In 2009 he published a book called "The Complete Game" which is broken down in chapters titled innings. The book expains the mind of an MLB pitcher breaking down what goes through his head in certain situations.

Family: In 2004, he married Joanna Last, a makeup artist for Fox Sports.

Previously he was married to Irish model Antoinette O'Reilly. She had small roles on television and in movies, using her married name: Toni Darling. During their marriage, they appeared in numerous magazine features together. They had two children, Tyler and Jordan Darling.

Darling & his wife live in Williamsburg Brooklyn. One of his favorite hangouts is Bamonte's Restaurant, this is the place I met him the first time.

Quotes:  Two blocks away is an Italian place called Bamonte’s. It’s an institution in Williamsburg. We all love the food there, but for me it’s also a historical place. After game days, Joe DiMaggio would go there — he’d get a seat at the corner table. More times than not, I get that seat, too, and to sit where DiMaggio sat and eat the chicken and sausage that DiMaggio ate, it’s just a huge thrill.

Honors: He threw out the ceremonial first pitch of Game #7 of the 2006 NLCS.

He was on hand for the 20th & 30th Anniversary tributes to the 1986 Championship teams.

He was also on hand for the Ralph Kiner Tribute night, and the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

Trivia: Ron Darling has also had small roles in the films Shallow Hal, Mr. 3000 and The Day After Tomorrow.

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