Remember how Bret Saberhagen used to rule odd-numbered years on the mound?
If a season ended in a “5” or a “7” or one of their numeric brethren, you could pretty much count on Sabes being in the Cy Young race, or at least an All-Star-caliber performer.
Throw a “6” or “8” at him … not so much.
Butch Benton was pretty much the anti-Sabes.
Drafted by the Mets with the sixth overall pick out of high school in 1975, Benton debuted in Shea Stadium as a pinch hitter in September of 1978.
He was still just 21 years old and would make three more appearances before the end of the season, including one at his natural position of catcher.
See? Pitcher v. catcher … odd v. even.
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Then, Benton spent all of 1979 and most of 1980 back in the minors, making it back to the Mets in July.
It was an even year.
Then, in April of 1981, Benton went to the Cubs as “part of a conditional deal,” whatever that means.
Alas … it was an odd-numbered year, so Benton spent Strike Season with the Iowa Oaks. Same story in 1982, until the Cubs called him up in 1982.
That was an even year.
And then, just as Saberhagen had done from 1992 through 1994 — Benton broke the pattern.
In Benton’s case, it all started to unravel when the Cubs traded him to the Expos for Jerry Manuel.
That led to a season in Triple-A, but then Montreal didn’t sign him in the off-season.
The Phillies did, in January 1984, but released him April.
The Tigers signed him later that same month, but the 1984 Detroit Tigers didn’t need anybody‘s help, so it was off to Evansville for the full even-numbered season.
Pattern … gone.
To his credit, Benton kept plugging along even after Detroit released him that winter, eventually signing with the Indians.
In a complete reversal of fortune, Benton began 1985 with the Tribe and stayed in the Big Leagues into June before finishing out the season with the Triple-A Maine Guides.
He never did make it back to The Show, but that early-season run in Cleveland ballooned his MLB games-played tally from 20 to 51.
The Indians released him in February 1986, and Benton rode off into the sunset at age 28 without the benefit of even one Big League baseball card.
After five full seasons on the sidelines, but seemingly inspired by a run in the Senior League, Benton made a comeback, appearing in nine games for the Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) at age 33 before walking away for good.
That same year saw the advent of the Wiz Mets behemoth, a 450-card issue that featured all of the dudes who had played for the franchise to that point in their history.
One of those guys was a catcher who hadn’t been heard from in Flushing Meadows since the year the Mets drafted Darryl Strawberry.
Yeah, Butch Benton. It was his only MLB card.
Guess who came to the Mets the following year?
Yeah, Bret Saberhagen, subject of 250+ baseball cards by the end of his career.
Saberhagen … the anti-Benton.
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