I was going to start this post with “here’s a trivia question for you” but then I remembered Art Rust Jr., the long-time sports talk host on WABC-AM who got annoyed whenever someone would start off a call with that phrase. Rust would respond “it’s history, not trivia”. So, this is my question on an important piece of Mets’ history :
What pitcher won the most games for the Mets without ever winning a game for any other major league team in his entire career?
I posed this question to several Mets’ fans and only one came up with the correct answer without researching it. Can you?
One of the better guesses was Mike Pelfrey who won 50 games with the Mets and has yet to appear with another major league team. But Mike is now a member of the Twins and unless he somehow winds up back with the Mets before winning a game elsewhere, won’t have a chance at the record.
Another pretty good guess was Sid Fernandez, but El Sid managed to get in a few wins for Baltimore after his tenure as a Met was over.
No, the answer is…
Husky righthander Craig Swan who was the ace of the Mets’ staff during the down years of 1978 and 1979. Although he pitched for the Mets for all or part of 12 seasons, various injuries and ailments had him in and out of the rotation most years. Originally drafted in the third round of the 1972 amateur draft out of Arizona State, he had a few shots with the Mets before staying up for good in 1976. Although Swan never became the star pitcher Mets’ fans were hoping for, there were several notable highlights in his career.
In 1978, he led the National League with a 2.43 ERA while going 9-6 for the last-place Mets. The following year, he pitched 251 innings, winning 14 games for the Mets who again finished last. He also came back from a torn rotator cuff injury in 1982 to post an 11-7 record before injuries sidelined him again. Yet, possibly his most unique achievement is that he still holds the record for most career wins by a Mets pitcher who never won a game for any other major league team with 59. He did have a very brief late-career stint with the Angels, but didn’t win a game with them.
An interesting anecdote about Swan involves his potential trade to the Angels in 1979. The Mets were discussing dealing Swan and Elliott Maddox for veteran first baseman Willie Mays Aikens and a young minor league infielder named Dickie Thon.
After Mrs. Payson’s death, her daughter Lorinda De Roulet became principal owner and Chairman of the Board. Mrs. De Roulet, hardly a baseball expert, reportedly vetoed the deal when she remarked “We can’t do that. Thon is just a baby”. Thon of course wound up in Houston where he became the regular shortstop for several years.
Swan who was always seemingly receiving treatment for one ailment or another had his career shortened by arm trouble. One of the many treatments he underwent in hopes of resurrecting his career was Rolfing or Structural Integration. Swan was so impressed by the technique that he went to school to learn it and today is a highly successful licensed Rolfing practitioner in Connecticut.