The sequence is seemingly inevitable. A young Houstonian signs up for one of the U-13 and U-14 youth baseball teams managed by Anthony Young, learns that his new coach pitched in the major leagues and punches Young's name into a search engine. The kid discovers Young's professional stats, perhaps peruses his Wikipedia page and returns to practice with his finding: "Coach, you had a losing record!"
This is an article from the July 9, 2012 issue
Make that the losing record. Because it's not Young's career mark of 15 wins and 48 losses that sets young minds aflutter, but rather his major league record of 27 consecutive losing decisions, set with the Mets during the 1992 and '93 seasons. In that nearly 15-month span Young—just 26 years old and in his first full MLB season when the streak began—bounced between New York's rotation and its bullpen as the losses piled up over 17 starts and 60 relief appearances. He developed a sympathetic following, getting ribbed regularly by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show (on which he later appeared) and encouraged in letters from Hall of Famers (Bob Feller, Ferguson Jenkins) as well as by opponents during pregame chats.
"It got hectic at times," recalls Young, whose locker became so stalked by reporters that he spoke only after games in which he appeared.
But when Young finally broke the streak, pitching the top of the ninth against the Marlins in a game won by an Eddie Murray walk-off double, he provided a rare highlight in the Mets' 103-loss season, inspiring manager Dallas Green to pop some postgame champagne. Says Young, "It was like the zoo had been lifted off of my back and we had just won the World Series."
The 46-year-old now spends most of his time with his wife, Mia, 42, and three daughters, Jaime, 27; Nikki, 23; and Addison, 11. He manages a warehouse for the chemical company Univar USA near his home in Kingwood, Texas. But he never forgets his star-crossed experience—in fact, he draws a positive to pass onto his pupils. If a team keeps sending you to the mound, you must be doing something right. And with his respectable 4.36 ERA during the streak and 3.89 career mark, the numbers bear him out.
When Young gets past the distraction of his record, he passes on to his 13- and 14-year-old charges plenty more from his six-year career, advice handed down from former pitching coaches such as Mel Stottlemyre and Bob Apodaca, who taught him the importance of earning your team's faith. "The stuff I learned, I'm giving to kids," says Young, whose U-14 Elite team, Dynasty Black, is ranked No. 1 in Texas and 15th in the country. "I really wish this kind of stuff was around when I was coming up."
Last spring, when Blue Jays pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes made headlines for losing 13 straight decisions, Young's players clamored for his mark to be broken. Had that happened, Young would have celebrated—unlike the family of previous record-holder Cliff Curtis, who met with Young before his record-breaking 24th defeat.
"They wanted [the record] to stay in their family," Young recalls. "[I wish] they could've kept it."