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Warren Spahn

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This article is about the Hall of Fame pitcher. For the annual award given out for the top left-handed pitcher in the majors, see Warren Spahn Award.
Warren Spahn
Warren Spahn Portrait
Pitcher
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB Debut
April 19, 1942 for the Boston Braves
Final game
October 1, 1965 for the San Francisco Giants
Career Statistics
Win-Loss     363-245
E.R.A.     3.09
Strike Outs     2583
Teams

Boston Braves (1942-1964)
New York Mets (1965)
San Francisco Giants (1965)

Career Highlights and Awards


Warren Edward Spahn (April 23, 1921November 24, 2003) was an American left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for 21 seasons, all in the National League. Although never quite as dominating as some, he was both astonishingly consistent and durable. He won 20 games in 13 different seasons, and compiled a 23-7 record when he was aged 42. He won more games than any other left-handed pitcher, or any other pitcher who played his entire career in the post-1920 live-ball era, and is acknowledged as one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball history. Spahn was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the BBWAA in 1973 in his first year of eligibility (His eligibility had been delayed, under the rules of the day, by 2 seasons of brief minor league service.) He received a surprisingly low 83% of the Hall of Fame vote - in view of his achievements. Several other pitchers have receover 90%.

Spahn threw in the old windmill style, a big arm pump, swinging both hands behind his head, followed with an extremely high leg kick and a straight overhand delivery. He threw a variety of pitches but his fastball was his best pitch as he could throw it with varying velocities and great control.

His pickoff move was described as one of the best in the major leagues. “The toughest pitcher of all for me to run against was Warren Spahn, a left hander. But would have been just as tough going righthanded. Spahn’s moves were so deceptive that I often found myself guessing." -Maury Wills (How to Steal a Pennant, 1976).

Warren Spahn was also an excellent hitter for a pitcher. In 1958 he batted .333 with 2 HR and 15 RBI. Spahn holds the NL record for most homeruns by a pitcher with 35. He is second all time amongst pitchers in sacrifice flies with 14.


Baseball CareerEdit

Baseball Hof
Warren Spahn
is a member of
the Baseball
Hall of Fame
Spahn was born in Buffalo, New York. In 1940 he signed with the Braves organization. His major league career began in 1942. Spahn was one of the greatest lefthanded pitchers of all-time. He played the majority of his career with the Braves, moving with the team from Boston to Milwaukee. Spahn finished in the top five in Cy Young voting 5 times while winning it only once. He was selected for the All-Star in 14 seasons. He was not an overpowering pitcher for most of his career after knees problems took much of the velocity away from his fastball. However he was one of the smartest pitchers in the league. Whitlow Wyatt, the pitching coach for the Braves, said, "He makes my job easy. Every pitch he throws has an idea behind it." He easily holds the record for most 20 win seasons in the live-ball era with 13. Lefty Grove and Jim Palmer had 8, and Bob Lemon and Ferguson Jenkins had 7. Spahn is one of three pitchers to win 300 games without striking out more than 200 in any one season. The others are Tom Glavine and Early Wynn.

Spahn also threw two no-hitters, won 3 ERA titles, appeared in 14 All-Star games, and holds the National League record for career home runs by a pitcher with 35. Spahn led the National League in wins eight times, including five seasons in a row (1949, 1950, 1953, 1957-1961) and complete games nine seasons, seven consecutively (1949, 1951, 1957-63); these numbers are major league records. He won the Major League Cy Young Award in 1957 and had the award been given would have likely won it in 1947 and 1951 as well.

Warren Spahn made his major league debut in 1942 at 21 years old. After being with the Braves a very short time, he clashed with manager Casey Stengel, who sent him to the minors after Spahn refused to throw at a batter in an exhibition game. Stengel later said that it was the worst managing mistake he had ever made. Spahn joined the military in 1943 and did not play baseball again until 1946. There are many who believe that Spahn would have retired as the second winningest pitcher of all-time had it not been for the war. Spahn himself was more skeptical stating:

"People say that my absence from the big leagues may have cost me a chance to win 400 games. But I don't know about that. I matured a lot in three years, and I think I was better equipped to handle major league hitters at 25 than I was at 22. Also, I pitched until I was 44. Maybe I wouldn't have been able to do that otherwise."

From 1947 to 1953 Spahn was one of the best pitchers in the League. He consistently was the league lead in Wins, ERA, Strikeouts and Complete Games. In 1947 he threw 7 shutouts, and repeated the feat in 1951. Spahn had established himself as the best lefthander pitcher in baseball. Spahn pitched in the World Series for the Braves in 1948, 1957, and 1958. During the 1948 season, he combined with teammate Johnny Sain to anchor a pitching rotation that was generally considered to be exceptionally weak otherwise, resulting in the saying, "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain."

In 1951 Spahn allowed the first career hit to Willie Mays (a home run). Mays would hit 17 more off Spahn over his career. Duke Snider hit 19 against Robin Roberts. “I blame myself for Willie. If I had struck him out in ’51, maybe we could have gotten rid of him years ago.” Spahn gave up the first career hit and homerun to Frank Ernaga (he would only have 11 more hits in his career). Spahn also gave up the first career homerun of Sandy Koufax in 1962.

Knee problems in 1953 and 1954 hurt Spahn’s fastball. But it did not change his effectiveness. Instead he added a “screwball”, as he called it, in 1955. But the grip he used for the pitch is the same as that used for the modern circle change. (Season Ticket (1988)). He also began throwing a slider in 1958, a palm ball and a knuckle ball in 1963.

