Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Drysdale
The fact that there was no designated hitter in the 1960s was a break for Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale. Taking the bat out of his hands probably would have cost him more than a few of his 209 career victories. Drysdale was one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball history, as well as the Dodgers’ best right-handed hurler throughout the 1960s.
A Dodger for his entire career, Drysdale blasted 29 home runs during his 14-season career, sixth on the all-time list among major league pitchers. Among pitchers, he ranked second among the all-time leaders in most home runs in a season (with 7 – which Drysdale did twice). He was also one of the few pitchers in major league history to win 20 games and bat .300 in the same season. In 1965, Drysdale hit .300 (with a career-high 19 RBIs) while going 23-12 on the mound, with 210 strikeouts, seven shutouts and a 2.77 ERA.
Drysdale’s first full season was 1957, the last season for the Dodgers in Brooklyn. He went 17-9 with a 2.69 ERA. Over the next four seasons, Drysdale was only 57-50 with a 3.50 ERA. But his best was yet to come.
Drysdale’s best season pitching was 1962, when he won the Cy Young award with a 25-9 record, the most victories among major league pitchers that season. Drysdale was dominating that year, leading the majors in games started (41), innings pitched (314) and strikeouts (232). In a four-year span from 1962 to 1965, Drysdale won 85 games. With Sandy Koufax, he formed the most devastating pitching duo in baseball. Arm problems forced his retirement in 1969, with a career record of 209-166 with a 2.95 career ERA.
During his last full season in 1968, Drysdale broke Walter Johnson’s major league record for consecutive scoreless innings with 56.2, amassed over a streak of six consecutive shutouts. Drysdale’s record stood for 20 years until it was eclipsed by another Dodger, Orel Hershiser, who pitched 59 consecutive scoreless innings in 1988.
Never afraid to back hitters off the plate, Drysdale finished his career with a total of 154 hit batsmen, the highest in National League history. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.