June 15 brings mixed emotions to any seasoned Mets fan who knows that, once upon a time, this served as the trade deadline.
For Pat Zachry, it brings emotions of his own. Not about the enormity of trying to justify being traded for Tom Seaver, but rather about his beloved wife Sharron.
“We were a few days away from getting married,” Zachry said last week in a telephone interview. “The party was going to be at Pete’s house.”
That would be Pete Rose, Zachry’s teammate with the Reds…until June 15, 1977, when Zachry, the 1976 National League Rookie of the Year, joined Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman as a four-man package going to the Mets in return for Tom “The Franchise” Seaver, still the best Met ever, who had found himself in a nasty feud with team management.
This goes down as a dark day in Mets history — on the bright side, they acquired Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey on June 15, 1983 — and Zachry’s OK with that. Actually, Zachry clocked a couple of decent seasons with the Mets, with 1980 (a 3.01 ERA in 164 ⅔ innings) the highlight, and the outfielder Henderson produced all right, and the second baseman Flynn stuck around for a while. But the team stunk overall, and Seaver pitched through 1986 (including a 1983 reunion with the Mets) to complete his Hall of Fame career.
“It was a shame it didn’t work out better because of injuries and other stuff,” Zachry said. “The one thing I regretted was kicking the helmet and breaking my foot.* That was my own damn fault. It led to some other things that took away from my performance that shouldn’t have.
“…It was always interesting and never dull. Too bad we didn’t give the people more for their money, but it wasn’t like we didn’t try.”
(*Here are details about the helmet incident, in 1978. The fourth paragraph. Imagine the outcry if that happened now.)
Back to Zachry and his Sharron, a teacher in Houston when they met in ‘76, quite the all-around rookie year for the right-hander; remember, the Big Red Machine swept the Yankees in the World Series that season, with Zachry winning Game 3. They capitalized on a Mets off-day June 20 to get married by a justice of the peace in Cincinnati — the party at Rose’s house went away with the trade, Zachry recalled with a laugh — and when the Mets went to Chicago the next weekend to play the Cubs, the team gave the Zachrys the honeymoon suite.
When I asked Zachry whether he and Sharron enjoyed their time in New York, he responded, “Oh, (bleep). We had our wedding anniversary every year on top of the World Trade Center. The first year we were there, she found us an apartment. We had traded in my little sports car and got this Cadillac. We went out there one Sunday morning, and the Cadillac was gone. So I got a beat-up Bronco. We eventually moved out to Greenwich.”
Eventually, after his career ended with the Phillies in 1985, Zachry and his family returned to Waco, Texas, where he had grown up. On November 21, 2016, Zachry and Sharron were driving back home from Dallas on Interstate-35.
“We were 50 or 60 miles north of Waco,” Zachry recalled. “I was looking at her. She was reading a book as the light was going down on her window. She had her seatbelt on her waist, but the strap was not on her shoulder. I thought, ‘This is still the most beautiful woman, after 40 years.’
“I said, ‘Honey will you please put that strap over your shoulder?’ She said, ‘I’ve only got two more pages (and then I’ll do it).’
“I blacked out. I don’t remember anything other than waking up on my side of the door and the emergency guy was trying to pull it open.”
Sharron, who had become a school principal, died as their pickup truck ran off the roadway and rolled over. Only in the aftermath did Zachry learn that he had suffered an epileptic seizure, he said. He didn’t even know he had epilepsy.
Before the coronavirus hit, Zachry had accepted an invitation from Mets vice president of alumni relations Jay Horwitz to come to Citi Field for a weekend this year — this past weekend, as a matter of fact — as part of Horwitz’s initiative to infuse more of the Mets’ entertaining past into their present. Now 68, Zachry hopes to make that happen next year. Even if his Mets tenure didn’t work out as well as he and everyone hoped, a lot of good happened to him there.
“I’d like to come back and bring my daughter with me, let her see the (new) World Trade Center building,” he said. “I’d like to see that myself, see some old friends.
“It just brings back so much of a romantic feeling between myself and the old ballpark and the city.”
When he gets back here, he’ll surely think plenty more of Sharron and the many good times they shared in the Big Apple.
This week’s Pop Quiz question came from Jay Berman of Coral Springs, Fla.: Name the future Hall of Famer who appeared as a German soldier in a 1963 episode of “Combat!”
The Still Got Game Foundation, which I wrote about last year, is holding a series of online, fundraising poker events called “Ante Up For A Cause.” It involves great retired players like LaTroy Hawkins, Torii Hunter, Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel in addition to great causes (grassroot-level social needs in the United States, a rather timely issue).
Your Pop Quiz answer is Warren Spahn.
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