Ken Sanders: Mid Seventies Mets Relief Pitcher (1975-1976)

Kenneth George Sanders was born July 8, 1941, in St. Louis, Missouri. The five foot eleven, right-handed pitcher was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1960.

In his first minor league season he won 19 games, then moved on to A ball where he went 13-8 with a 3.96 ERA. The following year he went through all levels of the minor leagues but lost 18 games. That season he was converted to a relief pitcher & found success.

MLB Career: He made his MLB debut in August of 1964 appearing in 24 games going 0-2 for the Kansas City A’s. In 1965 he was drafted away by the Boston Red Sox in the Rule V draft, then in June was sent back to the A’s with former Met Jim Gosger for Rollie Sheldon, Jose Tartabull and John Wyatt. 

That year he went 6-10 between Boston & Kansas City. Sanders would spend most of the next four years in the minor leagues, making just seven appearances with the 1968 Oakland A's.

In 1970 he was traded along with Phil Roof, to the Milwaukee Brewers in their inaugural season,
as baseball returned to Milwaukee after a five-year absence. He enjoyed his best years with the Brewers in their first three seasons and was became one of the A.L.’s top relievers.


In 1970 he had a great season, finding himself at 4-0 with seven saves and a 1.75 ERA entering September. That month he made five more saves, won another & took two losses. Overall, in 1970 he made fifty appearances, saving 13 games going 5-2 with a 1.75 ERA.

In 1971 Sanders went on to lead the A.L in saves with 31. He also led the league in appearances (86) games finished (77) & fielding for a pitcher (.977 %). Overall, Sanders was 7-12, with a solid 1.91 ERA, making him one of the toughest right-handed relievers in the league.

He returned to save 17 more games (5th in the AL) the next year, posting a 2-9 record with a 3.12 ERA. He finished 51 games which was second most in the league. Sanders soon became a journeyman pitcher & would play for nine different teams in his ten-year career.

He moved on to the Minnesota Twins (1973) Cleveland Indians (1973-1974) & California Angels (1974) before joining the New York Mets in 1975. 

Sanders would save at least one game with every team he went to & enjoyed a career best .833 winning % going 5-1 in Cleveland with the Indians in parts of the 1973 season. 

In Spring Training 1975 he came to the Mets in exchange for Ike Hampton.

Mets Career: Sanders began the year at AAA Tidewater where he was 6-1 with a 1.34 ERA saving nine games. 

He was brought up to the Mets staff by the end of June where he debuted at Shea Stadium on
June 29th, pitching two innings in a 9-6 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.


On July 8th in his fifth Mets appearance, he earned his first save, pitching a scoreless 9th in Atlanta. Later that month he earned two more saves in a three-game series at Wrigley Field in Chicago. 

Freak Injury: In August he was forced to leave a game before throwing an official pitch, when he was hit above the eye by a wild throwback from catcher John Stearns.



On September 18th, he pitched a scoreless 9th inning against the Cubs in a 5-5 tie. He earned the win when Dave Kingman hit a walk off HR off Darold Knowles. He closed out the season with two saves in the last week of September.

Overall, Sanders made 30 appearances going 1-1 with five saves posting a 2.30 ERA. His five saves, which was third best on the Mets staff, behind Bob Apodaca & Rick Baldwin. He struck out eight but walked 14 in 43 innings of work.  Sanders also finished off 18 games.

Bicentennial Year: Sanders was back on the Mets staff in 1976, On April 25thhe pitched three scoreless innings in Houston against the Astros, finishing off the game earning him his first win. Joe Niekro's wild pitch put the Mets ahead in the top of the 8th. 

On May 21st he earned a save in Montreal then took a loss on May 29th at Shea when he served up a 10th inning HR to the Cardinals' Reggie Smith. On July 28th he gave up a HR to Richie Hebner in the top of the 13th inning, taking a loss to the Pirates.

In September his contract was sold off to the Kansas City Royals. 

Post Mets Career: Sanders made three appearances there that month & was released. In 1977 he signed with Milwaukee & went 2-6 for them at AAA. He finished his ten-year career there at the end of the season.

Career Stats: Lifetime he was 29-45 with 86 saves striking out 360 batters, while walking 258 in 656 innings posting a 2.97 ERA in 408 appearances. 

Retirement:
 During the early to mid-seventies, Sanders was very involved in the Players Union. 
After his playing days he was been on the MLB Players Alumni Board for over twenty years. 

Sanders has also sold real estate & worked as a real estate consultant in the Milwaukee area. In 2010 he oversaw the proposed deal of the field used in the movie “Field of Dreams”.

Family: Ken & his wife Mary Ann have three children as well as five grandchildren.

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