Player: Jeff Reardon was on the Expos radar out of high school when they made him a 23rd round pick in 1973. However, he chose to play ball at UMass instead and was not drafted after college. He signed as undrafted free agent with the Mets in 1977 and after two years as a starting pitcher was converter to the pen in 1979. It worked out well for Reardon and he was called up to the majors in June. He got into 18 games with a pair of saves in 21 innings.
Reardon worked as Neil Allen's set up man in 1980 and was a reliable multi-inning reliever logging 110 innings with 101 strikeouts in 61 games. He earned six saves with a 2.61 ERA, but the Mets curiously had him intentionally walk 15 batters, almost a third of his 47 walks.
The 1981 season would bring change as Reardon was traded to the Expos on June 5, a week before the season was frozen due to labor problems. When the season resumed he soon worked his way into the ace reliever role and saved six games in the last six weeks of play plus two more in the NLDS. He allowed less than a runner per inning and posted a 2.18 ERA in 70.1 innings between his two teams. Reardon became a reliable closer for the Expos saving between 21 to 26 games while working between 87 and 92 innings in the '82 - '84 seasons.
Reardon made an All-Star team for the first time in '85 when he racked up 22 of his NL best 41 saves before the break. He saved 35 more games in '86 but his ERA rose to 3.94, the highest of his career thus far. He also allowed a career high 12 home runs which may have led Montreal management that the fireballer was slowing down. Montreal lost Andre Dawson to free agency and traded Reardon whose salary was pushing one million dollars per year to the Twins in a six player deal.
Despite an ERA over four in both '87 and '89, Reardon racked up 104 saves the next three years for the Twins. He helped Minnesota win their first championship in '87 appearing in eight posteseason games with three saves.
Reardon became a free agent and signed with the Boston Red Sox. Although he struggled with back issues his entire career he never missed serious time until he hit the disabled list for eight weeks during the 1990 season. He returned in September and finished off a decent year, with 21 saves and a 3.16 ERA. Reardon stayed healthy in '91 and saved 40 games becoming the first to save 40 games in both leagues. On June 15, 1992 Reardon earned career save 342 breaking Rollie Fingers career record. Boston traded Reardon to the Braves on August 30 which helped bolster Atlanta's pen. Reardon finished September strong for Atlanta and pitched three scoreless inning in the NLCS. He took his lumps in the World Series with a critical loss in Game 2.
Reardon signed with the Reds in '93 and looked like a stranger without facial hair. The Reds brought him in to set up for Rob Dibble, but when Dibble flamed out Reardon chipped in eight saves. Reardon's strikeout rate was at a career low and he had clearly lost a lot of zip on his fastball. He was brought to spring training as a non-roster player by the Yankees and made the squad. The first two weeks were OK but he allowed runs in four straight games and was released on May 6 which ended his career.
Flipside: Sometimes I think Topps picks random highlights from team victories. Reardon had plenty of outings better than his game on August 1st. Reardon came in with Montreal down 4-2 with two outs in the top of the 7th inning. He gave up a single to Ozzie Smith and whiffed pitcher Joaquin Andujar to end the inning. The Expos scored three in the bottom half to take the lead. Reardon returned in the top of the eighth, but was removed after a single, strikeout, and a walk. He faced five batters and retired just two of them.
Oddball: Major League baseball teams don't often fly into Indianapolis but the Expos landed there in 1984 when Reardon had a severe allergic reaction. The in flight meal included turkey gravy that had wine in it which was the source of Reardon's problems. The team plane stopped in Indy on the way from New York to St. Louis. Reardon recovered and a team trainer drove to St. Louis the next day.
History: Reardon was a four time All-Star and won a championship with the Twins in '87. Nicknamed the "Terminator" and he was possibly the greatest closer of the 80's. Reardon didn't hold the major league record for saves long as Lee Smith passed him a year after he broke the mark. His career total of 367 is currently 7th all-time. Other career stats include 880 games, 3.16 ERA, 122 ERA+, 1.199 WHIP, and 18.0 WAR.
Reardon has gone through some troubling times since his retirement.