“Spahn became great because of these things and because he’s one of the smartest men ever to play the game. He came up with a screwball to help when his fast ball began to fade and then he added the slider…” (Johnny Sain, Super Stars of Baseball, Bob Broeg 1971)

Warren Spahn won more games from 1950-1959 than any other pitcher in the major leagues. The Braves won the Pennant in 1957 and 1958, winning the World Series in 1957. It is very difficult to pick Spahn’s best season, he averaged 20 wins per season, was in the top 5 in the league in ERA for six of the ten seasons and led the league in wins five out of ten seasons.

On June 14, 1952 Spahn struck out 18 Cubs in a 3-1, 15 inning loss to Chicago.

On September 16, 1960, Spahn pitched the first no-hitter of his career against the Phillies, and the 4-0 win was his 20th of the season. He was 39 years old. The following year he threw another no-hitter, this time against the Giants on April 28, 1961 at 40 years old. Then, on August 11, he beat the Cubs in a packed Milwaukee County Stadium for his 300th career victory. Despite a poor won-loss record (for him) of 18-14 in 1962, Spahn still led the NL in complete games and had a 3.04 ERA, and in 1963, at the age of 42, he tied his career-best record with a 23-7 mark. It would prove to be his last great season.

Even at his age, Spahn continued to pitch very effetively. Stan Musial was quoted as saying, "I don't think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame, He'll never stop pitching."

On July 2, 1963. Facing the San Francisco Giants, the 42-year-old Spahn became locked into a pitchers' duel with 25-year-old Juan Marichal. The score was still 0-0 after more than four hours when Willie Mays hit a game-winning solo home run off Spahn with one out in the bottom of the 16th inning. Marichal's manager, Alvin Dark, visited the mound in the 9th, 10th, 11th, 13th, and 14th innings, and was talked out of removing Marichal each time. During the 14th-inning visit, Marichal told Dark, "Do you see that man pitching for the other side? Do you know that man is 42 years old? I'm only 25. If that man is on the mound, nobody is going to take me out of here." Marichal ended up throwing 227 pitches in the complete game 1-0 win, while Spahn threw 201 in the loss, allowing nine hits and one walk.

In 1964, as the league’s oldest player, Spahn’s age began to show. He won a career low 6 games with a career high 5.29 ERA in 1964 and was demoted to the bullpen. After the season he was sold to the Mets who would release him in July of 1965 after a 4-12 record. The Giants signed him and Spahn went to the west coast, pitching his final major league games in a Giants uniform. In his last major league game, he passed Bob Feller in career strikeouts. Spahn played for Casey Stengel in his rookie year with the Boston Braves (4 games) in 1942 and in his the first half of his final season in 1965. Spahn claimed that he played for Stengel "before and after Casey was a genius."

Spahn did not leave gracefully, grumbling, "I didn't quit; baseball retired me," and he pitched briefly in Mexico and in the minors until 1967 before finally retiring from the game.


World War IIEdit

Spahn served in the United States Army in World War II and was wounded in Europe. He was awarded a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for bravery. He saw action in the Battle of the Bulge and at the Ludendorff Bridge (the famous bridge at Remagen) as a combat engineer, and was the only one of major league baseball's military who earned a battlefield commission.

After BaseballEdit

Spahn briefly managed the Tulsa Oilers AAA franchise in the Pacific Coast League in the 1960's. He also coached for the Mexico City Tigers, and also pitched a handful of games there. He was a pitching coach with the Cleveland Indians, in the minor leagues for the California Angels, and for six years, with Japan's Hiroshima Toyo Carp.


DeathEdit

Spahn statue

Spahn Immortalizaed in Atlanta

Spahn died at age 82, apparently of natural causes, at his home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. He is interred in the Elmwood Cemetery in Hartshorne.

In 1999, he ranked Number 21 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Another honoree, Sandy Koufax, joked, "He should be on the All-Century Team, since he pitched most of the century." The fans missed him, but he was added by a special Committee to the all-century team.

Bill James ranked Spahn number 36 of the 100 greatest baseball players of all-times based on his Win-Shares method of valuing players and their accomplishments.

A statue of Warren Spahn resides in Atlanta, showing him in the midst of his memorable high leg kick.


QuotationsEdit

"Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing."

"I'm probably the only guy who worked for Stengel before and after he was a genius." (on having played for manager Casey Stengel with the Braves and Mets, but not when Stengel was winning multiple World Series with the New York Yankees)

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Notes Edit


Preceded by:
Don Newcombe
Cy Young Award
1957
Succeeded by:
Bob Turley
Preceded by:
Don Drysdale
Major League Player of the Month
August 1960
Succeeded by:
Ken Boyer
Preceded by:
Frank Robinson
Major League Player of the Month
August 1961
Succeeded by:
Jim O'Toole
Preceded by:
Dick Groat
Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
1961
Succeeded by:
Robin Roberts
Major League Baseball | MLB All-Century Team

Nolan Ryan | Sandy Koufax | Cy Young | Roger Clemens | Bob Gibson | Walter Johnson | Warren Spahn | Christy Mathewson | Lefty Grove
Johnny Bench | Yogi Berra | Lou Gehrig | Mark McGwire | Jackie Robinson | Rogers Hornsby | Mike Schmidt | Brooks Robinson | Cal Ripken, Jr. | Ernie Banks | Honus Wagner
Babe Ruth | Hank Aaron | Ted Williams | Willie Mays | Joe DiMaggio | Mickey Mantle | Ty Cobb | Ken Griffey, Jr. | Pete Rose | Stan Musial

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