Twenty years ago today, Mark Langston signed a minor league contract with the Padres, not knowing whether he’d be on the Opening Day roster, let alone pitching in the first game of the World Series. The four-time All-Star had started just 27 games in his past two seasons, his last two of eight with the Angels, and hadn’t pitched since the previous May when he underwent elbow surgery. The Padres’ fifth spot in the starting rotation was still a question mark, so it made sense to give the 37-year-old lefty a no-risk shot to compete with fellow free agent signings Pete Smith and Stan Spencer for it. That, combined with Langston’s desire to stay in Southern California, made for a perfect fit.
Langston made the Padres’ roster as a starter, missed a month to the disabled list after just his third start, then returned to make 13 more starts before being moved to the bullpen in late August following three consecutive rusty starts. When the move was made, Langston’s ERA was a lofty 5.86. At the end of the season, following six relief appearances, Langston’s ERA was once again 5.86.
Despite his season-long struggles, Langston made the Padres’ postseason roster as a reliever. He was stellar in three appearances against the Braves in the NLCS, but his lone World Series appearance was marred by one of the most egregious blown calls in baseball history.
After the season, Langston re-upped with San Diego, but was released at the end of Spring Training. He latched on with Cleveland, where he was used mostly out of the ‘pen in his final major league season.