Gene Garber

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Henry Eugene Garber

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Gene Garber saved 218 games over 19 seasons in the big leagues and appeared in 931 contests, all but 9 of them out of the bullpen. During his career, he lost 108 games in relief, a big league record.

Selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 20th round of the 1965 amateur draft, Garber earned several cups of coffee with the team from 1969 to 1972, posting a 5.61 ERA in 20 games over that span. He did find success in the minors, going 14-3 with a 2.26 ERA for the Charleston Charlies in 1972 while being named the International League Pitcher of the Year. After the season, he was dealt to the Kansas City Royals for Jim Rooker. He saw regular playing time for the Royals and went 9-9 with 11 saves for the team in 1973. The following July, his contract was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies, and he recorded a 2.06 ERA in 34 games after the deal.

Garber went 10-12 with 14 saves for Philadelphia in 1975 while leading the National League with 71 appearances. The next summer, he was 9-3 with a 2.82 ERA and 11 saves as his team won the NL East title, but he took the loss in the third and deciding game of the 1976 NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds. He saved 19 games as the Phillies repeated as division champs in 1977, but he also took another key loss in Game 3 of the 1977 NLCS as his team fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games.

In June 1978, Garber was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Dick Ruthven, and he saved 22 games for the Braves that summer following the trade. On August 1, he struck out Pete Rose to end Rose's 44-game hitting streak. He again saved 25 games in 1979 but set a big league record with 16 losses in relief. He became the first relief pitcher (since 1920) to drop 7 decisions in his team's first 50 games; Jim Kern (1980) and Brian Fuentes (2011) later matched his feat. After saving just 9 games over the next two seasons, he saved 30 games to go along with a 2.34 ERA in 1982 as Atlanta won the NL West. His bad luck in the postseason continued as he took the loss in Game 2 of the 1982 NLCS when Atlanta was swept by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Garber was slowed by an elbow injury in 1983, but reclaimed the closer role in 1986, while Bruce Sutter was out with an injury, and saved 24 games. After recording 10 saves for the Braves in 1987, he was dealt at the trade deadline back to the Royals. He finished his career in Kansas City in 1988.

Garber was known for his very unusual pitching motion. He would pivot on his right ankle completely around while winding up, and would look directly at second base at one point before turning back and delivering the ball to the plate. He did this on every pitch and it made it difficult for baserunners to get a good jump on him.

He is the only pitcher from the All-Star era (1933-present) to save at least 200 games and never make an All-Star team (through 2019).

Notable Achievements[edit]

Records Held[edit]

  • Losses in relief, career, 108
  • Losses in relief, season, 16, 1979

Related Sites[edit]