Remembering Floyd Bannister

Maybe I have a little bias because he’s the closest Mariner to ever be named “Boyd”, but I think there’s more to it. I think Floyd Bannister quite simply was the first star pitcher the franchise ever had.

Leading Off:
• Floyd Bannister was a homegrown Seattle product that rose to major league fame

• He was cut from the Kennedy High School freshman baseball team but eventually turned himself into a dominant pitcher at all levels

• He went 15-0 and allowed ZERO earned runs in 112 innings. He may have had the Bad News Bears defense playing behind him (leading to many unearned runs), we’ll never know, but read that stat back to yourself a few times and it makes you say “whoa!”

• He came back to Seattle in 1978 as a member of the Seattle Mariners

Floyd Bannister was drafted out of high school, in the 3rd round, by the Oakland Athletics. A’s owner Charlie Finley did not budge on Bannister’s demands and did not sign with the franchise. He headed south to play college baseball at Arizona State University where he went on to have a sensational career in Tempe. It was so good that he became the #1 overall pick in the 1976 draft. UPDATED NOTE: Bannister has the most MLB wins of any pitcher to ever come from Arizona State University (134)

Much was expected of Bannister at that lofty spot, but after two seasons of being in the Astros organization, in a surprising move, he was traded out west.

How did he get back to the Emerald City?: December 8, 1978: Traded by the Houston Astros to the Mariners for Craig Reynolds.

Reynolds was a shortstop with the M’s for 2 seasons. In 1978 he put together an All-Star season (148 games, 5 HR, 44 RBI, .292 AVG). Mariners Fact: Reynolds is only one of two Mariner shortstops to ever be selected to the All-Star game (Alex Rodriguez the other).

Bannister was immediately thrown into the starting rotation for the M’s. In his four seasons with the team, he had only one winning record, but that was not necessarily all based on his performances.

1979 – 10-15, 4.05 ERA (30 starts), 115 K in 182.1 IP (age 24)
Mariners: 67-95

1980 – 9-13, 3.47 ERA (32 starts), 155 K in 217.2 IP (age 25)
Mariners: 59-103-1

1981 – 9-9, 4.45 ERA (21 g, 20 starts), 85 K in 121.1 IP (age 26)
Mariners: 44-65-1 (Strike-shortened season; only 110 games)

1982 – 12-13, 3.43 ERA (35 starts), 209 K in 247.0 IP (age 27)
Mariners: 67-95

Bannister spent four years in Seattle, with his most impressive year coming in 1982. He was selected as the Opening Day starting pitcher for the team and went on to have the best season yet. He had an ERA of 3.43 with a record of 12-13, was named to the All-Star team and led the A.L. in strikeouts that year.

Floyd Bannister was the first Seattle Mariners pitcher to lead the league in a positive pitching statistic.

Exit From Emerald City: Bannister coming off a stellar season at the age of 27 was to hit free agency after the 1982 season. The Mariners were still operating on the “cheap” at this point of their history, leading to the M’s having no chance to match the offer Bannister was about to receive as a free agent. On December 13, 1982 he signed with the Chicago White Sox. His deal was for 5 seasons at $4.79 million total, with a $1.25 million bonus. (Salary comparison: 1982 w/ M’s – $290,000 1983 w/ CHW – $930,000)

It was immediately a great move for Bannister. The White Sox went from a 3rd place team in 1982 to an MLB-best 99-win team in 1983 (they lost to the Orioles in the ALCS).

Floyd Bannister had a solid big league career. His career record of 134-143, is not a clean explanation for how good he was. I’ll remember him as a pitching pioneer in the beginning stages of the franchise I dearly love.

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