Jeff Reardon’s bullpen exploits lifted both Montreal and Minnesota to unexpected success. A good 1980 season with the Mets prompted Reardon’s trade to the Expos for Ellis Valentine. The bearded New Englander was the only hurler with 20 or more saves each season from 1982 to 1988. He led the majors with 41 saves in 1985, but slumped slightly in 1986. At age 31, the University of Massachusetts history major was traded to the Twins. After a shaky start, the hard thrower’s relief work earned him Minnesota’s Most Valuable Player award and a World Championship ring in 1987; he saved two games and won one in the LCS. During the season, he had more strikeouts than innings. In 1990 Reardon signed with the Red Sox and enjoyed several successful years with the BoSox.
A true stopper, Reardon rarely worked more than one inning in any game. He surpassed 30 saves each year from 1986 to 1989, and with 30 saves in 1992 passed Rollie Fingers on the all-time saves list (he was later passed by Lee Smith and Dennis Eckersley) as well as becoming the first closer to record 350 saves. Traded to Atlanta at the end of the ’92 season Reardon spent the ’93 season with Cincinnati, where he began to lose his old form and for only the third time in his career recorded an earned run average above four. Reardon would finish his magnificent career playing 11 games with the New York Yankees in ’94 with a sorrowful earned run average of 8.38.