By Hogan Chen and James G. Robinson
As the New York Mets began the 1992 season, one of the few bright spots on their pitching staff was a young right-handed Texan named Anthony Young. Young, who had been named the Texas League pitcher of the year after winning his last nine games in 1990 -- a Mets minor-league record -- went the distance with a six-hitter in his first start of the season. He followed it up with another win on April 19th.
It would be his last victory for fifteen months.
Young didn't pitch badly. He was moved to the bullpen when Mets closer John Franco went on the DL in midseason and converted twelve straight save chances. At one point, he threw 23 2/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. But Young started to falter in his new role, and Young finished the season with 14 straight losses as the Mets ended up in fifth place in the NL East.
Young dropped his first decision of the 1993 season on April 9th, pulling him within three losses of the club record set by Roger Craig in 1963. "The first game last year I won and then started losing," an optimistic Young announced after the loss. "Maybe now I'll start a winning streak."
His line of reasoning proved erroneous. Young lost to the Padres twice in April, and tied Craig's record with another defeat on May 16. (After that game, Young nearly broke his toe when he tried to kick a roll of toilet paper and hit the toilet instead.) The team record fell less than two weeks later, when Young lost to John Smiley and the Cincinnati Reds on May 28th.
With nineteen losses in a row, Young was headed for immortality -- Cliff Curtis' major-league record of 23 consecutive losses, set with the Boston Braves in 1910-11. Manager Dallas Green, desperate for pitching and eager to help Young end his streak, promptly moved him back into the starting rotation.
Young made five starts in June. He lost all of them. (During one start, he burst into tears on the mound -- a problem that Young attributed to an allergic reaction.) The last loss, a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium on June 27th, broke Curtis' record. Young threw seven strong innings in front of 36,911 cheering fans, and his tension showed when he spoke to the press after the game. "Now that I have a record, I hope that all you leave me alone," he told reporters.
Even though the Mets did their best to protect Young from barbs ("All throughout, he battled an injured knee," explained one Mets bigwig) the invective during the streak had been bitter. "Maybe two Young awards should be presented in each league," wrote Allan Malamud in the Los Angeles Times. "The Cy for the best pitcher and the Anthony for the worst." But Mets fans empathized with their star-crossed starter, who received a bundle of good-luck charms in the mail each day.
After two more starts -- both tough-luck losses -- Young was dropped from the Mets' rotation. His next loss came on June 24th, when he walked in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning after 2 2/3 innings of work against the Dodgers. The streak stood at 27 straight losses.
On July 28th against Florida, it looked like Young would be a loser again when he allowed an unearned run in the top of the ninth to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead. But the Mets finally came through for their embattled teammate, scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth against closer Bryan Harvey to win the game 5-4.
The streak had ended, and Young was showered with Champagne and roses. "You've got to be strong to handle something like that," said Young, who was so unprepared for his first win in over a year that he forgot to retrieve the ball from the last play of the game. "I don't think a lot of people could handle what I went through... This is almost like winning the World Series." During the losing streak, Young made 74 appearances. He was 0-14 as a starter and 0-13 in relief.
Young's streak had made him a minor celebrity -- a week after his first win, he appeared on The Tonight Show -- but the win would be his last with the Mets. Young lost his next three decisions to finish the year 1-16, and the hard-luck hurler was traded the following spring to the Chicago Cubs for infielder Jose Vizcaino.