I was hoping that in George Brett’s logs that there would be at least one walk-off moment from the 1980 season. That’s one of the all-time great seasons by a hitter in my lifetime. Brett hit .390/.454/.664, albeit in only 117 games. He struck out 22 times in 515 plate appearances. His performance was valued at 9.4 WAR, which is extraordinary considering the number of games he missed.
And there was.
But as good as I feel for George Brett and that season, I feel kind of bad for the opposing pitcher. Mike Parrott won 14 games and posted a 3.77 ERA for the Mariners in 1979. He was named their Opening Day starter and deservedly so, given that the Mariners didn’t have many good pitchers and that he was a first-round pick with some promise. On the back of his 1982 baseball card, it notes “The Mariners’ starting pitcher for the 1980 season opener, Mike gained win vs Blue Jays, April 9.”
There’s a reason that this was noted as Parrott’s baseball-card fact.
After winning on Opening Day, things didn’t go so well for Parrott. Thus began a long losing skid and a painful season in more ways than one. It is documented here that Parrott was hit in the groin by a batted ball.
Meanwhile, everything turned up roses for Brett, who was leading the Royals to the 1980 AL pennant.
As the season wound down, the Royals and Mariners played an epic game on September 30. The Royals had clinched the division already, though they were on an uncharacteristic eight-game losing streak. The Mariners were 59-97. The game is actually notable for something unrelated. Mariners pitcher Rick Honeycutt was ejected in the third inning because the home plate umpire said Honeycutt was cutting the ball with a thumb tack
The Royals led 4-3 in the ninth inning, but Bruce Bochte hit a game-tying home run for the Mariners against Royals starter Dennis Leonard.
In the 10th, Parrott came on on in relief for his first appearance in six days. And Parrott got through the next four innings. The one chance he had to face Brett resulted in an intentional walk, one that paid off when Parrott struck out Hal McRae and got Amos Otis to fly out with the winning run on third.
In the 14th inning, the Mariners broke through to take the lead on Dave Edler’s bunt hit.
Here’s where Parrott stood. He entered the game 1-14 with a 7.42 ERA and had dropped 14 straight decisions. He was in position to win this one. Wills rolled the dice and stayed with him.
The dice came up snake eyes.
Willie Wilson reached on an infield single and stole second. U.L. Washington singled, with Wilson holding at third. That brought up Brett in what was unfortunately, a mismatch. Brett hit a game-winning three-run home run on a 1-1 pitch. Afterwards, he spoke of how much fun he was having, even though the chase to hit .400 (which was basically out of reach) was stressful.
In the end, things worked out alright for all involved. Brett won an MVP , won a World Series with the Royals in 1985, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Parrott pitched one more game that season and lost that one too. He finished 1-16 with a 7.28 ERA. pitched one more year with the Mariners (it went a little better, but not much- his losing streak was snapped at 18 games. Only Anthony Young -27- has had a longer one since then), then spent five seasons in Triple-A without getting recalled. Three of those years were with the Royals organization.
After his playing career ended, Parrott became a baseball lifer. He’s been a minor league pitching coach since 1988(!) and has been with the Diamondbacks organization since 1997. One of his minor league managers, Phil Nevin, called Parrott “outstanding.” He’s spent the last three seasons with the Hillsboro Hops. By all accounts, he’s fared very well.
Props to him for sticking it out and making the most of what must have been a rough time in his career. I would bet that his struggles helped him considerably as a coach, because he can always tell one of his players “You think you’re struggling …”