One-third of the Mets’ much-ballyhooed but ill-fated “Generation K” trio of the late 1990s, Isringhausen was named MVP of the International League in 1995 while pitching for Triple-A Norfolk. Relying on an explosive fastball and knuckle curve, he finished up that season by posting a 9-2 record in 14 starts for the big-league club. But a steady progression of serious injuries — tuberculosis, a broken wrist (sustained while punching a dugout trash can) and three major operations on his pitching arm — derailed Izzy’s promising march to the majors.
Reconstructive surgery had forced Isringhausen to sit out all of 1998, and after a brief and inconsistent cameo with the Mets the following season he was dealt to Oakland at the trading deadline for reliever Billy Taylor. Mets skipper Bobby Valentine was reluctant to use Isringhausen in relief, opining that it would be akin to “[using] an Indy car as a taxi.” But the A’s had targeted Izzy as their new closer, and it turned out to be exactly what the former phenom needed. He didn’t surrender a run in his first seven innings of work, converted all eight of his save opportunities down the stretch, and saved 33 games for Oakland the following season.
While Isringhausen’s litany of injuries would make a clinician cringe, his teammates found his ever-increasing collection of scars to be a treasure trove of amusing anecdotes. To wit: In 1997, he stabbed himself in the thigh while trying to open a box with a kitchen knife. Early in his career, he had fallen off the side of a building and landed on his head three stories below. Doctors told him that had he not been so drunk, and his muscles so relaxed, the fall probably would have killed him.
Isringhausen’s mother, Georgene, may have influenced her son’s quirky nature more than anything else. She was a rabid softball player who continued playing well into her seventh month of pregnancy.