Command and Control

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Lew Burdette

It’s natural to remember Lew Burdette as primarily a 1950s pitcher. That was his dominant decade. Teaming with Warren Spahn and Bob Buhl to fashion one of the most formidable starting rotations in the National League, Burdette was a commanding right-handed starter, using his power and control to win 120 games for the Milwaukee Braves between 1953 and 1959. Continue reading

Too Much, Too Soon?

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Glen Hobbie

Before the New York Mets established a new standard for futility with their arrival in 1962, the poster children for disastrous baseball in the National League was an ongoing contest between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs.

Pitching for either team in the early 1960s was hardly a treat. An ERA under 4.00 could still earn you 20 losses in a season.

Glen Hobbie was a back-to-back 16-game winner for the Chicago Cubs in 1959-1960.

Glen Hobbie was a back-to-back 16-game winner for the Chicago Cubs in 1959-1960.

Just ask Glen Hobbie, a right-hander for the Cubs who deserved more victories than he got.

Hobbie was signed by the Cubs in 1955. His rookie season of 1958 produced a 10-6 record with a 3.74 ERA as a starter and reliever, making him the Cubs’ leader in wins. He followed up in 1959 with a 16-13 campaign and a 3.69 ERA. He led the Cubs’ staff in complete games (10), shutouts (3), and strikeouts (138).

For the most part, Hobbie’s best season was 1960, when he repeated his 16-win performance … but also led the National League with 20 losses. He set career highs in starts (36), complete games (16), shutouts (four), and innings pitched (258.2). He led Cubs’ starters in each of those categories except ERA (Dick Ellsworth turned in a 3.72 earned run average). He was also used 10 times in relief, finishing five games and saving one.

He was used every way a pitcher could be used. And he was never the same again.

Hobbie’s won-loss record slipped dramatically over the next three years: to 7-13 in 1961, 5-14 in 1962, and 7-10 in 1963. His earned run average over those three seasons was 4.45.

In 1964, the Cubs traded Hobbie to the St. Louis Cardinals for Lew Burdette. He appeared in 13 games for the Cardinals, going 1-2 with a 4.26 ERA, and then was assigned to the minors. He never pitched again at the major league level, even after he was acquired by the Detroit Tigers in 1965.

Hobbie finished his eight-year major league career with a record of 62-81 and a 4.20 earned run average.

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One Pitch Shy of Perfection

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(August 18, 1960) Milwaukee Braves right-hander Lew Burdette today pitched a no-hitter, beating Gene Conley and the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0.

Lew Burdette's 1960 no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies was nearly a perfect game.

Lew Burdette’s 1960 no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies was nearly a perfect game.

The Braves right-hander faced the minimum 27 batters in raising his season record to 14-7. The Phillies’ lone base runner was outfielder Tony Gonzalez, who was hit by a Burdette pitch in the fifth inning. The Phillies’ next batter, Lee Walls, grounded into a 4-3-6 double play to wipe out Gonzalez and end the inning. Burdette retired the Phillies in order over the last four innings.

Burdette not only pitched a near-perfect game, but also scored the game’s only run. Burdette led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a double, and scored as the Braves’ next batter, center fielder Billy Bruton, also doubled.

Conley, the Phillies starter (7-10), deserved better. He scattered 10 hits over eight innings, striking out six and walking none.

Burdette would finish the 1960 season at 19-13 with a 3.36 earned run average. He would also lead the National League with 18 complete games … and allow a league-high 277 hits.

Burdette would finish the 1960 season at 19-13 with a 3.36 earned run average. He would also lead the National League with 18 complete games … and allow a league-high 277 hits.