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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Pitcher of Record

Anthony Young died today, Tuesday, at the age of 51, several months after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. When he pitched for us, we rarely referred to him as Anthony and basically never called him Young. He was AY to us. He was AY when L’s stuck to him like he and they were made of Velcro, and he was AY when a W blessedly stumbled into his portfolio. L’s and W’s were what we focused on when we focused on AY. We were men and women of letters with him.

I’m inclined to invoke scorer’s discretion and give him a parting W right now. AY had us on his side all the way through a career that, on the surface, shouldn’t have inspired excess affection. He was with us when the contemporary accumulation of Mets wasn’t extraordinarily likable, never mind lovable. But we liked AY a great deal. We looked past the L’s. He helped us see there can be far more to a person enmeshed in competitive endeavors than a bottom line can convey.

AY the person inspired rave-filled scouting reports, when he was playing and when he was retired. You could be given some leeway for grumpiness if you were caught in a vortex of undesirable outcomes. AY didn’t take it. He was, by all anecdotal and observational evidence, one of the good guys. The sadness of the final loss suffered by those closest to him speaks mournfully for itself.

AY the pitcher is inextricable from his record. He went 5-35 from his big league promotion in August of 1991 to his last Met outing in September of 1993. It doesn’t jibe with an ERA of 3.82, nor does it reflect 18 saves collected as a substitute closer. Yet that’s not the record we think of when we think of Anthony Young. No Mets fan who was around in 1992 and 1993 doesn’t know the record or at least the gist of it. No pitcher in the history of baseball had his name attached to more consecutive losing decisions. AY’s total reached 27 before the streak mercifully snapped.

It’s one of baseball’s oft-discussed and increasingly derided quirks that wins and losses are personally assigned to one man per game. Nobody ever talks about the winning second baseman or the losing left fielder. Only the pitcher, and it has to be the pitcher in the right or wrong spot and the right or wrong moment. Sometimes there’s no space for debate — one guy pitched really long and really well and the other guy pitched really badly from jump, and there’s your W and your L, put them in the books. Sometimes, however, a pitcher who winds up with one of those letters affixed to his name is extremely lucky or unlucky. To our custom of thinking, AY was usually the latter.

We understand the context. We didn’t and wouldn’t wish being known as the “loser” of 27 consecutive anythings on anybody (give or take a uniform). Yet associating Anthony Young with that word seemed wrong. Even the “unlucky” part didn’t fully fit. Anthony Young was a major league pitcher, given the opportunity to ply a unique skill again and again. It didn’t work out on a given day? He didn’t give up. Again and again he took the ball. Again and again something found a way to go awry. Again and again he was back on the mound, pitching well enough to earn the next chance. Surely his luck, as we conventionally conceive it, had to change.

Twenty-four years ago today, AY and I were at Shea Stadium trying to avert history’s tap on the shoulder. AY was sitting on 23 straight losses. I was sitting in Loge. He was trying to win. I was trying to root him toward that preferred result. No dice for either one of us. He pitched as he always did — professionally; and I rooted as I always did — faithfully. We each did what we could, yet we both absorbed another loss, the 24th straight for him, the new, unwanted standard. Not visible in that Sunday’s box score was we both gave it what we had and we were both back for more at the first available opportunity. It was as satisfying a transaction as AY and I could muster under the circumstances of 1993.

The streak ended a little over a month later. I strained to listen through static in Penn Station. My train was being called, but I had to wait, had to hear if the winning run was going to cross the plate. It did. The Mets beat the Marlins, by coincidence their opponent tonight, 5-4. Anthony Young was the pitcher of record on the winning side. There was a lot of cheering at Shea Stadium and a little in Penn Station.

AY won one game in 1993. The Mets won 59. Somehow, it was the best of times.

10 comments to Pitcher of Record

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Wonderful write up, Greg. I was a 12 year old at Shea, both for the 24th loss and The Win. What a thrill that was for a young kid. It’s funny that witnessing a Hall of Famer (one that I even met at a signing the year before) hit a walkoff double for my favorite team is an afterthought for me. But when I see Murray’s plaque in Cooperstown, AY is at the forefront of my mind.

    Rest easy buddy.

  • Andy Curran

    Your post says it all!

    I posted this on Facebook tonight:

    “METS NATION is in mourning tonight. ANTHONY YOUNG passed away. Talk about a true baseball hero. While with the Mets, from May 6, 1992 to July 24, 1993, he lost 27 consecutive decisions. This losing streak is the longest in MLB history. The fact that he gutted that out and didn’t quit is truly an inspirational story! In his tenure with the Mets, his record was 5-35, yet his ERA in that stretch was a respectable 3.82. His career ERA of 3.89 was better than…WAIT FOR IT…Jack Morris, Joe Nuxhall, John Lackey, and Mike Torrez! Not to mention, many others. And just behind beloved Met Ron Darling! He didn’t have enough decisions to be listed on the all-time MLB ERA list, but he would be slotted in at #330 out of 433. Obviously, he was on a team that couldn’t score.”

  • Dave

    Nothing to add to this, Greg. Perfect tribute to a stand-up guy who could’ve easily been the opposite, a real mensch. RIP AY.

  • eric1973

    Sad, warm, loving tribute, Greg.

    What a classy guy. He pitched fine, as we all know. It was just one of those things.

  • Dennis

    Extremely sad to have heard this last night. I remember my oldest son and I watching that lone win for him during that miserable season, and being incredibly happy for him. The celebration after Murray’s walk off double was almost like they had clinched the division. A much better pitcher that his W-L record showed, and most importantly was a true gentleman as well. RIP AY.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I was a kid at the time, my love for baseball just blossoming. I remember AY as a solid, sometimes fantastic pitcher and in the simple black and white way kids view things, how UNFAIR the losing streak seemed to me. I took it personally when I thought of how the Mets and AY were laughed at for their struggles. Now I can see that he handled it a lot better than I did. Class guy. Thanks for the lovely piece Greg.

  • argman

    Thank you for this piece Greg. If anyone ever wants to know what the essence of a true Mets fan is, he or she just needs to read this blog.

  • dykstraw

    just learned of this, and shared your post to my social media…

    RIP to one of my favorite mets ever. he had my name, i had all his rookie cards, and he was going to be the next big thing until he lost more games in a row than anyone before or since. a quintessential met. but he was always better than that record, and he always took the ball.

    as always, thanks greg.

  • jpg

    I’m a Yankee fan but remember that streak and how he conducted himself with dignity and class. He may have had a lot of L’s on the baseball diamond but was one big W as a human being. RIP….