Feb 11, 2016

Former New York Giants Pitcher: Al Worthington (1953-1957)

Allan Fulton Worthington was born February 5, 1929 in Birmingham, Alabama. The six foot two right hander also known as “Red”, attended the University of Alabama, getting signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1951.  Before the 1952 season he was sent to the New York Giants & made his MLB debut that July.

In his first outing on July 6th he threw a two hit complete game shutout, against the Philadelphia Phillies at the Polo Grounds. In his next start he pitched a four hit shutout at Ebbetts Field at the Polo Grounds. After that he allowed just two earned runs or less in two of three games but suffered three straight losses that month.

From there he suffered through five more straight losses in August & September making it eight straight losses. He closed out the year with two wins against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the final week. He went 4-8 with 52 strike outs in 102 innings posting a 3.44 ERA in 20 games.

Worthington began the Giants 1954 championship season in the minors, going 11-7 at AAA Minneapolis. He came up at the end of July and would be a reliever out of the bull pen. He went 0-2, pitching in ten games the rest of the way, seeing no World Series action. He spent 1955 in AAA Minneapolis leading the league in wins (19) with a 3.58 ERA while winning a championship with the Minneapolis Millers.

In 1956 he was back as a starter with the going 7-14 (6th most losses in the NL) with a 3.33 ERA. In 1957, the Giants last season in New York, Worthington eventually shifted back to the bullpen where he would find success for the rest of his career. He went 8-11 with four saves posting a 4.22 ERA.

That year he attended a Billy Graham religious event in New York & became one of baseball’s first born again Christians. He later said: "Being born again changed my life. It's still changing my life.

I wanted my teammates to be saved too. I think it scared them. In fact, they didn't want to be around me. My conversion definitely put a gap between me and my teammates."

On the West Coast in 1958, Al had his best season with the Giants. He posted a .611 winning %, going 11-7 with six saves, & a 3.53 ERA in 54 appearances. He finished the year strong going 3-2 with six saves in the final two months of the season. The next year Stu Miller became the Giants main closer & midway through the 1960 season, he was sent to the Boston Red Sox.


Al would move on to the Chicago White Sox where he had a problem when he was asked to steal the other team’s signs. Being a religious man, he refused to do so & was soon left unprotected, getting drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.

In 1964 his contract was purchased by the Minnesota Twins and it was there, where Al became one of the league’s top relief pitchers of the mid to late sixties.
His side arm sweeping curveball along with a knuckleball he began to throw late in his career, help put him among the league’s top ten save leaders for five straight seasons.

In 1965 the Twins went all the way to the World Series, falling one game short of a Championship, losing Game #7 to Sandy Koufax & the Los Angeles Dodgers. Worthington had 21 saves (6th in the A.L.) with a 10-7 record, while posting a fantastic 2.13 ERA on the season.

That July, the Twins staff was hurting with injuries; Worthington stepped in winning three games & saving another three in a seven day stretch. In the 1965 World Series he made two appearances allowing a run in four innings pitched.

In 1968 he was the league’s top Fireman, leading the A.L. in saves with 18, while posting a 2.71 ERA. Since 1963, Al had posted ERA’s under three while saving at least 14 games each season. His last season was 1969, & his last career appearance was in the 1969 ALCS against Baltimore allowing a run & three hits in one inning of work.

In his 14 year career Worthington went 75-82 with 110 saves (106 all time) and a 3.39 ERA in 602 appearances.


Retirement: After his playing days, Worthington sold insurance in Minneapolis then returned as the Twins pitching coach from 1972-1973 under former New York Giants team mate Bill Rigney.

He then coached baseball for Jerry Falwell's Liberty Baptist College into the 1980’s, having their baseball field named in his honor.

No comments: