Career Year: Larry Jackson (1964)
For the first and only time from 1962 to 1966, the winningest pitcher in baseball in 1964 was not a Dodger.
And for the only time from 1962-1966, the pitcher with the most victories in 1964 was not the Cy Young Award winner.
And yet, for Larry Jackson, the 1964 season proved to be the high point of a stellar pitching career for one of the game’s most durable starters.
Pitching for the eighth-place Chicago Cubs in 1964, Larry Jackson led the major leagues with 24 victories.
It was the season when Jackson won more games than any other pitcher in baseball, by doing what he had done best his entire career – piling up starts and innings and complete games – for a team that won only 52 games without him.
From 1957 through 1963, Jackson was the poster child for dependability in the starting rotation. In those seven seasons – the first six with the St. Louis Cardinals – he pitched an average of 241 innings per season, and slipped below 200 innings pitched only in 1958 (when he pitched 198 innings). Even a line drive that fractured Jackson’s jaw in spring training of 1961 shelved him for only a month. He still started 33 games after his return and pitched 211 innings – his lowest total during the 1960s.
Following a 16-11 campaign in 1962, the Cardinals traded Jackson (along with Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer) to the Chicago Cubs for George Altman, Don Cardwell and Moe Thacker. In his first season with the Cubs, Jackson managed only a 14-18 record despite a 2.55 ERA. In 16 of Jackson’ starts during the 1963 season, the Cubs scored two runs or less, and Jackson’s record in those starts was 2-13. In games when the Cubs scored at least three runs behind Jackson, his record was 12-5.
During his 24-11 season in 1964, Larry Jackson finished third in the National League in games started (38) and complete games (19). He was second in the league in innings pitched, and second in the Cy Young voting (to Dean Chance).
Things would change for the better in 1964, especially as the weather warmed up. Jackson was 2-1 in April and 6-4 at the end of May with a 3.58 ERA. He was 7-5 during the months of June and July, but he was 4-1 in August with a 2.70 ERA for the month. He was even better in September, going 7-1 with a 2.42 ERA in the season’s final month.
For the 1964 season, Jackson was 24-11 with a 3.14 earned run average. He led all major league pitchers in victories, and his 297.1 innings pitched was second only to Don Drysdale’s 321.1. Jackson was third in the National League in games started (38) and in complete games (19).
All of this was accomplished with a 1964 Cubs team that finished in eighth place with a 76-86 record. Yet the Cubs gave Jackson better run support than he had received in 1963. In 30 of his 38 starts, Jackson’s Cubs scored at least three runs, and his record in those games was 21-5.
Despite his career year, Jackson finished second in the balloting for the 1964 Cy Young Award to Dean Chance of the Los Angeles Angels.
The 1965 season would not be as kind to Jackson, as he would go from a 20-game winner to 20-game loser. He finished the 1965 season at 14-21 with a 3.85 ERA. In 18 of his 39 starts, the Cubs scored less than three runs, and Jackson’s record in those starts was 2-15. When the Cubs managed to get him three runs or more, Jackson was 12-6.
Frustration was a way of life for Chicago Cubs’ starting pitchers during the 1960s.
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