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. Continue reading

Tiger Tough

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Earl Wilson

Earl Wilson was a solid starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers during the 1960s. He also played a prominent role in baseball’s transition to full integration during the 1950s.

With his major league debut in 1959, Earl Wilson became the first African-American pitcher to play for the Boston Red Sox … and in 1962 became the first black pitcher in the American League to pitch a no-hitter.

With his major league debut in 1959, Earl Wilson became the first African-American pitcher to play for the Boston Red Sox … and in 1962 became the first black pitcher in the American League to pitch a no-hitter.

A 6-foot-3, 215-pound pitcher who relied on sliders and fastballs, Wilson was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1953. The Red Sox were the last American League team to break the color barrier when infielder Pumpsie Green made the club in 1959. Wilson made his major league debut with the Red Sox on July 31, 1959, as their first black pitcher. Wilson joined the team’s starting rotation in 1962 and averaged 11 victories per season from 1962 through 1965. Wilson threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels in 1962, the first black American League pitcher to do so.

Midway through the 1966 season, Wilson was traded (with outfielder Joe Christopher) to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Don Demeter and pitcher Julio Navarro. Wilson enjoyed his best seasons with the Tigers, winning 13 games over the rest of the 1966 season to finish 18-11 with a 3.07 ERA (2.59 with Detroit). He followed in 1967 with a 22-11 campaign, tying him for the league lead in victories with Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg.

Earl Wilson won 22 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1967, tying him with Boston’s Jim Lonborg for the American League lead in victories.

Earl Wilson won 22 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1967, tying him with Boston’s Jim Lonborg for the American League lead in victories.

Wilson won 25 games for the Tigers over the next two seasons, and closed out his career after splitting the 1970 season with Detroit and the San Diego Padres. He finished his career at 121-109 with a 3.69 ERA.

Wilson started his baseball career as a catcher before switching to the pitching mound. He was one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball, swatting 35 career home runs (33 as a pitcher, fifth all time among major league pitchers). He hit more home runs during the 1960s than any other pitcher in baseball.

 

Top_10_Tigers_Cover

 

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A League of Cy Young’s Own

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(March 1, 1967) Today Baseball Commissioner William Eckert approved the BBWAA’s plan to select a Cy Young Award recipient from both the National League and the American League.

Mike McCormick was the first National League Cy Young winner in 1967. That season, he went 22-10 with a 2.85 ERA.

Mike McCormick was the first National League Cy Young winner in 1967. That season, he went 22-10 with a 2.85 ERA.

The award was established in 1956 by then-Commissioner Ford Frick. It was named in honor of Cy Young, the pitcher whose 511 victories are still the most in major league history. Young passed away in 1955.

For its first 12 years, the award was made to the “best pitcher in major league baseball.” The first winner was Don Newcombe in 1956. In the 12 years that only one award was made, National League pitchers won eight times, and American League pitchers four times. During this period, Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the only multiple winner, in 1963, 1965 and 1966.

Jim Lonborg’s 22-9 record in 1967 earned him the first American League Cy Young award. Lonborg also led the league with 246 strikeouts and 39 starts.

Jim Lonborg’s 22-9 record in 1967 earned him the first American League Cy Young award. Lonborg also led the league with 246 strikeouts and 39 starts.

The 1967 season was the first with winners from each major league. Mike McCormick of the San Francisco Giants was the National League winner in 1967. The American League winner that season was Jim Lonborg of the Boston Red Sox.