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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Commissioner Approves Double Cy Young Awards

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(March 1, 1967) Baseball Commissioner William D. Eckert today approved the plan to recognize a Cy Young Award winner for each major league, starting with the upcoming 1967 season.

Baseball Commissioner William D. Eckert approved adding a second Cy Young Award starting with the 1967 season. For the first time, there would be a Cy Young winner for each league.

First introduced in 1956 by Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick, the award recognizing baseball’s best pitcher in a season was named in honor of baseball’s winningest pitcher of all time, Cy Young, who had passed away the previous year.

The first recipient of the Cy Young Award was Brooklyn right-hander Don Newcombe, who was 27-7 for the Dodgers with a 3.06 ERA in 1956. From 1956 to 1966, there was only one Cy Young winner in major league baseball.

The last “major league” Cy Young winner was Sandy Koufax, the only pitcher to win more than one award during the single-winner era. (Koufax took the award in 1963, 1965 and 1966.) Koufax was also the first unanimous Cy Young Award recipient in 1963.

Pitching from 1890-1911, Cy Young won 511 major league games. He won 30 or more games in a season five times. He finished with a 2.63 career ERA.

Eckert attributed the “split” in the Cy Young Award to “fan request.” The first American League Cy Young winner was Boston’s Jim Lonborg, who went 22-7 in leading the Red Sox to the American League pennant in 1967. The National league winner that season was Mike McCormick, who was 22-10 for the San Francisco Giants.

 

 

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The Arm that Owned the Yankees

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Frank Lary

He “owned” the New York Yankees when that franchise was at the pinnacle of major league dominance. From 1955 to 1961, no other pitcher beat the Yankees as often or as consistently as Frank Lary.

Frank Lary was 23-9 with a 3.24 ERA for the Detroit Tigers in 1961. He led the American League with 22 complete games that season, the third time he led the league in that pitching category.

Frank Lary was 23-9 with a 3.24 ERA for the Detroit Tigers in 1961. He led the American League with 22 complete games that season, the third time he led the league in that pitching category.

And in between starts against the Yankees, Frank Lary was also a pretty good right-hander and the ace of the Detroit Tigers staff going into the 1960s.

Lary was signed by the Tigers off the University of Alabama campus in 1950. He made his debut at the end of the 1954 season, and in 1955 went 14-15 in his rookie campaign with a 3.10 ERA. In 1956, Lary went 21-13, leading the American League in wins, games started (38), and innings pitched (294).

That was the season when Lary’s reputation as a “Yankee Killer” began. In 1956, Lary went 5-1 in seven starts against the team that would end the season as World Series champs. In 1958, Lary won 16 games for the Tigers and led the league in complete games (19) and innings pitched (260.1). Against the Yankees, he was 7-1 in eight starts with a pair of shutouts and a 1.86 ERA.

Lary won five out of six decisions against the Yankees in 1959 when he went 17-10 for the Tigers. His best season came in 1961, when Lary went 23-9 and 4-2 against the Yankees. He finished third in the 1961 Cy Young balloting behind Warren Spahn and that season’s winner, Whitey Ford.

Frank Lary’s dominance over the New York Yankees lasted six seasons. From 1956-1961, Lary was 23-5 against the Yankees.

Frank Lary’s dominance over the New York Yankees lasted six seasons. From 1956-1961, Lary was 23-5 against the Yankees.

Lary was never the same pitcher after the 1961 season.  From 1955 through 1961, he averaged 17 victories and 257 innings per season. From 1962 through 1965, arm problems limited Lary to a combined record of 11-23 and an average of only 90 innings per season. He stayed with Detroit into the 1964 season, and then bounced between the New York Mets, Milwaukee Braves and Chicago White Sox before retiring after the 1965 season.

In a 12-season career, Lary won 128 games, 28 against the Yankees, and 100 against everyone else.

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Cy Young Settles for a Tie

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(October 4, 1969) – For the first time, the American League today announced not one but two winners of the Cy Young Award for the league’s best pitcher.

Mike Cuellar of the Baltimore Orioles and Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers finished in a tie in the voting.  Each pitcher received 10 of the 24 votes cast by baseball writers. The other four votes were split between Jim Perry of the Minnesota Twins and Baltimore’s Dave McNally.

Denny McLain

Denny McLain

It was the first-ever tie in the Cy Young voting. The award was instituted in 1956 to recognize the best pitcher in the major leagues. Until 1967, only one pitcher received the Cy Young award. Starting in 1967, the award was presented to the best pitcher in each league.

The National League Cy Young award for 1969 would go to Tom Seaver of the New York Mets.

Cuellar was the ace of the Orioles staff in 1969. He went 23-11 with a 2.38 ERA over 290.2 innings pitched. In 39 starts, Cuellar pitched 18 complete games with five shutouts. In the 1969 World Series against the Mets, Cuellar was 1-0 in two starts with a 1.13 earned run average.

Mike Cuellar

Mike Cuellar

McLain was the first repeat Cy Young winner since Sandy Koufax in 1966. Coming off his Cy Young season in 1968, McLain was nearly as brilliant for the Tigers in 1969, going 24-9 with a 2.80 ERA. His 24 victories were tops in the American League. He also led the league in games started (41), innings pitched (325) and shutouts (9).

 

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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.

 

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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.