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Peter Dennis Vuckovich (vooch-koh-vich) (born October 27, 1952 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania) is a retired American starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who came across as an intimidating presence on the mound with his 6'4" (1.93 m) 220 lb (100 kg) frame and Fu Manchu moustache. Vuckovich was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1974. He batted and threw right-handed.
Vuckovich developed a reputation for bizarre, hyper-competitive behavior during his twelve season career. He would fidget, twitch, pace, and convulse while on the mound. He was known to cross his eyes and stick his tongue out at batters. He would spit in his glove, scream at umpires while in the stretch, and sometimes step to the back of the mound and dry heave. His colorful personality made him a fan favorite.
After minimal duty with Chicago from 1975–76, Vuckovich was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1976 MLB expansion draft. Even though the young Blue Jays lost 107 games in 1977, and although mostly used in relief, Vuckovich managed a 7-7 record with eight saves. He recorded the first shutout in Toronto franchise history, a 2-0 victory over Jim Palmer and the Orioles. He also recorded the first save in Toronto franchise history on April 7, 1977 versus the Chicago White Sox.
Involved in a multi-player trade to the St. Louis Cardinals, Vuckovich's career went to the next level. From 1978 he started more often, winning 39 games for the Cardinals during three years. He finished third in the National League in ERA with a 2.55 mark in 1978, and ranked fourth in shutouts (3) in 1980. A part of a seven-player trade in December 1980, Vuckovich went to the Milwaukee Brewers along with Rollie Fingers and Ted Simmons.
With the Brewers, Vuckovich continued his stellar pitching. He led the American League in wins (14) during the strike-shortened 1981 season. When Milwaukee won the AL pennant in 1982, Vuckovich won the Cy Young Award with an 18-6 record and a 3.34 ERA.
He lost Game Two of the ALCS to the Angels 4-2, and started the decisive fifth game, though not figuring in the decision. In the 1982 World Series, the Cardinals beat him 6-2 in Game Three, and he got a no-decision in the final loss.
This was, however, to prove the zenith of his career, as Vuckovich had been battling shoulder pain for two seasons, and in spring training of 1983, it was discovered that he'd torn his rotator cuff. Vuckovich skipped surgery in favor of an exercise rehabilitation. He attempted an unsuccessful comeback for three games and went 0-2 in 14 innings, then missed all of 1984. Subsequent and prolonged comeback attempts all failed, and by the end of the 1986 season, Milwaukee released Vuckovich.
Following his retirement, Vuckovich worked for three years as a sportscaster for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1992, he was hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a pitching instructor. Vuckovich served as the pitching coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1997 - 2000 seasons. Since then, he has worked his way through the Pirates organization to the position of Assistant General Manager. As of the 2009 season, Vuckovich was serving as a Special Assistant to the General Manager of the Pirates.
- Vuckovich is a member of the Clarion University Sports Hall of Fame. Vuckovich is also a member of both the Western PA Sports Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
- Vuckovich graduated from Conemaugh Valley High School and went on to Clarion University to play baseball. Nearly thirty years, to the day, after the White Sox drafted Vuckovich they drafted his son, Peter Vuckovich, Jr., who also attended both Conemaugh Valley High School and Clarion University, in the 48th round of the 2004 amateur draft.
- Vuckovich is of Serbian background.
- Retrosheet.org boxscore of Toronto Blue Jays' first shutout
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
|American League Wins Champion|
(with Dennis Martinez, Steve McCatty & Jack Morris)
|American League Cy Young Award|