Expansion teams can give many baseball players their first taste of the major leagues and act as a spring board to a big league career. Such was the case for right-handed pitcher Ernie McAnally, who nearly gave up on the game before being finding his chance by the Montreal Expos.
Originally drafted as a catcher in the 20th round in 1966 by the New York Mets out of Paris Junior College in Texas, it quickly became apparent that his future was going to be on the mound instead of behind the plate. His transition was so impressive that it caught the attention of the fledgling Expos organization, who made him the 49th selection in the 1968 expansion draft.
Sent to Single-A in 1969, McAnally decided to quit half-way through the season in order to make a higher wage back home as an insurance adjustor and thus better support his family. He mistakenly thought the Expos weren’t that high on him because of where he had been assigned but in truth they did not yet have a Double-A team and didn’t want to rush him too much. His decision to return to the franchise was a good one, as he became a full-time starter for the big league club in 1971.
In the four years (1971-74) that McAnally pitched for the Expos the team never had a winning record. Although his 30-49 record doesn’t deserve much attention, his 4.03 ERA and .256 batting average allowed show what a solid pitcher he was. He was particularly tough against Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente, allowing just a lone single in 15 official at-bats.
McAnally was often the victim of bad offense backing him up. In 1972 he posted a very respectable 3.81 ERA but finished just 6-15. It could have been even worse, as he started the year 1-13 but ended up winning five of his last seven decisions.
Following the 1974 season, he was sold to the Cleveland Indians. He never appeared in another major league game because of an injured rotator cuff, and other than one disastrous two-inning appearance (seven runs allowed) with their Triple-A team in 1975, his career was done at the age of 28.
I had the opportunity to ask the former pitcher some questions a while back. Keep reading for some memories he shared about his playing career.
Ernie McAnally Questionnaire:
What was the strangest play you ever saw in baseball?: A pop fly in San Diego, with two outs and the bases loaded. The ball fell in and Dave Winfield picked it up with runners going to every base. Enzo Hernandez, the shortstop, was trying to get out of the way, but when Winfield cut loose with a throw, it hit Hernandez square in the back from 20 feet away. The runners kept running and Enzo was in great pain.
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Whitey Herzog.
Who was your toughest out?: Ted Simmons (The catcher collected 16 hits in 29 career at-bats against McAnally).
If you could do anything about your playing career differently, what would that be?: Certainly, there could be a lot of ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’s,’ but I choose to have the mind set to have taken my opportunities and abilities; having done my best and be satisfied with the outcome. It leads to peace and happiness.
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