Aug 12, 2015

Early Sixties Mets Pitcher Turned Politician: Vinegar Bend Mizell (1962)

Wilmer David Mizell was born on August 13, 1930 in Vinegar Bend, Alabama. He was a hard throwing right handed strikeout pitcher, getting signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1949.

Mizell spent two seasons in the minor leagues going 45-24, making the jump to the big leagues in 1952. The press gave him the name Vinegar Bend, after the hometown where he came from & it stuck.

He went 10-8 in his rookie season, with a 3.65 ERA, with 146 strikeouts & also leading the league in walks with 103. He would walk 100 plus batters in his first two seasons, while putting up double figures in victories, including 13 in 1953.

In 1954 Mizell went off to the military for two years. He returned to get the 1956 Opening Day assignment beating the Cincinnati Reds 4-2, although he did allowed 12 hits. He went on to win 14 games that season (14-14) striking out 153 batters in 208 innings pitched. He would pitch for the Cardinals until 1960 winning 13 or more games three times. At the end of May in 1960 he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Julian Javier & future Met Ed Bauta.

He arrived in Pittsburgh and went 13-5 the rest of the way, as the Pirates went on to win the pennant. On the year he was 14-8 with a 3.50 ERA.

Post season: In the 1960 World Series he was tagged for six runs in the first inning of Game #3 and took the loss.

He made a relief appearance in Game #6, with his team down 6-0 earning no decision. His Series ERA was a dreadful 15.43 in 2.1 innings pitched.

In 1961 he went 7-10 posting a 5.04 ERA, becoming less effective. After four games going 1-1 in 1962, he was traded to the New York Mets for Jim Marshall that May.

He made his first Mets appearance pitching to one batter in the 9th inning of the second game of a classic double header at the Polo Grounds. He was relieved by Craig Anderson in a game where Gil Hodges hit a walk off HR. In his next game he made his first start allowing four runs over six innings getting no decision against the Chicago Cubs. Two weeks later in another start, the Giants knocked him out in the third inning after allowing four runs on six hits, as he took the loss.

Mizell would pitch in 17 games for the ’62 Mets making just those two starts. He would finish the year 0-2 with a 7.34 ERA, allowing 10 HRs 25 walks, & 48 hits in just 38 innings. Vinegar Bend ended his baseball career after the season. In a nine-season career, Mizell was 90-88 with a 3.85 ERA in 268 games, He pitched 61 complete games, 15 shutouts, and struck out 918 in 1528 innings pitched.

Retirement: After baseball he worked in public relations for Pepsi Cola & then went into politics. He was elected commissioner of Davidson County, North Carolina, then to Congress in 1968 serving as a Republican Rep. from North Carolina from 1969 to 1975.

In 1975 his former colleague President Gerald R. Ford, appointed him as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, (1975 -May 1976). In 1981, Mizell was named Assistant Secretary of Agriculture in the Reagan administration.

Later under George Bush the first, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs & Department of Veterans Affairs. Mizell also worked as executive director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Passing: In 1998 he suffered a heart attack while attending a football game his son was coaching in High Point, North Carolina. A few months later he suffered a fatal heart attack while visiting his wifes family, he was 68 years old.

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