If losing takes its toll on you, as the old adage goes, then why is this man smiling? After all, from 1975-1980, Dave Heaverlo pitched for the Giants, Athletics, and Mariners, three teams with a combined record of 404-569 during that stretch (Oakland and Seattle were especially bad during those years, with 62 wins being the most either team would get).
Could that smile be the result of knowing he’s (numerically) the first Mariner in a Fleer set? Possibly. Perhaps Dave, known to keep things loose in the clubhouse, just pulled off an epic prank on a teammate. Or maybe he had some innate feeling that his days with a horrible Mariners team were numbered- that brighter days were ahead.
The beginning of the end happened during a stop on the team’s offseason caravan, when Mariners skipper Maury Wills was approached by a former college teammate of Heaverlo. Upon being asked what his plans were for the righty, Wills responded by saying that he would move Heaverlo to a long reliever role and give Mike Parrott the closer role that Dave once held.
News travels quickly in small circles and Dave wasn’t pleased when he heard this piece of information from his ex-teammate. Instead of approaching Wills about the changes, Heaverlo contacted Tracy Ringolsby, the Mariners beat writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The next day, team officials woke to the headline that read, “Heaverlo Refuses to Carry Parrott’s Jock.” If Heaverlo was disgruntled, Mariners brass were irate.
Though he made it to spring training, Dave wouldn’t make it to Opening Day with the Mariners. As the pitcher was shagging balls in the outfield one day towards the end of spring training, he was approached by a clubhouse attendant, who informed him that he was needed in the manager’s office. The news came as no surprise: the team was releasing him.
The release came as a blessing in disguise for Dave, who would land back in the Bay Area after signing with the A’s. This Oakland team was far different than the 100-loss teams of his first tenure. Now under manager Billy Martin, the A’s took the A.L. West in the first half of the split-season, qualifying them for the playoffs.
After defeating the Royals in the first round, Martin’s team ran up against their leader’s former club, the New York Yankees, in the ALCS. This time there would be no advancement for the team playing ‘Billy Ball,’ as they were swept by the Bronx Bombers.
Despite falling short of its goal of reaching the World Series, Heaverlo later called the year- his final season in the majors- the ‘most fun [he] ever had in pro ball.’ The reason? He knew that when he went to the ballpark each day that the team had a shot to win. Their mercurial manager would find a way to quench his thirst for victory.