October 1 – Happy Birthday Jeff Reardon
Up until last evening, I had completely forgotten that Jeff Reardon appeared in his very last big league baseball game while wearing the Yankee pinstripes. I do remember at the end of the 1993 season that New York had let their regular closer, Steve Farr sign with the Indians as a free agent. When the Yanks did not sign or trade for Farr’s replacement that offseason, it looked as if they were going to depend on former NL Rookie of the Year and cocaine addict, Steve Howe to assume that role the following year. But just before the pitchers’ first scheduled workout at New York’s 1994 spring training camp, Yankee GM, Gene Michael announced the team had signed the 38-year-old Reardon to a minor league contract.
At the time, Reardon already had 15 seasons of relief pitching under his belt and was in second place behind Lee Smith, with 365 career saves. He had put together 40-save seasons for the Expos, Twins and Red Sox. Michael explained that there was absolutely no risk involved for the Yankees because Reardon’s $250,000 salary wasn’t guaranteed. The then 37-year-old right-hander had to make the Yankee roster to get paid and if he did, he could also earn a total of $750,000 in performance incentives. Reardon had been working on a knuckleball and was hoping the new pitch would earn him those bonuses and extend his career.
The man known as “the Terminator” made Buck Showalter’s Opening Day roster and saw lots of action that April, making ten appearances, earning two saves and getting his last-ever big league victory. Then on May 4th he was called into pitch in the seventh inning of a game against the Angels and allowed three runs, blowing the save. Two days later, the Yankees released him and this native of Pittsfield, MA retired to his home in Florida.
Eleven years later, he was arrested in a bizarre incident for robbing a Palm Beach Gardens’ jewelry store. Police later reported that Reardon had overmedicated on depression medicine and was not acting rationally. The pitcher was depressed because his 20-year-old son had died of a drug overdose a few weeks earlier.