Trust the Law

 

Career Year: Vern Law – 1960

Vern Law was a lanky right-hander whose fortunes as a pitcher improved steadily throughout the 1950s … just as his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates (his only major league team over a 16-year career), clawed its way out of the bottom of the National League standings by the close of the 1950s.

Pitching for weak Pirate teams in the early 1950s, Vern Law struggled to a 40-57 record in his first five seasons.

By 1960, the Pirates had improved all the way to World Series champions. And in 1960, the best season in Law’s distinguished career, he was acknowledged as baseball’s best pitcher.

After two seasons in the minors, Law joined the Pirates in 1950. In his first five seasons, he was 40-57 with a 4.56 ERA. He registered his first winning season at 10-8 in 1957, with a seventh-place team. When the Pirates finished second in 1958, Law was 14-12 with a 3.96 ERA. When the Pirates finished fourth in 1959, Law emerged as the team’s ace at 18-9 with a 2.98 ERA. It was the best season of his career, so far …

Law’s first start of the 1960 season came in the season’s second game. At Cincinnati, he shut out the Reds on seven hits, backed by five RBIs from Roberto Clemente and four RBIs from Bill Mazeroski, for a 13-0 waltz. He made only two more starts in June, winning both with complete games.

Vern Law’s 1960 season was the best of his career: 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA. He also won two World Series games and was the winning pitcher in the second All-Star game.

Law made seven starts in May, winning four and losing one with three more complete games. He was 4-2 in June with another three complete games. At the All-Star break, Law was 11-4 with a 2.52 ERA. He retired Brooks Robinson and Harvey Kuenn in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve a 5-3 win for the National League and teammate Bob Friend. In the second All-Star game four days later, Law was the starter (and winner), allowing no runs and one hit in two innings as the National League won 6-0.

Law won his last two starts in July, and then won six straight decisions in August. He finished August at 19-5 with a 2.84 ERA. The Pirates led the rest of the National League by 5.5 games.

After being so strong, so consistent, Law faltered in September. In six starts, he was 1-4 with a 4.43 ERA. The Pirates finished five games ahead of the second-place Milwaukee Braves. And Law had a new best season: 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA. Law led the National League with 18 complete games. His 271.2 innings pitched were fourth most in the league.

Law capped off a fine 1960 season by winning a pair of World Series games with a 3.44 ERA. And though he finished third in the league in victories (Warren Spahn and Ernie Broglio each won 21 games.), Law won the Cy Young voting handily over Spahn, Broglio and Lindy McDaniel.

Despite leading the National League in only one pitching category – with 18 complete games – Vern Law won the Cy Young Award as baseball’s best pitcher in 1960.

Law wouldn’t have another season like that in the seven seasons he had remaining. He would win 17 games in 1965, and finish with a career record of 162-147 with a 3.77 ERA.

 

 

 

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Mets Open Shea Stadium with … a Loss

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 17, 1964) In their first game at Shea Stadium, the New York Mets did what they did most … lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3.

Baseball’s most prolific losing team in the early 1960s, the New York Mets surprised no one when they opened Shea Stadium in 1964 with another loss.

Baseball’s most prolific losing team in the early 1960s, the New York Mets surprised no one when they opened Shea Stadium in 1964 with another loss.

Three Pirate hitters – Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Donn Clendenon – accounted for 10 of the team’s 16 hits. Stargell went four for five including a home run and a double, scoring two runs and driving in two runs. Stargell’s home run, off Mets starter Jack Fisher, was his third of the season and the first ever in Shea Stadium.

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Willie  Stargell hit the first home run in Shea Stadium. The New York Mets wouldn’t hit a home run in their new ballpark until <a rel=

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Willie Stargell hit the first home run in Shea Stadium. The New York Mets wouldn’t hit a home run in their new ballpark until Ron Hunt did it six days later.

The winning pitcher for Pittsburgh was Bob Friend (1-0) who gave up seven hits in going the distance for his first victory of the season. Friend struck out five Mets and walked one.

The losing pitcher was Mets reliever Ed Bauta (0-1).

 

 

 

 

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12/13 Perfect, and Pretty Solid Otherwise

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Harvey Haddix

Left-hander Harvey Haddix will always be remembered best as the pitcher who carried a perfect game into the thirteenth inning in a May 25, 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … a game Haddix eventually lost 1-0. Surrounding that game was a solid 14-year career as a starter and reliever for five different teams.

As a rookie for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, Harvey Haddix was 20-9 and led the National League with six shutouts.

