Anthony Young: A Story of Perseverance

Ask ten baseball fans who is the worst Major League pitcher of all time, and one of them will probably mention Anthony Young. Most objective fans will say that the worst pitcher is one that you probably never heard of, because they did not last long enough in the majors. In a debate that consists of statistics and records, among pitchers that have pitched for a decent amount of time, Anthony Young’s record of twenty-seven straight losses is bound to come up at some point.

Once that debate is over, it could also be argued that Anthony Young may be one of the best examples of perseverance in the world of sports. Young, after all, was once considered a hot, young prospect in the Mets farm system that had an excellent record of turning out hot, young prospects in that era. He was told that he would be listed among the Goodens, Saberhagens, and Cones of one of the best starting rotations in baseball, but all of that was taken away from him within his first year, and he kept pitching.

young-4It took Young four years to make the majors. Once there, in his first full season on one of the most talented, starting pitching rotations in baseball, Anthony Young almost immediately set about creating a major league record for consecutive losses. He would eventually reach that eighty-two year old record of twenty-two (22) consecutive losses and surpass it, until he reached twenty-seven (27) consecutive losses. He lost most of his games in front of an average attendance of 22,000 a night at Shea Stadium. The Mets were a sub .500 team at this point, with the late 80’s, early 90’s run over, but they still had their own network (WOR at the time) viewed by millions, and ESPN began running exclusives on Young’s unfortunate run before yet another set of millions, until that eighty-two year old record of consecutive losses was broken and surpassed. It would take Anthony Young over a year (the streak lasted from May 6, 1992 to July 24, 1993) to finally win a game, and he would continue to pitch for three years beyond that, until his career ended by injury.

Imagine, just for a second, how shattering it must’ve been for a young, twenty something to go from the “next best thing” to a “laughing stock” in the space of one year. Imagine how embarrassing it must have been to have your name attached to an 0-16 record, an 0-20 record, and finally an 0-27 record. Imagine that your record is on a scoreboard before thousands, on television in front of millions, and spoken about and analyzed in newspapers and radio before another set of millions. Imagine those fans traveling to the ballpark complaining that they couldn’t get tickets to a Dwight Gooden pitched game, and that they had to settle for an Anthony Young game. Imagine how hard it must’ve been for Young to take the ball from the manager in the midst of that streak, and imagine how difficult it must’ve been to wake up and realize that you’re probably only going to perpetuate this belief others have of you being a loser that day at the ballpark? How many of us would begin doubting those that continued to prop us up as a promising young talent? How many of us would’ve crumbled under the pressure and thought that we do not care how much they were paying us, it just isn’t worth it anymore.

To say that Anthony Young should be held up as a beacon of perseverance is, I believe, an understatement. ESPN anchors giggled when they brought his name up, Mets fans cringed when non-Mets fans brought his name up, and Cubs fans were outraged when the team acquired the man in the midst of the streak. He was basically called a lovable loser by all of those that enjoy witnessing another’s failings, yet Anthony Young kept pitching.

He kept pitching on a rotation with Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen, and he finished that 1992 season with a 4.17 Earned Run Average (ERA), and a 4.36 ERA throughout the entirety of the losing streak.

“I got a bad rap on that,” Young says of his ability during the streak. “I always said I didn’t feel like I was pitching badly. It just happened to happen to me. I don’t feel like I deserve it, but I’m known for it. Everything that could’ve happened (during the streak), happened. It was just destiny, I guess.”

At one point during the streak, Young converted 12 straight save chances and threw 23.2 straight scoreless innings, subbing for closer John Franco. It could be said, with that in mind, that Young must have received awful run support from the sub .500 teams he pitched for. According to Wikipedia{1}, nearly half of the twenty-seven starts Young made during this run were what baseball considers quality starts, but his teams (the Mets and the Cubs) only won four of them, and due to the manner in which a pitcher is credited with a win, he didn’t receive credit for those wins. Even with all that exposure, not to mention other radio and print coverage, focused on keeping Young a laughing stock, he kept pitching. He kept taking the mound for three more years beyond the streak, regardless the scorn he presumably received whenever he received the ball. That’s perseverance, and that’s a belief in one’s self in the face of such scrutiny that should be taught to every youngster that experiences moments of failure, regardless of their field.

“Hey, if he didn’t like it,” the cynical could say. “He could’ve joined us in the manual labor workforce. He may not have earned the hundreds of thousands he earned between ’92 and ’96, but if he was so unhappy and embarrassed, he could’ve joined us in a life of anonymity.” There are no quotes to be found regarding an ungrateful temperament, on Young’s part, during the streak. He also did eventually join the work force after an injury ended his playing career in 1996, by getting a job at a chemical plant where he was employed for the next eight years. There are, apparently, no cynical comments that can be attached to Anthony Young as evidenced by the temperament and gratitude he displayed in the NY Daily News article on the forty-seven year old former pitcher.

The article goes on to state that the streak affected the rest of Anthony Young’s life, as he is continually asked about it wherever he goes, but he wishes that more people would remember that he wasn’t that bad at pitching,

Managers don’t keep giving you the ball if you’re getting clobbered every time you pitch,” he said.{2}

The now forty-seven year old Anthony Young would probably admit that there were very few things to figure out early on his career. He would probably admit that his natural gifts were such that every coach, and every scout, that saw him pitch probably gushed over him, until he was informed that he was talented enough to join one of the most talented pitching rotations in baseball. Then, in his first year as a starter, he set one of the greatest records of attrition in baseball. At some point in the run, Anthony Young had to have sat down and wondered if he was as bad as everyone was saying. Other than the 23.2 straight scoreless innings he threw in relief, Andrew Young was never able to achieve anything worthy of a mantle, but that didn’t mean he didn’t persevere beyond a record of attrition that would’ve sunk most men into depression, especially after his career was cut short before he could prove his critics wrong and give the media a “Rocky” or a “Rudy”, story that they love so much. Somehow or another, Anthony Young  maintained a positive attitude that he carries with him as a youth baseball coach in Houston, that is a model for all people attempting to achieve anything in life.



