Baseball beat writers covering the Cincinnati Reds in the early 1980s slapped a nickname on pitcher Frank Pastore: Mr. Good Wrench.
That’s because Pastore incessantly talked about pitching mechanics and was obsessed over making every wind-up, every stretch, every delivery a picture of pitching perfection.
There was a game early in his career when Pastore struggled in the first inning. He walked the first two batters and manager John McNamara trudged to the mound.
“What the hell is going on?” he asked, his Irish face flushed red, as it did when he was upset.
“I’m working on my mechanics,” said Pastore.
“To hell with the mechanics, just throw a strike,” said McNamara.
Pastore, 55, died Monday in a California hospital from head injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash Nov. 17. His Honda Shadow was struck by a female motorist who swerved into Pastore’s lane on the 210 Foothill Freeway in Duarte, Calif. and he was thrown from his bike.
Pastore suffered critical head injuries and was
unconscious when rescuers arrived. He had remained hospitalized since
the accident. He was in a coma for a month.
Pastore, a born-again Christian, was a talk show host on KKLA-FM, a Christian radio station. Eerily, on the day of his accident, he talked about the possibility of dying on his motorcycle.
His wife, Gina, authorized the release of the tape on which he said, “You guys know I ride a motorcycle, right? At any moment, especially with the idiot people who cross the diamond lane into my lane, without any blinkers — not that I’m angry about it — at any minute, I could be spread all over the 210.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
Even the book he wrote was somewhat prophetic: “Shattered: Down, But Not Destroyed.
Pastore graduated from Damien High School in La Verne, Calif. in 1975 and was Cincinnati’s No. 2 draft choice.
He surprisingly made the team out of Class AA in 1979 and worked mostly out of the bullpen that year, going 6-7 with a 4.25 earned run average. And he did make nine starts and the 21-year-old rookie started Game 2 of the NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates and lost.
And he met his hero, which became somewhat of a curse for Pastore. Tom Seaver pitched for the Reds at the time and Pastore wanted to be Tom Seaver. Nobody could be Seaver, but Pastore desperately tried. They were inseparable and Pastore picked his brain and tried to rework his pitching style to become a mirror image of the Hall of Fame pitcher.
And it seemed to work in 1980.
Ironcially, Seaver was scheduled to pitch Opening Day 1980, but he came down with the flu. Pastore, 22, was an emergency fill-in to face Atlanta knuckleballer Phil Niekro.
Pastore pitched a complete-game three-hit shutout and didn’t walk a batter as the Reds won, 9-0. In his second start, Pastore pitched another complete game as the Reds started the season 8-and-0.
In fact, Pastore pitched three complete games in his first four starts and it looked as if maybe, just maybe, the Reds did have another Tom Seaver. For the year, Pastore was 13-7 with a 3.27 ERA and nine complete games in his 27 starts.
It was to be the only good year of his short career, a career that ended eight years into it when he retired in 1987 while trying to make a comeback with Texas, but couldn’t get out of Double-A.
He was 4-9 in 1981, then 8-13 (when the Reds lost 101 games in 1982), 9-12 and 3-8 his next three years.
By 1985 Pete Rose was managing the Reds and decided to try Pastore in the bullpen and he was 2-1 with a 3.83 ERA in only 17 appearances. And six of those were starts.
At the end of spring training in 1986 the Reds released him and he was signed by the Minnesota Twins and worked out of the bullpen, finishing 15 games. But they, too, released him and the Rangers signed him for 1987, but sent him to Double-A.
And that’s when, at 28, he retired with a 48-58 record, a 4.29 ERA over 220 major-league games (139 starts) and 22 complete games.
He returned to California and became a student, eventually earning degrees in business administration, philosophy of religion and ethics and political philosophy. He obtained graduate degrees in theology and political science.
His syndicated Christian radio talk show became one of the most popular in the country until his prophetic comments the day of his tragic crash on the very highway where he said he might die.
His survivors include Gina, his wife of 27 years; two adult children, Frank and Christina; and one grandchild.