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Arlin was a collegiate star with the Ohio State Buckeyes. In a 1965 College World Series game against Washington State, he struck out 20 batters in 15 innings, both CWS records, in a 1-0 Buckeye victory. Ohio State, however, lost to Arizona State in the final game. The following year, he led Ohio State to the National Championship and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
In his two years with the Buckeyes, Arlin posted a 24-3 record with 294 strikeouts. His 165 strikeouts in 1965 remains an Ohio State single-season record. His number 22 was the first to be retired by the Ohio State baseball team.
In 1966 the Philadelphia Phillies drafted Arlin in the first round (13th overall) in the secondary phase of the amateur draft. On July 25, 1967 he pitched a no-hitter in the Eastern League. Arlin also pitched in the Phillies’ farm system in 1968 before being selected by the San Diego Padres in the expansion draft.
Pitching for a struggling young team, Arlin led the National League in losses in both 1971 and 1972 (19 and 21 respectively). In both seasons, however, he did post a respectable earned run average: 3.48 in 1971 and 3.60 in 1972. Arlin had an especially curious 1972 season: he pitched a one-hitter, three two-hitters (in one, on July 18 against the Phillies, he had a no-hitter broken up by Denny Doyle with two out in the ninth—to date, the closest the Padres have come to pitching a no-hitter), and a 10-inning stint in which he allowed only one hit. Yet he finished 10-21. In 1973 Arlin did record a personal best 11 victories against 14 losses, yet his earned run average skyrocketed to 5.10. Midway into the 1974 season the Padres traded Arlin to the Cleveland Indians.
During his playing career, Arlin began practicing dentistry, and became a dentist after his playing career, in which he won 34 games (11 of which were shutouts) while losing 67, with 463 strikeouts and a 4.33 earned run average in 788 2/3 innings pitched.
Arlin's grandfather, Harold Arlin, was the first broadcaster ever to call a game on radio, an August 5, 1921 game between the Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field. Harold Arlin also broadcast the first-ever football game to be called over the radio months later, a college football game between Pitt and West Virginia.