Player: Gene Garber was drafted by the Pirates in the 20th round of the 1965 draft and was used as a starter in the minors. After three unsuccessful stints with the Pirates in '69, 70, and '72 (5.61 ERA in 33.2 innings) he was traded to the Royals for Jim Rooker.
Garber pitched in a variety of roles for KC in '73. He started eight games, pitched in middle and long relief and saved 11 games. In all, he notched 152 frames with a 9-9 record and a 4.24 ERA (96 ERA+). He split the '74 season between the Royals and Phillies as he was sold midseason. He pitched much better in Philly and finished with a 3.08 ERA, 5 saves in 76 innings.
From this point on Garber was a pure reliever. He spent the next three years as a formidable closer by committee option. First as a duo with Tug McGraw and then Ron Reed joined to make it a trio in '76 and '77. Garber's ERA dropped each year from 3.60 to 2.82 to 2.35 as he saved 44 games. He was traded to Atlanta in the middle of the '78 season for Dick Ruthven. Entrusted with ace reliever duties, Garber ended the year with a 2.15 ERA and 22 saves.
Garber, who threw from a low sidearm delivery, saved 25 but had a terrible year in '79 losing a record 16 games out of the pen. Although his ERA improved to 3.83 and 2.61, he lost his closer's job to Rick Camp and he saved just nine games in '80 and '81. Garber got his job back in '82 and saved a career best 30 games with a 2.34 ERA.
Surrounded by other talented relievers like Steve Bedrosian, Donnie Moore, Terry Forster, and Bruce Sutter, Garber saved just 21 games the next three years. When Sutter was injured for most of the '86 season Garber stepped up and saved 24 with a 2.54 ERA.
In the last year of his contract, Garber was dealt to Kansas City late in the season. In total he saved 18 games but allowed 100 hits in 83 innings and lost 10 games. The Royals brought him back in '88 and he seemed to be pitching much better (1.286 WHIP, 113 ERA+) but was released on the 4th of July. Garber retired at age 40 with 931 games pitched, 218 saves, and a 3.34 ERA (117 ERA+).
Stuff: Mid 80s sinker, slider, curve, and a change up that he threw with his middle finger tucker behind the ball.
Flipside: Wow, those stats are hard to see. Looking at his career stats, Garber would throw over 100 relief innings six times in his career.
Oddball: Gene Garber started a game as a centerfielder. What?! Ok, here's the rub. July 4, 1978 and Garber has pitched seven innings in three games over the last four days. Braves manager Bobby Cox knew he needed to give Garber a day off. To resist the urge to use him, Cox wrote Garber's name 2nd in the Braves lineup as they visited Los Angeles. After Jerry Royster grounded out to start the game, Cox sent up Rowland Office up to pinch hit, and Garber was out of the game.
History: Garber is mainly remembered for two things- his twisting, near submarine delivery, and striking out Pete Rose to end his 44 game hitting streak. According to baseballreference.com, he is the only player to save over 200 games and never make an All-Star team.
Now-a-days, Garber owns and operates a farm and specializes in the sale of emu oil.
Check out the next post which is Garber's Super Veteran card.
Are you on Twitter? Follow me @989baseball