Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pitching Prospects of the '60's - Before The Amateur Draft

Before baseball had a free agent draft and before the Mets produced a bumper crop of talented young pitchers like Seaver, Koosman, Ryan, and Gentry, the Mets had their share of legitimate pitching prospects who didn't quite fulfill their potential, chiefly because of injuries. Here's a look at 4 of the most prominent.

Dennis Musgraves was a College All-American when the Mets signed him to a considerable bonus. He was fast-tracked through AA Williamsport, AAA Jacksonville, and the big club in one season. In his only shot at the big leagues, Dennis posted a remarkable 0.56 ERA in 16 innings which gave hope that he would be the first true pitching star to come through the organization and the #1 starter that every team needs. What happened ? Well, in one start, he hurt his arm, needed 2 elbow surgeries and never got back to the bigs.

Dick Selma was a smallish righthander, brimming with confidence, and possessor of a fastball that Tom Seaver remembers admiring in high school in Fresno. Selma had a great year in the California League for Salinas and got a few shots with the Mets between trips to the minors. He had some outstanding efforts, but never established consistency, and the Mets let him go in the 1969 expansion draft where he was picked by the Padres. He wound up with the Cubs as a bullpen ace for a while, but never really achieved his potential.

Dick Rusteck is a name few Mets fans under 40 probably know at all. When he came up to the Mets, he hadn't been ballyhooed as much as some other prospects, but he'd been dominant in the International League and deserved a shot. If I recall correctly, he was brilliant in his first start (maybe even a shutout ?) then never won another game. What happened ? I don't remember at all.

Grover Powell actually predated all of the above, yet my recollections of him are minimal. I do remember having his 1964 Topps baseball card. He pitched for the Mets in '63 which might have made him the very first real Mets pitching prospect. Powell shut out the Phillies in his first major league start on 8/20/63. Then in his next start a week later at Forbes Field, he was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of Donn Clendenon. That started his injury woes; Powell never won another game in the majors.

Next, I'll look at some of the highly touted young pitchers the early Mets acquired from other organizations - Darrell Sutherland, Gary Kroll, and Tom Parsons.


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