New York Mets fans remember Pat Zachry as one of the four players the team received in the trade that sent Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds. But, truth be told, Zachry is much more than a former major league baseball player living in the shadow of what is widely considered “the worst trade in franchise history.”
His career on the field is one of ups-and-downs. World Series champion. Rookie of the Year (1976). All-Star (1978). A 10-year major league career. A series of injuries. Beyond the game, Zachry lived a fairytale love story, marrying the love of his life after his rookie season and enjoying a 40-year marriage. After his playing days ended in 1985, he watched his children grow up and today enjoys his grandchildren.
Almost four years to the day of the recording of this podcast, Zachry also experienced the worst day of his life. In 2016, he and his wife Sharron were returning home from a short roadtrip to visit with friends when Zachry blacked out behind the wheel.
“We were north of Waco,” he remembers. “She was reading a book as the light was going down on her window. She had her seatbelt on her waist, but the strap was not on her shoulder. I said, ‘Honey will you please put that strap over your shoulder?’ She said, ‘I’ve only got two more pages (and then I’ll do it).'”
Zachry said the next thing he remembers was “waking up and the emergency guy was trying to pull it open.”
Zachry suffered an epileptic seizure, an illness he didn’t know he had.
The accident took Sharron’s life.
Pat Zachry joins the MetsRewind podcast to talk about his baseball career, the Seaver trade, playing in New York and the tragic accident. You can subscribe to the MetsRewind podcast on iTunes or Spotify to listen to this and other interviews with former Mets, classic game clips and more. Thank you for supporting MetsRewind.
EXCERPT: SABR PROFILE ON PAT ZACHRY
A simmering dispute between the New York Mets and their ace righty and franchise symbol, Tom Seaver, finally boiled over – lack of run support and salary issues were the primary differences in this bitter divorce. Fueling the split were bitter personal and acrimonious attack columns against Seaver by Daily News columnist Dick Young, who was acting as a hatchet man for parsimonious Met chairman M. Donald Grant. Furious over the Mets’ cheapskate behavior and Young’s inflammatory columns, Seaver demanded a trade. He got it. On June 15 the Mets would engage in four separate transactions involving 11 different players – a day infamously known among Mets’ fans as the “Midnight Massacre.”
It was later revealed that the pitcher originally intended to be sent to New York was Rawly Eastwick, but Grant balked “when Eastwick, unsigned for 1977, said he did not want to talk contract until the end of the season,” thereby paving the way for his exploration of the free agent market that fall. Eastwick would ultimately sign with the Yankees in 1978 and it became Zachry who ended up departing from the Reds.
“[T]he Mets can expect big things from Pat Zachry,” said then-Kansas City pitching coach – and longtime Mets’ associate – Galen Cisco before the start of the 1978 season.
On July 4, one week before the All-Star Game, Pat threw his second two-hit shutout of the campaign before packing for host-city San Diego as the Mets’ sole representative in the Mid-Summer Classic. He did not appear in the game. His season was abruptly terminated on July 24 by a self-inflicted injury. That day, Zachry faced his old team, the Cincinnati Reds. In the seventh inning, with the score tied at 2-2, Zachry induced leadoff hitter to ground out to short. Then Pete Rose and Mike Lum lashed two singles … Zachry then loaded the bases with a walk to Joe Morgan. Next up was George Foster, and Zachry yielded a run-scoring single that put the Reds up, 3-2. Torre took Zachry out of the game. When he reached the Mets’ dugout, he kicked a batting helmet, causing a hairline fracture in his foot. Zachry was out for the season.
Injuries would continue to haunt the Texas native. The former arm problems reappeared in spring training in 1979, and a thorough diagnosis revealed a strained ulnar nerve in the right elbow. Sent to the Instructional League for a rehab assignment, Zachry tried to run, and nearly “exploded my Achilles tendon. I could hardly walk for a week. And it got to where it was okay, and maybe I changed my motion unconsciously, and for whatever reasons I came up with elbow problems the next year with the ulnar nerve and had to have surgery.”
When healthy, Zachry endured the unpleasant environment of a Mets team that was hitting bottom in attendance and working conditions. “When I first got to New York, they were trying to cut back on everything,” Zachry recalled. “They would have put us on a wooden airplane with a rubber band for a propeller if they could have.”
On another occasion, the Mets climbed onto their bus after a long game in St. Louis, finding no air-conditioning and diesel fumes flying inside. “We went to the airport. We had a charter flight. The Allegheny gate was locked,” Zachry recalled. “We sat there for 20 or 30 minutes, waiting for someone to come and unlock the damn thing. We’re all in suits and ties. We got on the airplane and had to wait another half-hour for them to get it ready. And by the time we started back to New York, everybody had icicles hanging all over them from all the sweat drying on them from the air-conditioning of the airplane. You could have hung meat on that thing.”
Zachry was not happy with the Mets, saying, “I never enjoyed playing for the Mets. Here I was, 25 years old, traded from the penthouse to the outhouse, from first to last.”
Zachry took his failure with the Mets philosophically. “I’m sure everybody who was there at that time and who have since gone to different organizations, like Hubie Brooks, Neil Allen, Jeff Reardon, Steve Henderson, Jon Matlack, they had a degree of success in New York, a pretty good degree of success. Myself, Joel Youngblood, some of us, we didn’t. I always felt there was unfinished business there … I don’t like to go back to Shea Stadium for that reason. I just don’t feel comfortable going back to that stadium. Hopefully, the people’s hearts have softened a bit.”