Post 400

Posted by Muyiwa Okeola

Posted by Muyiwa Okeola

This is the 400th post written on since May 2009.  That’s almost 100 posts a year, and if you knew of this blog’s inauspicious beginning, you’d know that’s quite an accomplishment.  To celebrate this milestone, I will do my first jig in the comfort of my home, or the first jig I do in relation to anyway.  I will make mean faces when I do it, and I may even slap my ass a couple times.  This is not to be misconstrued as sexual in any manner.  This is purely celebratory.  You’re welcome to join me, even if we’re not dancing simultaneously.Political columnist George Will says that he does not reflect on his career.  I do. He states that he is always looking forward. I’ve met a number of people that have accomplished far more than I have, and when I’ve congratulated them on their list, they usually shrug it off and qualify it in some manner.  While I wish I had their list, there does seem to be a part of them that hasn’t enjoyed the process.  Although my list may be comparatively meager, especially when stacked up against Will’s, I enjoy reflecting before I move forward.

“We do not live in the past, but the past in us.” (U.B. Phillips)

My favorite posts are those I’ve written that are not related to current events.  I’ve written political posts, news-related, music, and sports related posts.  I’ve really tried to limit the latter two categories, as I don’t want this to be a place solely for music and sports.  If I started down that road, that might be all I write about.  So, on the rare occasions when I’ve written about them, I’ve tried to do so in a creative manner.

When I get a number of ideas that all lock into place, under the general heading of psychology, but more specifically listed under a “strange things that we do” category, I approach the keyboard with adrenaline.  I think normal people can understand a lot about themselves by studying the strange. and sometimes aberrant, creatures that surround us. Psychology, as a whole, intrigues me, but the “look at this Escher painting and tell me what you see, and that will tell you a lot about perception” line of psychology is just boring to me.  The “why do you stop at a stop sign, why does a dog salivate when it hears a bell, and why do we call a table a table” broader questions of psychology and conditioning bore me.  I’d much rather study why some people are sexually attracted to balloons in the The Balloonophilia Conflict.  How, or why, did a division occur in the balloonophilia universe, between poppers and non-poppers, and is there anything in this particular story that says anything about us?  These are a few of my favorite things.

Why do some people try to box us in to who they think we should be based on who they are, and their limits, perhaps it has something to do with the Thief’s Mentality.  How are we attracted to one another, perhaps it has more to do with our natural, biological scents than those colognes and perfumes we buy: Every Girl’s Crazy About a Faint Whiff of UrineWhat happens when we’re afraid, and what happens when we’re not respectfully afraid enough in a given situation?  Fear Bradycardia and the Normalcy Bias.  These stories do not necessarily have tie-ins, as a sports, music, or political post would have, and the fact that I’ve received compliments on them tells me that they’re just well written.  The following is a top ten list of those most popular, according to readers, of these 400 posts.  Some of them have tie-ins, but they contain a loose connection that could be said to be more psychological rather than a straight news story.  I love top ten lists, and I’ve been dying to write my own, so here it is.  Enjoy!

  1. Indigo Children
  2. Let Your Freak Flag Fly
  3. Thief’s Mentality
  4. The Balloonophilia Conflict
  5. Every Girl’s Crazy About a Faint Whiff of Urine
  6. Fear Bradycardia and the Normalcy Bias
  7. I Hate Guitar Solos
  8. The Psychology of Being a Super Fan in Sports
  9. Kinesthetic Learning in Sports
  10. Charles Bukowski hates Mickey Mouse

I must admit I was a little surprised that the Indigo Children post did so well.  I guess it had more of a tie-in than I thought, but I’ve found that you can never predict these things.  The others were not a surprise to me, as I knew when I wrote them that they were quality posts.

The following is a top fifteen list, listed in chronological by the number of hits they’ve received, of the posts that I believe have been largely, and in my opinion criminally, ignored.  I was going to write another top ten list, but that would’ve meant excluding two of my favorite posts Mechanical Animals and Would you eat something someone cared about?  I honestly think that the top five listed here are some of the best posts I’ve ever written, and I would include Nobody Cares About You and Eat your meat! How can you show appreciation for life, if you won’t eat your meat?  It’s really tough for me to say that one of my babies is better than another, but this is a condensed list of my favorites.

  1. He Used to Have a Mohawk
  2. Chances are you’re a lot like me and my life with alcohol
  3. Oh! Our Electromagnetic Minds
  4. You Don’t Bring me Flowers Anymore!
  5. Groundhogs, Led Zeppelin, and our Existential Existence
  6. Building the Better, Happier Person
  7. The Mythology of You
  8. Nobody Cares About You
  9. Eat your meat! How can you show appreciation for life, if you won’t eat your meat?
  10. The Wicked Flames of the Weird
  11. Food Glorious Food
  12. Mechanical Animals
  13. Do the Apophenia
  14. Details, Details, Details
  15. Would you eat something someone cared about?