Card of the Moment #85 How (un)Lucky Can One Guy Be Edition
July 17th, 2012 by slangon

The Mets had a lot of good pitchers in the late 60’s and early 70’s. There were guys like Seaver, Koosman, Ryan, McGraw, Gentry and Matlack. Jim McAndrew is not necessarily a name that you would include on that list, but when you’re talking about bad luck players, he might be on the top of the pile.

McAndrew started his career in the minors in 1965 and overall was pretty successful. He went 35-23 with a 2.93 ERA over 4 seasons in the New York farm system. It wasn’t until he came up with the big club that he would be hit with some seriously bad mojo.

Things started out bad for him right away with his Major League debut. He threw his first pitch in the big leagues on July 21, 1968 against the Cardinals. His opposite that day? None other than one Robert “Hoot” Gibson. Did I mention that this was 1968, by the way? And Bob Gibson? The year that Gibby went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA and 268 strikeouts? The year he won the Cy Young and the MVP? The year he led the Cardinals to a World Series title? The year he threw 13 complete game shutouts? Yeah. That’s the guy that Jim was facing in his first ever Major League start. He didn’t do too badly, wither. He went 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits while striking out 5 and walking none. Unfortunately, one of Gibson’s 13 shutouts came that day and McAndrew was hung with the loss.

Things didn’t get any better for old Jim. After his fourth start, he was the not-so-proud owner of an 0-4 record, despite having a tidy little 1.82 ERA. The Mets did not score a single run for him in his first 4 starts. After the 0-2 loss to Gibson and the Cardinals, they went down 0-2 to the Dodgers, 0-1 to the Giants and 0-1 to the Astros.

Things got better for the Mets in 1969, but not so much for Jimmy. The season started off badly in Spring Training. Just as the pre-season was drawing to a close, he received a flu shot that ended up giving him the flu. He stayed down in Florida to recover and then flew up to New York to rejoin the team. A friend picked him up at the airport and afterwards they went out to get a bite to eat. Someone broke into the friend’s car while they were inside, taking off with Jim’s luggage and his entire wardrobe.

To make matters worse, in his very first start of the season, he lasted 2 innings before a line drive back up the middle caught him in the middle finger of his pitching hand, knocking him out of the game. Apparently, the remedy for a jammed finger back then was to soak it in the whirlpool, which he did diligently. So much so, in fact, that he ended up softening the skin on his pitching hand leading a blister during his next start. Apparently, the remedy for this involved soaking the offending digit in pickle juice to toughen up the skin. This was all compounded when he hurt his shoulder throwing BP because he was favoring his busted up finger. He continued trying to come back throughout the rest of the season, ending up with a 6-7 record. Since the ’69 Mets had such depth in the rotation, though, Jim never saw any action in the post-season.

1970 was no kinder to poor Jim. During Spring Training, he was jogging in the outfield before a game during batting practice. Art Shamsky hit a line drive that hit Jim square in the face. He ended up having to get 4 teeth pulled because of the injury and consequently lost 15 pounds, which ended up affecting his performance.

Things really came to a head in 1971. On today’s date 41 years ago, McAndrew woke up in a hospital bed with a concussion and 20 stitches in his head above his right ear. Apparently, teammate Gary Gentry and he were shagging flies in the outfield before a game and ended up colliding with each other. Although, he didn’t spend any time on the DL, he was never really right for the rest of the season. He only made 10 starts and pitched a little over 90 innings. His record was 2-5 that season with a 4.38 ERA.

He was somehow able to avoid any bizarre pre-game injuries in 1972 and got off to a good start. He was 6-3 at the All-Star break with a sub-3 ERA. Despite all that, he didn’t pitch a single inning from July 8 through July 30, just because Seaver, Koosman, Matlack and Gentry was doing so well. Still and all, he had his best year in ’72, finishing up 11-8 with a 2.80 ERA.

1973 saw him struggle again, and again, he never got to enjoy the post-season fruits of the team’s labor. This would be his last year in a Mets uniform, but not the last of his bad luck.

After the ’73 season, the Mets traded him to the Padres for a minor leaguer who pitched a grand total of 11 innings, none of them for the Mets. During Spring Training with San Diego before the 1974 season, Padres pitching coach Bill Posedel wanted to pitchers to take part in run-down drills. Jim had a chronically bad knee at this point and wanted to just run in the outfield. Posedel insisted, and sure enough, Jim ended up tearing up his knee. The Padres team doctor recommended surgery, but McAndrew opted for just icing the joint, which had usually worked in the past. Trying to pitch around the bad knee, Jim ended up straining his rib cage and was never able to get healthy. His career was over at age 30.

Remind me to never take part in pre-game warm ups.

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