Glancing Back, and Remembering Early Wynn
One of the most durable pitchers in baseball history, Early Wynn cultivated an image as a ruthless intimidator whose blazing fastball was available at any opportunity to drive a batter away from the plate … or make him pay for success in his previous at-bat. On the mound Wynn was relentless and talented, just the combination for producing a 300-win, Hall of Fame career.
Wynn signed with the Washington Senators in 1937 and made his debut as a 19-year-old at the end of the 1939 season. He moved into the Senators’ starting rotation in 1942, going 10-16, and became the team’s ace in 1943 with an 18-12 record and a 2.91 ERA. He also led the American League that season with 33 starts.
Wynn won 17 games for the Senators in 1947 and after an 8-19 season in 1948, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a deal that would turn his career around. After going 72-87 in eight seasons with the Senators, Wynn was 163-100 over the next nine years with the Indians. He had four 20-win seasons with the Tribe, pitching an average of 229 innings per season. He twice led the American League in starts and innings pitched, and posted the league’s lowest ERA (3.20) in 1950. For the 1950s, Wynn had more strikeouts (1,544) than any other major league pitcher during that decade.
In 1957, Wynn was traded with Al Smith to the Chicago White Sox for Fred Hatfield and Minnie Minoso. He won 14 games for Chicago in 1958, and in 1959 won the Cy Young award with a 22-10 record and a 3.17 ERA. He led the league again in starts (37) and innings pitched (255.2).
Wynn won 13 games for the White Sox in 1960 (and led the league with four shutouts), but he was now 40 and his fastball was losing its gas. He won a combined 15 games over the next two seasons, and was released by Chicago in 1962 with 299 career victories. He signed with Cleveland and finally notched victory 300 in 1963 before retiring.
Wynn was a good hitter, a switch-hitter with a career batting average of .214, 17 home runs and 173 RBIs. He is one of five major league pitchers to have hit a grand slam as a pinch hitter.
Wynn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.