Amazin’ Mets Garrett Credits Family For Championship Career
It was no accident that Wayne Garrett played 10 MLB seasons.
Garrett had a pretty good run in baseball. 40-plus years since he took his last swings at the plate for the Chunichi Dragons of of Japan's Central League, Garrett is living the good life.
It should be no surprise that Garrett's golf game comes up early in conversation, when catching up on how the former infielder is doing today. Living in Florida's Sarasota County, Garrett, who entered the big leagues in the 1969 season when the club won their first World Series championship and was also around for the 1973 National League pennant-winning team, is a man of habits.
Twice weekly, Garrett,73, hits the links with a couple other former pro ballplayers. Neil Allen, who starred for the Mets coming out of the bullpen in the early '80's and was the principal player exchanged with the St. Louis Cardinals that brought Keith Hernandez to Queens, along with former Cubs/White Sox pitcher Ken Frailing round out the golfing threesome.
Every player's rise to the making the MLB is unique. Having a World Series ring came as a result of having help along the way, especially at home.
"(Adrian Garrett) was your typical left-handed hitter," Garrett said during a telephone conversation earlier this week. We're (Mets) playing the Cubs at Wrigley, and Seaver (Tom Seaver) is pitching for us. The first time, he throws to my brother, up and in - strikes him out. The second time up, Adrian took him deep."
Playing third base for this game, as his older brother trots around the bases, the younger Garrett recalls his future hall of fame teammate glaring right at him, almost daring him to say something.
Then, with no warning, Seaver cracks a smile. It's a sign that his third baseman can relax, and enjoy the family moment.
"I wondered if Seaver gave him a gift?" Garrett thinks.
Teammates for parts of eight seasons in Queens, Garrett remembers Seaver liking to challenge hitters. With this game in Chicago being the only time the Garrett boys opposed each other during their combined 1,260 MLB appearances, even as decades have passed the details remain crisp.
It's clear during this early morning trip down baseball's memory lane that the younger Garrett credits his road to appearing in two World Series, in part, to his brothers.
Adrian, who played in 14 games for the Oakland A's during the '72 season, their first of three consecutive world championships, hasn't received a ring for his contributions.
The Garrett boys also saw their careers crisscross in '79, when both played in Japan. Adrian took the field for Hiroshima.
"That was fun," says, Garrett, who came to the Mets in December '68, in the Rule 5 Draft from the Braves. " We played 130 games a season. There were two leagues, each with six teams. We played the same five teams the whole year. You would play three games then have a day off. Every other week we (Adrian and myself) would be playing against each other."
Rooting for one another's success, and going out with their families in Japan, decades later the Garrett boys continue supporting each other.
"Adrian is the oldest of us three. He's (Adrian) five years older than me. And there's my brother Jimmy. All three of us played ball," Garrett proudly explains.
Looking back at their road to pro ball, in hindsight, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Garretts are among the more than 400 brothers combinations to have appeared in MLB play.
Like most young kids, they played a lot of sandlot baseball. Whatever sport was in season, baseball, basketball, and football, the Garrett boys were all in on the action.
"Adrian was a good athlete; well-rounded. He had football scholarships," remembers his younger brother.
Although five years different in age, Wayne and Adrian were always, somehow, linked with baseball.
Little League, Babe Ruth, and high school. Even at Sarasota High School, a program that has also produced such MLB standouts as Scooter Gennett and Ian Desmond, among others, the Garretts shared the same baseball coach for one season.
"In high school, the scouts were in the stands watching Adrian. They would come over our house. Remember, this was an era when there was no draft. A scout from the Milwaukee Braves showed more interest in Adrian than the others, so he elected to sign with them," Garrett, who made his Mets debut as a 21-year-old rookie in 1969, tells.
The connection with the Braves and the Garretts continued two years after Adrian signed with the organization. Jimmy Garrett was next to ink a professional contract with the Braves, signing after high school graduation.
Next, Wayne was signed by the Braves in 1965, in Round 6 of the first amateur entry draft. Garrett was selected in the same round, and ahead of other future MLB regulars Sal Bando and Hal McRae.
Milwaukee scout Zack Taylor signed all three Garrett boys.
There have been more well-known brother combinations that have have enjoyed MLB success, the Alous and Ripkens come to mind first, but the Garretts beat the odds of getting to 'The Show'. They worked just as hard as any brothers.
Because of their age difference, Wayne and Adrian never did play on the same team - at any level of baseball.
During their MLB careers, the Garretts did share hall of fame manager Dick Williams. During his two tenures in Oakland in the early '70's, Adrian took orders from Williams. And by all accounts from Wayne, his older brother had no problems with Williams.
For Wayne, although he's being polite and professional, it's clear that Williams isn't one of his favorite bench bosses. The younger Garrett spent parts of three seasons with the Montreal Expos, when Williams was the club's skipper.
"I didn't see eye-to-eye (with Williams), when we were in Montreal. The big success he had in Oakland I think went to his head. I thought he made mistakes," Garrett said.
Mention Gil Hodges, now you have Garrett's undivided attention.
He labels the late Mets' manager as the best he had.
"I never saw Gil make a mistake. He was always in the game."
Once his playing days were over, Garrett returned to Sarasota. Eight years in real estate, followed by 22 years in sales with the same company, Garrett is now retired for 10 years.
On the golf course, along with Allen and Failing, Garrett tells of others joining them on occasion. Mets' fans will want to join, even former teammate Ron Swoboda has stopped to play a round, driving through from New Orleans to West Palm Beach.
Life is good and not complicated for Garrett. This is life in Sarasota. This is life earned after many years living out of a suitcase and racing to stay ahead of Father Time.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter living in the Mohawk Valley. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.