Monday, October 10, 2011
#16) LARRY BEARNARTH
Larry Bearnarth pitched for the St. John's University baseball team and was signed as an amateur free agent prior to the 1962 season. The righthander was in his second season with the Mets when Shea Stadium opened in 1964. Bearnarth had established the team record with 58 game appearances in 1963, and was a again a well-used member of the New York bullpen the next season.
Larry was a native of New York City. So it was only fitting that he would be among the "firsts" of the new stadium. Bearnarth threw the first-ever wild pitch while facing the Cincinnati Reds at Shea on May 6th, 1964. The errant throw occurred during the first night game played at the ballpark. New York would fall to the Reds by a score of 12-4.
He earned the nickname, "Bear" both due to his last name and his aggressive style of pitching. "You challenge the hitters when you come in as a relief pitcher," said Larry. "You can't give in to the batter or pitch around batters." Bearnarth was respected by his manager, Casey Stengel who believed that Larry would make a great coach one day. Stengel just had trouble remembering his name. "He would call down to the bullpen for a relief pitcher and I would hear him tell the pitching coach, 'Get Big Ben ready'," recalled Larry. "Once I realized that was the way Casey was with everybody, it no longer bothered me."
On May 31, 1964, the Mets were facing the San Francisco Giants in a double-header at Shea. Bearnarth came into the game and threw seven scoreless innings of relief during what became a 23-inning contest. Larry was working in the top of the 14th-inning when Stengel came to the mound with two runners on and nobody out. The "Old Professer" simply said, "Tra-la, la-la-la." and returned to the dugout. The next pitch that Bearnarth threw was lined into a rare triple play that ended the inning. An excited, but confused Bear went to Stengel and asked what he had meant by his odd comment. "Triple play!" responded Casey. Unfortunately the Mets would lose the game, and allow the Giants a doubleheader sweep. Despite Mets pitching holding San Francisco scoreless for 19 consecutive innings of work.
His 1965 season was split between the majors and Triple-A Buffalo. Larry ended with a 3-5 record and 4.60 ERA for New York. Feeling he needed to work on his control, the Mets sent him to pitch in Venezuela that winter. An ugly incident occurred during the Winter League there. Bearnarth responded to a heckling crowd by throwing a ball into the stands. It so angered the fans that four policemen had to escort him back to his hotel, and shortly thereafter he left the country.
Larry pitched 29 more games for the Mets in 1966. Those would be his last in New York. The reliever remained in the organization at the Triple-A level until his contract was purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers on October 20, 1970.
Bearnarth fulfilled Casey Stengel's prediction upon completion of his active pitching career. He first became a successful pitching coach for the Montreal Expos in 1976, and moved to the Colorado Rockies as their first in that role in 1993. Larry left coaching to become a scout for the Detroit Tigers in 1996.
Bear was elected into the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Larry Bearnarth passed away from a heart attack in his Seminole, Florida home on December 31, 1999. He was just 58-years-old.
I created Larry Bearnarth's card in the set from an autographed index card that I received from Kevin Kemmetmueller on June 27, 2011.