Career Year: Art Mahaffey – 1962
Art Mahaffey was a good starting pitcher who, in 1962, was mostly dominant for the Philadelphia Phillies. In that one season, he looked to be the pitching ace who would lead the Phillies into becoming legitimate contenders.
Mahaffey was signed by the Phillies in 1956 and spent five seasons moving steadily through the Phillies’ minor league system. He won 16 games in both Double-A and Triple-A in 1959, and won 11 games in 1960 before being called up to Philadelphia.
The Phillies of 1960 were the National League’s worst team. They would finish that season with a 59-95 record, with Mahaffey in only 14 appearances, finishing third on the team in victories with a 7-3 record and a team-best 2.31 ERA. (Robin Roberts, at 12-16, was the Phillies’ best pitcher in 1960.)
The Phillies of 1961 were even worse, finishing the season at 47-107 including a league-record 23-game losing streak. Mahaffey struggled to an 11-19 season with a 4.10 ERA.
The 1962 season saw a dramatic turn-around for the Phillies, as the team improved its record by 34 victories to 81-80. That turn-around was spearheaded by the hitting of Don Demeter, Tony Gonzalez and Johnny Callison, and by the pitching of Mahaffey. He went from 19-game loser to 19-14 in 1962 with a 3.94 ERA. He had career-best totals in starts (39), complete games (20) and innings pitched (274). He finished fifth in the National League in wins, fourth in innings pitched, and eighth with 177 strikeouts.
During an 11-start streak starting in mid-June, Mahaffey was 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA. He was named to the 1962 National League All-Star team.
Mahaffey was known for having one of the best pick-off moves to first base of any right-handed pitcher of his era. In his major league debut in 1960, Mahaffey allowed eighth-inning singles to both Bill White and Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals, but pitched a scoreless inning where he faced only three batters. He picked off both White and Flood in the same inning.
Mahaffey’s 19 victories in 1962 would match his total over the next two seasons. In fact, he would win only 22 games over the next four seasons, the rest of his major league career. Mahaffey was traded to the Cardinals after the 1965 season, and was 2-5 for St. Louis in 1966, his final season in the majors. Mahaffey closed his seven-year major league career at 59-64 with a 4.17 earned run average.