Apr 22, 2016

The Winningest Left Handed Pitcher of All Time- One Time New York Met: Warren Spahn (1965)

Warren Edward Spahn was born on April 23, 1921 in Buffalo New York, being named after President Warren Harden. The tall six foot lefty, was known as "the Invincible one" and became the winningest left handed pitcher of all time.

He came up with Boston Braves in 1942 briefly before serving military time in the Military during World War II. In the war his heroic efforts won him a Purple Heart & a Bronze Star. He returned back to pitching by 1946 at the age of 26 going 8-5 with a 2.94 ERA.

Quotes: "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."

In Boston he along with the number two man on the staff Johnny Sain, were so much better than the rest of the staff they inspired a famous poem. The saying from the Braves fans in no legebdary: “Spahn & Sain & then pray for rain”.

In 1948 during the heat of the pennant race, Spahn & Sain had gone 8-0 over an incredible twelve day span. The lefty had an unusual high leg kick which helped him check runners on first base & also deceive them in whether he was throwing over or delivering the pitch. The delivery also confused hitters making it even more difficult to hit Spahn.

In 1948 he was 15-12 following his first twenty win seaon where he also won his first ERA title in 1947. In 1948 the Braves got to the World Series, losing to the mighty Cleveland Indians in six games. Spahn took a Game #2 loss to Bob Lemon 4-1 at Milwaukee County Stadium. Then in Game #5 in front of 86,000 fans at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Spahn got the win pitching 5.2 innings of relief sending the Series back to Boston. In Game #6 he came back in relief but took no decision as Bob Lemon beat Boston's Bill Voiselle.

Spahn went on to play in 14 All Star games, the most of any pitcher in the entire 20th century. He would win one Cy Young Award & be runner up two other times. He won the Cy Young Award in the Braves 1957 Championship season, going 21-11 with a 2.69 ERA. He struck out 111 batters in 271 innings pitched, throwing four shut outs & a league leading 18 complete games.

Post Season: In Game #1 of the 1957 World Series, Spahn pitched a complete games but lost to New York’s Whitey Ford 3-1. He came back to throw another complete game in Game #4, this time at home earning the win although he allowed five runs on 11 hits. The Braves would go on to win the Series in seven games.

In 1958 he won a league leading 22 games going an identical 22-11 with the league's best winning % (.667%). Spahn also led the NL in complete games (23) & innings (290) & struck out 150 batters as the Braves won their second straight pennant. Spahn was named the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year for the second straight year & the third time overall.

Post Season: In the World Series he beat Whitey Ford twice with complete game victories in Games one & four. He made his third start & took a 4-3 lead into the 10th inning of Game #6, but gave up a HR to Gil McDougald as well as another run.

Hank Aaron brought the Braves to within one run in the bottom of the inning but they fell short losing 3-2 in what was Spahn's last World Series appearance. Overall he was 4-3 with a 3.05 ERA in eight World Series games, posting 32 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched & 47 hits allowed.

Spahn would win twenty or more games thirteen times including a stretch of six straight seasons (1956-1961). He led the league in wins eight times, including five straight years (1957-1961). He led the league in strikeouts four straight years (1949-1952) & ERA three times. He won one ERA Title once in each decade of the forties, fifties, & sixties.

He led the league in innings pitched four times as well , pitching over 250 innings sixteen times in his incredible career. He led the league in complete games nine times, including seven straight years from (1957-1963). He also went on to lead the league in shutouts four times, starts twice, & winning percentage once.

Spahn’s longevity was incredible as well, he threw his first no hitter at age 39 in 1960 & then another the next year. After age 40 he would win another 80 career games, winning twenty or more twice in a season.

After age 40 he won another ERA title & led the league in complete games three times while pitching over 250 innings three times. In a classic 1963 pitchers duel with San Francisco’s Juan Marichal, Spahn pitched 16 innings before Willie Mays hit a walk off HR off him. During the game 25 year old Marichal told his manager “see that man over there he is 42 years old, there is no way anyone is taking me out of this game”. Way back in 1951 it was Spahn who allowed Willie Mays first career hit also a HR.

At the plate he was one of baseballs best hitting pitchers, hitting at least one HR in 17 straight seasons, finishing with an NL leading 35 career HRs. He finished his career with just as many hits as wins, 363 and a .194 batting average, with 57 doubles & six triples.

In 1965 Spahn's final season, his contract was sold to the New York Mets after 24 years with the Braves. New York Mets coach Yogi Berra came out of retirement briefly to catch four games with the Mets, although none of them was with Spahn pitching. Yogi told reporters "I don't think we're the oldest battery, but we're certainly the ugliest." Spahn had a dual role as both pitcher & Mets pitching coach that season.

He debuted as a Met pitching the second game of the 1965 season, against the Houston Colt 45's. Spahn went eight strong innings, allowing three runs on seven hits but getting no decision. His next start was in Los Angeles and he got his first Mets win beating Claude Osteen & the Dodgers, allowing one earned run & one walk in a complete game win. Next it was off to San Francisco to throw a another complete game victory over the other former New York team. In that game he allowed three runs on seven hits & walked no one.

Spahn would lose his next three decisions going into mid May. Then he won two more games over the month including another complete game, this time a win at Philadelphia. But by June the old man, now 44 years of age, was out of gas. He went to lose eight straight games as a Met seeing his record fall to 4-12 with a 4.36 ERA.

The Mets put him on waivers by mid July & he was picked by the San Francisco Giants finishing his career there at the end of the season.

In his 21 year career he is 363-245 (sixth all time in wins/ 12th all time in losses) with a 3.09 ERA (193rd all time), a .597 winning % (127th all time). He has 665 starts (14th all time) with 382 complete games (21st all time), 63 shut outs (6th all time), 2583 strike outs (25th all time) 1434 walks (15th all time) 29 saves & 434 HRs allowed (7th most all time) in 5243 innings (8th all time) pitched over 750 games (61st all time).

Retirement: After his playing days he coached with the Cleveland Indians & in the minors for the California Angels.

He was a successful manger with AAA Tulsa winning the 1968 Pacific Coast League championship. He also coached briefly in Mexico & Japan baseball.

He was at Turner Field in Atlanta, the newest home of his old Braves club, for the unveiling of his statue with the high leg kick in the 1990's. Spahn passed away in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in 2003 at the age 82.

Honors: He was elected to Baseballs Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1973. He is also a member of the Braves Hall of Fame & the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He has a street named after him in Buffalo, New York near his old high school.

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