The Miserable, Memorable Losing Streak of Anthony Young

On May 15, 1941, New York Yankees center fielder and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Joe DiMaggio began his historic 56-game hit streak. DiMaggio hit .408 during the streak (91-for-223), with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs, allowing him to beat out Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams (who hit .406 on the year, the last time a major leaguer hit over .400) for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

On this date every year, we hear about DiMaggio’s insane streak that no player has come within 10 games of equaling. It’s up there with Wayne Gretzky’s point total in the NHL in terms of unbreakable records, especially in today’s world of fly balls and rising strikeout totals. But, on the anniversary of the 56-game hit streak, we look at another unusual, maybe unbeatable record.

Right-handed pitcher Anthony Young competed in the National League from 1991 to 1996 before his eventual fall from the majors. If you look at his Baseball-Reference page, you can clearly see why his services were no longer needed — with the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Houston Astros, Young went 15-48 in 181 games (51 of which were starts).

It turns out that Young wasn’t actually that bad, and instead the victim of unsettling bad luck. His career ERA was a respectable 3.89, and his ERA+ was exactly 100 after 460 innings in the bigs. He garnered 20 career saves in 28 opportunities, and scored as a 1.3 bWAR player.

These stats aren’t what Young is remembered for. Instead, the righty did what seems nearly impossible to do in today’s MLB: Young lost 27 decisions in a row from 1992 to 1993. Any time Young became a pitcher of record and was credited with the decision for the Mets — who were awful in those two seasons, finishing 72-90 and then 59-102 as “The Worst Team Money Can Buy” — it was a loss. That’s uncanny.

Late Mets pitcher Anthony Young lost 27 decisions in a row. On a day where we remember Joe DiMaggio's hit streak, let's look at a different unbreakable record.Click To Tweet

When you really think about it, it’s an oddly stunning accomplishment given the sheer unlikelihood of the streak. It didn’t help to play for one of the worst teams in the sport, but 27 straight losing decisions is such an improbable individual achievement with the way games are scored and wins are rewarded that it almost seems crazy to imagine this record even existing.

Standard Pitching
Year Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA IP
1991 NYM NL 2 5 .286 3.10 49.1
1992 NYM NL 2 14 .125 4.17 121.0
1993 NYM NL 1 16 .059 3.77 100.1
1994 CHC NL 4 6 .400 3.92 114.2
1995 CHC NL 3 4 .429 3.70 41.1
1996 HOU NL 3 3 .500 4.59 33.1
6 Yr 6 Yr 6 Yr 15 48 .238 3.89 460.0
NYM NYM NYM 5 35 .125 3.82 270.2
CHC CHC CHC 7 10 .412 3.87 156.0
HOU HOU HOU 3 3 .500 4.59 33.1
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/15/2018.

It wasn’t because Young was a poor pitcher. In the midst of the streak, he actually converted 12 saves in a row, was given no-decisions plenty of times, and threw a 23.2-inning scoreless streak — he just couldn’t get a win. He either entered the game in situations wherein he couldn’t become the pitcher of record, or was tasked with controlling red hot offenses with horrid teams behind him and destined to lose. It’s pretty impressive on its face.

From May 6, 1992 to July 24, 1993, a pitcher was charged with losses 27 times without garnering a single victory. He never lost his confidence or competitive spirit despite many reasons to, appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno not long after netting his first and only win in a 1-16 1993 season. A win that, when reviewing the box score, really shouldn’t have been.

Young came in to relieve two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen in the ninth inning of a 3-3 tie with the Florida Marlins. Chuck Carr bunted home a Darrell Whitmore unearned run against Young in the top of the ninth at Shea Stadium, but the Mets came back with two runs against All-Star closer Bryan Harvey in the bottom half to win 5-4. Young was the pitcher of record by virtue of appearing in the ninth.

“This wasn’t a monkey off my back,” Young said in a 2012 Sports Illustrated issue, “This was a zoo.” He told the Houston Examiner after retirement, “The Mets wouldn’t have kept sending me to the mound if I wasn’t performing. It all just happened and now I’m known for this forever. I set an unusual record that may never be broken.”

Unfortunately, Young passed away in June of 2017, six months after announcing that he had an inoperable brain tumor. Our goal on this earth, however, is to give future generations a reason to remember us. Like Joe DiMaggio and his streak that began 77 years ago today, Anthony Young has a reason, and no one better played the role of a lovable loser.

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