Larry Bearnarth

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Lawrence Donald Bearnarth
(Bear)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Larry Bearnarth pitched parts of five seasons in the big leagues. He was later a successful pitching coach and the first in the existence of the Colorado Rockies.

The New York Mets[edit]

Bearnarth was signed by the Mets in June 1962 after he graduated from St. John's with a degree in English literature. He went directly to the AAA International League to pitch for the Syracuse Chiefs. In fact, he would never play below AAA during his entire career. In spite of not setting the league on fire his first season, in fact quite the contrary since his record was 2-13 with a 6.67 ERA, he earned a ticket to the National League for the 1963 season. Of course, the Mets were coming off the worst season any team had in the 20th century, so they really could not be picky when it came time to round off their pitching staff. Still, Bearnarth must have set some sort of record in graduating to the Major Leagues after such a god-awful season.

Things went a bit better for Bearnarth in the National League, as he maintained a 3.46 ERA in 126 innings out of the Mets' bullpen in his rookie season. This only translated to a 3-8 record, given the team's anemic offense, and he also spent the entire 1964 season in New York, this time posting a 5-5 record with a 4.15 ERA in 44 games. In 1965, he kept regressing, as his ERA climbed to 4.57 in 61 innings and he only struck out 16 batters. He also made six outings, including five starts, for the AAA Buffalo Bisons that summer, with a an excellent 2.25 ERA and 3-2 record. What was probably the highlight of his pitching career happened during a relief appearance for the Mets on June 14, Cincinnati (Boxscore); facing the Reds' hard-throwing Jim Maloney, aging Frank Lary traded zeros with his opponent for eight innings; when Bearnarth came on in relief in the 9th, the Mets had not yet managed a single hit off Maloney, but Bearnarth was able to keep the game scoreless until the 11th, when right fielder Johnny Lewis broke the no-hitter with a lead-off home run. Bearnarth pitched another scoreless inning in the bottom of the 11th to take credit for the win. He split the 1966 season between the Mets and the AAA Jacksonville Suns, posting a 2-3 record with a 4.42 ERA in the National League.

Back to AAA[edit]

Larry then spent the next four seasons in AAA, first with Jacksonville in 1967 and 1968, then with the Tidewater Tides in 1969 and 1970, where he was a player-coach. He posted ERAs below 4 all four seasons, reaching a personal best with 11 wins, against 4 losses, in 1969. In 1971, he signed a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, and after a few games with the AAA Evansville Triplets, he was recalled to Milwaukee in late April. In his first major league game since 1966, on April 28 in Boston [(Boxscore)], he came on in relief in the 6th inning with the Brewers trailing 5-3 and immediately gave up five more runs to put the game completely out of reach and earn himself a ticket back to Evansville. He came back to make one last Major League outing, on May 30 against the Detroit Tigers (Boxscore). It was just as disastrous: he came on in the 9th inning with the Tigers ahead by two, no one out and two men on, and promptly gave up a home run to Al Kaline and singles to the next two batters before Dick Ellsworth came in to bail him out. That gave him an ERA of 18.00 in 3 innings for the season, and things did not go much better in AAA, where his ERA was 5.21 in 31 games for the Triplets.

Minor League Pitching Instructor[edit]

Bearnarth retired from active pitching duty after the 1971 season and signed with the Montreal Expos as a minor league pitching coach; he would remain on the team's payroll for 20 years. He did make one final emergency mound appearance for the AAA Peninsula Whips in 1972, but by now he had found his true calling, which was working with young pitchers. In 1976, newly-appointed Expos Manager Karl Kuehl picked Bearnarth as his pitching coach, having worked with him in the Expos' minor leagues over the previous three seasons. Unfortunately for Bearnarth, Kuehl was in over his head and was fired before the season was over. When new manager Dick Williams came in after the season, he got rid of all of Kuehl's coaches, except for Ozzie Virgil, meaning Bearnarth went back to his role as minor league instructor. In 1978, he was placed at the helm of the Expos' Class A franchise, the West Palm Beach Expos of the Florida State League. In his second season, he guided the team to a record of 79-65, good for second place in the league, which earned Bearnarth a promotion to the AA Memphis Chicks of the Southern League. The Chicks finished second in the league in 1980, with a record of 83-61; after a last season as Memphis' manager in 1982, he was named for the third time as the team's minor league pitching instructor, replacing Bob Gebhard, who had just been promoted to a coaching position with the Expos.

Expos Pitching Coach[edit]

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Bearnarth returned to the Major Leagues three years later, in 1985, as the pitching coach for manager Buck Rodgers, with whom he had worked when Rodgers was managing the AAA Indianapolis Indians. He had much more success in his second stint as a major league pitching coach, staying on for seven seasons, during which the team's ERA never was higher than 3.92 (in 1986). In 1988, the team's pitchers posted the best ERA in Expos' history, 3.08, and in 1990, they led the National League with a 3.37 ERA. He also developed excellent bullpens over that period, including the group effort in 1987 that won the National League Rolaids Relief Award for the team, and the 1990 bullpen which was tied for the league lead in saves with the World Champion Cincinnati Reds. On July 8, 1989, he was struck by a foul ball off the bat of Rex Hudler during batting practice in Houston, fracturing his jaw. His stay with the Expos ended after the 1991 season, when his good friend Rodgers was fired midyear. He did not care to return under young firebrand manager Tom Runnells.

The Launch of the Colorado Rockies[edit]

Bearnarth landed on his feet, as another close associate of his in the Expos' organization, Bob Gebhard, had just been named General Manager of the newly-formed Colorado Rockies. Gebhard had just been hired by another former colleague, John McHale, the Expos' General Manager from 1978 to 1984 and team Vice-President before and after that stint, who was now Colorado's Vice-President for baseball operations. Bearnarth was Gebhard's right-hand man as the Rockies set up their operations during 1992 and assisted him with running the expansion draft. When the Rockies first took the field in 1993, Bearnarth was their first pitching coach under manager Don Baylor. In spite of the terrible conditions for pitchers in Colorado's high altitude, Bearnarth was able to assemble a decent pitching staff fairly quickly, and an especially excellent bullpen which was the main reason behind the Rockies' surprise clinching of the 1995 wild card. Bearnarth retired from his on-field position after that season, and the Rockies struggled to put together another competitive pitching staff until the late 2000s. Larry took up a part-time job as a scout in the Detroit Tigers' organization and was still at their employ when he passed away suddenly at his home in Seminole, Florida, on the last day of the 20th century.

Minor League Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs
1978 West Palm Beach Expos Florida State League 67-77 10th Montreal Expos
1979 West Palm Beach Expos Florida State League 79-65 4th Montreal Expos
1980 Memphis Chicks Southern League 83-61 2nd Montreal Expos lost league finals
1981 Memphis Chicks Southern League 77-66 3rd Montreal Expos lost in 1st round

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