As a rookie for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, Harvey Haddix was 20-9 and led the National League with six shutouts.

Haddix was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1947 and made seven appearances with the big league club in 1952. In 1953, the 27-year-old rookie went 20-9 for the Cardinals. His 3.06 ERA that season was fourth best in the National League, and his six shutouts led the league. He followed up in 1954 with an 18-13 record (3.57 ERA), and then slipped to 12-16 in 1955.

In May of 1956 the Cardinals sent Haddix to the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-player deal. He was 22-21 in two seasons with Philadelphia, and then was traded to the Cincinnati Reds (for outfielder Wally Post) where he posted an 8-7 record in 1958.

Prior to the 1959 season, Haddix was traded with Smoky Burgess and Don Hoak to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton, John Powers and Frank Thomas. All three players going to Pittsburgh would play major roles in the Pirates’ pennant-winning season of 1960.

Haddix went 12-12 for the Pirates in 1959, including his near-perfect game, which was one of the losses. In 1960, Haddix was 11-10 with a 3.97 ERA. He was the winning pitcher in two games of the 1960 World Series, including the epic seventh game won by the Pirates over the New York Yankees 10-9 on Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings in a 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … only to lose 1-0 in the thirteenth inning.

Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings in a 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … only to lose 1-0 in the thirteenth inning.

Haddix pitched three more seasons for the Pirates, going 22-16 with a 3.99 ERA. During that period, he made the transition from starting pitcher to reliever. He was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles following the 1963 season, and in the next two seasons made 73 appearances for the Orioles, all in relief, going 8-7 with 11 saves and a combined ERA of 2.63. He retired after the 1965 season with a career record of 136-113 and a lifetime ERA of 3.63.

A three-time All-Star, Haddix was one of the best defensive pitchers of his era. He won three consecutive Gold Gloves, from 1958 to 1960.

 

 

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Saving Face

 

Oh, What a Relief: Roy Face

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ march to the National League pennant in 1960 was driven by solid pitching throughout the season. The team featured four dependable starters in Vern Law (the Cy Young winner at 20-9), Bob Friend (18-12), Vinegar Bend Mizell (13-5) and Harvey Haddix (11-10), a rotation that completed its starts in nearly half of the team’s victories (47 complete games in 95 wins).

Roy Face was Pittsburgh’s bullpen ace when the Pirates won the National League pennant in 1960. That season, he was 10-8 with 24 saves and a 2.90 ERA.

Roy Face was Pittsburgh’s bullpen ace when the Pirates won the National League pennant in 1960. That season, he was 10-8 with 24 saves and a 2.90 ERA.

The bullpen for the 1960 Pirates was equally effective, registering 33 saves, second-highest in the league to Cincinnati’s 35. (These save totals may seem modest compared to the save totals today, but when was the last time a major league team finished with 47 complete games in a season – and that wasn’t even best in the National League?)

The leader of that bullpen was Roy Face, a diminutive pitcher with a wicked split-fingered fastball (known then as a forkball). Face was a spot starter and reliever when he joined the Pirates to stay in 1955. He led the league in appearances (68) in 1956 and in saves (20) in 1958. His career season came in 1959, when Face set the major league record for winning percentage (.947) on an 18-1 record.

The year the Pirates won the pennant, Face went 10-8 with 24 saves and a 2.90 ERA on a league-leading 68 appearances. He led the league again in saves in both 1961 (17) and 1962 (28). In 1962, he also had the lowest ERA of his career (1.88). Face continued pitching for Pittsburgh through the 1967 season, and pitched for Detroit and Montreal before retiring toward the end of the 1969 season.

Roy Face holds the major league record for relief wins in a season, going 18-1 in 1959.

Roy Face holds the major league record for relief wins in a season, going 18-1 in 1959.

In his 16-year career, Face posted a respectable 3.48 ERA while accumulating 193 saves pitching in 848 games.

 

 

 

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A Pirate’s Best Friend

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Friend

For 15 seasons, Bob Friend was a solid starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning 191 games and losing more than he generally deserved.

Bob Friend won 18 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 and in 1962.

Bob Friend won 18 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 and in 1962.

Friend was signed by the Pirates in 1949 and joined the big league team two seasons later. In his first four years with the Pirates, Friend compiled a 28-50 record as a starter and reliever for Pirate teams that finished seventh once and last three times. In 1955, Friend posted a 14-9 record while leading the National League with a 2.83 ERA. In 1956 and 1957, he led the major leagues in starts and innings pitched.  In 1958 he had the most wins in the majors, going 22-14.

