Friday, March 8, 2013

Food-Issue Friday: 1977 Kellogg's Andy Messersmith

"...and give us these days, our daily bread. Only you we praise, almighty dollar. Money- my personal savior. Money- a material lust. Money- life's only treasure. Money- in God we trust." ~ Money (In God We Trust) by Extreme

Bread. Dough. Munayyy.

Andy Messersmith became the poster boy for free agency after arbitrator Peter Seitz issued a ruling that declared that he and fellow pitcher Dave McNally were free to negotiate with any team they like, nullifying baseball's reserve clause in the process.

Prior to his declared free-agency, Messersmith was one of the best pitchers in baseball. After signing a three-year, $1 million contract, he struggled mightily- which didn't help with the public's perception of him. Prior to the ruling, Messersmith had what he called a "good rapport with fans", but those same fans soon turned on him. Fan mail turned to 'hate mail'- of which he estimated ninety-eight percent to be negative. Even his peers took the opportunity to rip him in the media. The game no longer was fun for the pitcher, and he later admited that the whole process was a heavier burden than he could bear. "It broke my back," he would say.

And while Messersmith wasn't horrible with his new team, he certainly didn't live up to the expectations that came with his large contract. After starting 28 games in 1976 and then 1977 being cut short at 16 games due to an injury, Messersmith's career with the Braves was over. He would be traded to the Yankees in the off-season.

Andy's time in New York lasted one year- all of six games (five starts). Injuries had again robbed him of the ability to pitch, to prove that he was worth the large contract he had signed. The Yankees then granted him his release in November of 1978, and in February of '79 he would sign with the team he never wanted to leave (the Dodgers). What started out as a desire to stay put (in LA) became a bitter irony.

 "All I wanted was a no-trade clause in my contract with the Dodgers. I told Peter O' Malley at the time I didn't want to do this. It had nothing to do with money."

It never does, of course.

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