Despite having a fine career of his own, Langston may always be known as the pitcher that the Seattle Mariners used to fleece the Montreal Expos out of Randy Johnson in 1989. He was an aggressive and durable workhorse on the mound, an excellent fielder as well as an inning-eater, but towards the latter half of his career became plagued with injuries. In Langston's early years with the Mariners and the Angels, the lefty overpowered his opponents with blazing fastballs, but as time wore him down, he adjusted his pitching style to utilize craftiness instead of speed.
When he broke into the major leagues, Langston quickly showed signs that he would be a pitching force for Seattle. Runner-up to teammate Alvin Davis in the 1984 Rookie of the Year Award voting, the southpaw became the fourth rookie to lead the league in strikeouts, and he set a Mariners record with 17 wins. A slight elbow injury hampered him in 1985 and kept him below 200 strikeouts for the only time in the 1980s. But he came back to lead the AL in strikeouts in 1986 and 1987. In 1987 Langston set a new Mariner record with 19 wins and became the first Mariner to win a Gold Glove (one of many, it would turn out). He set team season records for innings, complete games, strikeouts, and shutouts. On May 10, 1988 Langston broke his own team record by striking out 16 Blue Jays.
Halfway through 1989, Seattle traded Langston to Montreal in one of the more infamous trades of the decade. In return for their one-time ace, the Mariners got pitching prospects Gene Harris, Brian Holman, and Randy Johnson, a tall, lanky hurler who was having control problems. Johnson, of course, went on to fame and fortune with the Mariners, ironically shattering a number of Langston's club records, including season wins, strikeouts, and shutouts. Langston, on the other hand, pitched the rest of the season with the Expos, posting impressive numbers (including a 2.39 ERA), but left in the off-season to sign with the California Angels.
Langston was known not only as a good pitcher, but also as a smart fielder, snagging seven Gold Gloves in his career. And he was a workhorse, averaging 247 innings between 1986 and 1993. It wasn't only the impressive number of innings he totaled but also the sheer number of pitches he tossed, at one point exceeding 11,000 in a three-year span. Yet in the beginning of his career, he seemed impervious to injury, no matter how bizarre. While with Seattle in the mid-80's, Langston hyperextended his back while doing a backflip into a water park's pool. Another time, the lefty flipped a golf cart while driving it down a course's hill, sending him and his partner flying out of the cart with their equipment raining down on top of them. Neither time did Langston miss a start.
But Langston began to feel the effects of age just a week into the 1994 campaign. Having thrown 256 1/3 innings the year before, Langston didn't get suitable rest in the offseason and began to feel pain in his elbow for just the second time in his career. After just one start, Langston underwent surgery for bone chips in his elbow. Though his 15-7 record indicated that he successfully bounced back in 1995, his 4.63 ERA told a different story. In 1996, Langston fell subject to injuries again, this time having surgery to repair torn knee cartilage.
In the twilight of his career, Langston signed with the San Diego Padres in January 1998, on board just in time to make it to postseason for the first time in his career. Though re-signed by the team, he was released in April 1999, and inked a minor-league deal with the Cleveland Indians. With the team in need of middle relief, Langston was quickly called on to help out from the pen, but went on the disabled list with elbow problems just as rapidly, and finished the year with 25 appearances and a five-plus ERA. The next spring looked bleak, and after letting up twelve runs in nine innings, Langston decided to call it quits in March 2000. (AG/TF)
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FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»August 29, 1984: In Seattle, Mark Langston stops the Tigers on two hits and strikes out 12 to win, 51. Ken Phelps three-run homer in the 5th is the big blow.
»September 14, 1984: Rookie Mark Langston (15-9) becomes the first Mariner to win 15 games in a season by beating the Royals 21 on a 5-hitter.
»August 13, 1985: In the Mariners' 114 win, Seattle's infield again ties the major-league record for assists with 21 against California. Mark Langston goes all the way for the win.
»June 25, 1986:
Mark Langston sets a Mariners record with 15 strikeouts in a 61 three-hitter against the White Sox.
»September 13, 1987: Chicago's Floyd Bannister faces the minimum 27 batters in a 20 one-hitter against Seattle, striking out 10 while walking none. Hard-luck loser Mark Langston pitches a 2-hitter for the Mariners.
»May 10, 1988: Mark Langston strikes out a 16 batters in a 42 win over Toronto, equaling the 1988 ML high set yesterday by Boston's Roger Clemens in a 20 three-hitter over the Royals.
»May 10, 1989: Mark Langston no-hits Toronto for eight innings before Tom Lawless singles and the Blue Jays rally for three runs to beat Seattle 32. It is the 3rd time this season that the Blue Jays have broken up a no-hit bid in the 9th inning.
»December 1, 1989: Free-agent pitcher Mark Langston signs a 5-year contract with the Angels.
»April 11, 1990: California's Mark Langston and Mike Witt combine to no-hit the Mariners 10 for the first combined no-hitter in the major leagues since 1976. It is Langston's first start for the Angels since signing as a free agent in the off-season. 1B Wally Joyner makes an error in the 5th when he overthrows Langston on Pete O'Brien's grounder. O'Brien tries for 2B, not realizing that C Lance Parrish baked up the play and has the ball. He's thrown out.
»May 17, 1992:
In Boston's 31 loss to California, Wade Boggs has hit #2,000, the 6th Red Sox to reach the mark (after Yaz, Williams, Rice, Evans, and Doerr). Mark Langston is the winner.
»September 28, 1995:
The Angels Mark Langston holds the A's to six hits and one run in six 2/3 innings, as California wins 41 to keep their division hopes alive The Angels, in first place for 124 days, beat Seattle 20 on Wednesday, the 27th, behind the strong pitching of Chuck Finley.
»April 19, 1996:
At Anaheim, California's Mark Langston picks up a complete game win, 43 over the Tigers. Detroit's Mark Parent and the Angels' Tim Wallach both homer, but neither is over the left field fence where actor Charlie Sheen has purchased 2,615 seats for himself and three friends. Sheen, an inveterate sports memorabilia collector, was hoping for a home run in his vicinity. "I didn't want to crawl over the paying public," said Sheen after shelling out $6,500 for the seats.
»May 7, 1996:
The Angels put ace RHP Mark Langston on the DL and he will be out of action until early July with a cartilage tear in his right knee.
»July 25, 1998: The Padres top Houston, 65, as Mark Langston gets the win with 5+ innings of work. Trevor Hoffman picks up his 41st consecutive save33rd this year, tying a ML record. He'll blow his first save opportunity tomorrow in San Diego's 54 win, ending his streak.
»August 13, 1998:
Tom Glavine (16-4) shuts out the Padres, 50, on two hits and beats Mark Langston. Langston strikes out eight batters to push his career Ks to 2,419, and move into 24th place on the career K list.