Friend went 18-12 in 1960, second on the team in wins (to Vern Law’s 20-9) and playing a key role in the Pirates’ world championship that year. He slipped to 14-19 in 1961, but rebounded in 1962 with an 18-14 record and won 17 games in 1963.

From 1952 through 1965, Friend pitched an average of 238 innings per season for the Pirates. His last season was 1966, which he split between the New York Mets and the New York Yankees. A three-time All-Star, Friend finished his career with 197 victories. He remains the Pirates’ all-time leader in innings pitched (3,480.1), games started (477) and strikeouts (1,682).

 

 

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Loaded with Special K

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Veale

Bob Veale stood tall and especially intimidating on the higher pitching mound that prevailed for most of the 1960s. And much like left-hander Randy Johnson three decades later, Veale’s fastball was as intimidating as his stature. He threw very hard, and was just wild enough (with such overpowering stuff) that he kept batters thinking as much about their heads as they were about pitch location.

Bob Veale led the National League with 250 strikeouts in 1964.

Bob Veale led the National League with 250 strikeouts in 1964.

Veale was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates off the campus of Benedictine College in 1958. After four seasons in the Pirates’ minor league system, Veale made his debut in Pittsburgh in 1962 at age 26. He went 2-2 with one save in 11 appearances, including two complete games. He also struck out 42 batters in 45.2 innings.

He started the 1963 season in the Pirates’ bullpen, appearing 27 times in relief. He closed out 10 games, saving three of them with an 0.70 ERA. Veale was given his chance to start at the end of the year and went 4-2 as a starter with two shutouts. He finished the 1963 season with a 1.04 ERA.

Veale picked up in 1964 where he left off at the end of 1963. He went 18-12 with a 2.74 ERA. He led the National League both in strikeouts with 250 (something he would do only once in his career) and in walks with 124 (something he would do four times during his career). He followed in 1965 with a 17-12 season. He had seven shutouts and 14 complete games with a 2.84 ERA. He also recorded a career-best 276 strikeouts, still the highest total for any Pirate pitcher in the Twentieth Century.

Veale won 16 games in both 1966 and 1967, and then had back-to-back 13-14 seasons in 1968 and 1969. He was 10-15 for the Pirates in 1970, his last season as a starter. Now 35, Veale and his fading but still K-potent fastball were limited to spot relief situations, and he posted a 6-0 record with a pair of saves in that role in 1971, his last full season with the Pirates. He was sold to the Boston Red Sox in 1972. In 2+ seasons with Boston, Veale went 4-4 with a 3.45 ERA and 15 saves.

In a 13-season career, Veale posted a 120-95 record with a combined ERA of 3.07. He struck out 1,703 batters and pitched 20 shutouts. A two-time All-Star, he is second to Bob Friend among all Pirate pitchers in career walks and strikeouts.

 

 

 

 

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Giants’ Formula for Victory: Alou X2 = GW HR

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(August 12, 1965) The San Francisco Giants today edged the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 on the home run bats of center fielder Willie Mays and the brothers Alou.

Matty Alou Hit the game-winning home run following homers by Willie Mays and brother Jesus.

Matty Alou
Hit the game-winning home run following homers by Willie Mays and brother Jesus.

It was the eighth straight victory for the Giants, who closed within 1.5 games of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

For the first three innings, the game was a scoreless pitching duel between Bob Shaw of the Giants and Pirates starter Bob Friend. The Pirates took the first lead in the fourth inning on an RBI double by catcher Jim Pagliaroni.

That lead lasted until the sixth inning. With one out and shortstop Dick Schofield at first base, Jesus Alou launched the go-ahead home run off Friend. Mays, the next batter, increased the Giants’ lead to 3-1 with a solo home run, his thirty-first of the season. The Pirates tied the game in the seventh inning on Manny Mota’s 2-run triple.

But the Giants – and the Alous – weren’t done. Matty Alou, who had come into the game in top of the eighth inning as a defensive replacement in right field, came to bat with ont out in the bottom of the eighth and promptly lined a home run off Pirates pitcher Don Schwall (6-5). Giants reliever Frank Linzy made that 4-3 lead stand up to raise his record to 4-2.

Matty Alou’s solo home run raised his season batting average to .249. He would finish the year batting .231. Over the winter, he would be traded to these same Pirates (for pitcher Joe Gibbon and infielder Ozzie Virgil), and would promptly win the National League batting title in 1966 with a .342 average.

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