A standout at Arizona State, Bannister was named College Player of the Year by The Sporting News in 1976 and was the nation’s first draft pick that June. He reached the Astros in 1977, but was ill and had blister problems in 1978 and was traded to the Mariners for Craig Reynolds. With his 90-mph fastball, sharp slider, and excellent curveball, Bannister notched many strikeouts but few wins. He fanned an AL-high 209 batters in 1982, but averaged just 10 wins a season in Seattle.
Playing out his option, Bannister signed with the White Sox for 1983. After losing nine of his first 12 decisions, he became the catalyst for Chicago’s ’83 pennant drive, going 13-1 (2.23) after the All-Star break. But lacking the killer instinct and rarely willing to pitch inside, he was frequently victimized by the longball, and was perceived as not living up to his potential. After he boosted his value by going 16-11 in 1987, the White Sox traded him to the Royals for four young players, including pitching prospects Melido Perez and John Davis.
Bannister won 12 games in 31 starts for the Royals in 1988, but that year would be his last a full-time starter. A shoulder injury cut short his season in 1989, and after surfacing briefly in the Japanese League in 1990, Bannister spent his last two years working out of the bullpen for California and Texas.