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Frank Viola Goes Full Circle From St. John’s To The New York Mets

by Edward Kim | Posted on Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Frank Viola, seen here pitching for the Mets, was a star pitcher in college at St. John's University. (Getty Images)

Frank Viola, seen here pitching for the Mets, was a star pitcher in college at St. John’s University. (Getty Images)

Frank Viola finished his 15-year MLB career in 1996 oddly enough with the Toronto Blue Jays.  He made his mark as a left handed starting pitcher with the Minnesota Twins where he spent the better part of eight MLB season and accumulated 112 of his career 176 victories.  He finished his career with 176 wins and 150 losses, a 3.73 ERA, 74 complete games and a total of 2,836.1 innings pitched eclipsing 200 innings in nine out of 15 seasons.

In today’s game, Frank Viola nicknamed “Sweet Music” would be a 15 million dollar per year pitcher.  Over the course of his playing career, Viola accumulated a combined salary of $25,319,000 and an average of $1,687,933 per season.  To put that into context, Mark Buehrle over the course of his career has accumulated $118,980,000 in salary over 14 seasons. (Salary info per http://www.baseball-reference.com)

Frank Viola is best known as a Minnesota Twin but many forget or just never knew that he started at St. John’s.  In three seasons with St. John’s he was 26-2 with a 1.67 ERA, 139 strikeouts in 226.2 innings.  Following his junior season when he was an All-American and pitched to a 10-0 record with a mindboggling 0.87 ERA he was drafted in the second round by the Twins.

During his time in college he was part of what many consider to have been the best college baseball game ever played.

May 21, 1981, St. John’s and Frank Viola vs. Yale and Ron Darling.  Darling pitched 11 no-hit innings and had a final line of 12 innings, one hit, one unearned run, five walks and 16 strikeouts - wow!  Frank Viola was no slouch on that May 21,1981 afternoon either pitching 11 innings, seven hits, 0 runs, four walks, eight strikeouts.  That game would be his last victory with St. John’s.  Only 2,000 fans were in attendance, but imagine a game like that today and the attention it would have received.  Here’s an article in the New York Times about that game.

2014 for Frank Viola has been trying to say the least.  On February 11, 2014 his father, Frank Sr. passed away at the age of 86.  March 9, 2014, only 26 short days since his father passed away his mother, Helen, passed away at the age of 85.

On March 25, 2014 it was announced that Viola would need to undergo heart surgery after physicians discovered a heart condition during his spring training physical.  My heart goes out to Frank and his family for their losses even if it is just in thought and I wish him a speedy recovery back to good health.

After his playing career was over, Viola made his rounds coaching before landing back in New York.  He was the pitching coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones for a year in 2011, two years in Savannah with the Sand Gnats 2012-2013 and this year was ticketed for the Las Vegas 51’s and Manager Wally Backman.  The Mets had positioned him to work with the prized group of young arms in Las Vegas serving not just as a pitching coach but also as a mentor.

I’m hoping and trusting that he will make a full recovery from surgery and eventually makes his way back to baseball and the Mets.  There would be nothing sweeter than to see Frank “Sweet Music” Viola put the New York Mets uniform on and eventually become a staple in the dugout at Citi Field.

Here’s an interview Ken Davidoff of the NY Post did recently with Frank Viola.

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