This Week in 1960s Baseball
Glancing Back, and Remembering Mike McCormick
As outstanding as he could be, Mike McCormick never quite lived up to the promise of his youth, when he was signed by the New York Giants as a “bonus baby” in 1956 and led the National League in ERA by age 21. But when it seemed that his career was ready to fade into the sunset, he made a remarkable comeback during his second tour with the Giants … a comeback that made him the first National League Cy Young Award winner. Continue reading
Glancing Back, and Remembering Jack Fisher
Right-hander Jack Fisher was 86-139 during an 11-year major league career. He played for five different teams, and pitched his best for baseball’s worst team ever, the New York Mets of the early 1960s.
Nicknamed “Fat Jack” by Hall of Fame pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm, Fisher was a large man who could throw hard and could pile up quality innings, a strength that made him more valuable than his won-lost record alone. Fisher was a good enough pitcher to be in the position to lose a lot of games. The teams he pitched for were bad enough to hang losses on him despite his talent and competitive grit.
Fisher signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 1957 and made his major league debut at age 20 in 1959, going 1-6 for the Orioles. Fisher won 12 games for the Orioles in 1960 and 10 in 1961. Because he threw hard, Fisher was susceptible to giving up home runs, and he gave up two of the most famous home runs of the early 1960s. He was on the mound in Boston for Ted Williams’ last at-bat in 1960, serving up the home run pitch that launched the Splendid Splinter into retirement. A year later, it was a Fisher pitch that Roger Maris sent into the seats for home run number 60, tying Babe Ruth’s single-season record.
Following a 7-9 1962 season, Fisher was traded to the San Francisco Giants in the deal that brought Mike McCormick and Stu Miller to Baltimore. After going 6-10 for the Giants in 1963, he was drafted by the New York Mets and was a starter for those woeful Mets teams over the next four seasons, going a combined 38-73. He led all National League pitchers in losses in 1965 (8-24) and 1967 (9-18).
The Mets dealt Fisher to the Chicago White Sox in December of 1967 in a six-player deal that brought Tommie Agee and Al Weis to New York. Fisher spent one season each with the White Sox (8-13 with a 2.99 ERA in 1968) and with the Cincinnati Reds (4-4 in 1969) before retiring. His career earned run average of 4.06 would have made him a winner with a lot of teams, but not with the Mets and White Sox of the 1960s.
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.
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.
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.
Swap Shop: The Giants Re-acquire Mike McCormick.
Left-hander Mike McCormick had two separate careers with the San Francisco Giants. In his first career, at the beginning of the 1960s, he was the promising young southpaw who posted the lowest ERA in the National League – 2.70 in 1960 – while winning 15 games and pitching in his first All-Star game, all by the age of 21. At age 22, he was 13-16 with a 3.20 ERA for the Giants, and a sore shoulder in 1962 produced only a 5-5 season with a 5.38 ERA.
By age 24, McCormick had already pitched over 1,000 major league innings, and had a soreness with every throw that x-rays could not diagnose. So in December of 1962, the Giants sent McCormick and his mysterious sore arm with Stu Miller and John Orsino to the Baltimore Orioles for Jimmie Coker, Jack Fisher and Billy Hoeft. Still pitching through the pain, McCormick was 6-8 as an occasional starter for the Orioles in 1963, and then appeared in only four games before being assigned to AAA Rochester in 1964. He was traded to the Washington Senators in 1965 and was 19-22 over two seasons in Washington.
Following the 1966 seasons, the Giants were looking for a fourth starter to complement Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Ray Sadecki. The Giants parted with an outfielder (Cap Peterson) and a pitcher (Bob Priddy) to get McCormick back, but they got a different McCormick than the one they had surrendered four years earlier. He could pitch without pain, and this latest version of Mike McCormick had less of a fastball but more pitches and more control. He was still only 28, and about to embark on the best season of his career (make that, careers) as a Giant.
By the 1967 season’s end, McCormick was 22-10, leading all major league pitchers in victories. His 2.85 earned run average was the second-lowest of his career, and he pitched more innings than in any other season of his career. His five shutouts that seasons also represented a career high. He was named National League Cy Young award winner.
McCormick’s second tour in San Francisco would last three-plus seasons and produce 48 victories. He finished his 16-year major league career in 1971 with a record of 134-128 and a 3.72 ERA.
This Week in 1960s Baseball …
(June 5, 1961) After opening the 1961 season with seven consecutive losses, Robin Roberts today notched his first victory of the season as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the San Francisco Giants 3-2 at Candlestick Park.
It would be Roberts’ last victory in a Phillies uniform.
Roberts (1-7) pitched a six-hit complete game. He walked two and struck out two batters.
The Giants took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Harvey Kuenn singled and Chuck Hiller homered. Roberts blanked San Francisco on four hits over the last seven innings.
The Phillies took the lead in the third inning on Pancho Herrera’s 3-run homer off Giants starter Mike McCormick (5-5)
Roberts would finish the 1961 season with a 1-10 record and a career-worst 5.85 ERA. This was his 234th win for Philadelphia, the most by a right-hander in franchise history.
Over the winter, he would be purchased by the New York Yankees, released without appearing for the Yankees, and then signed by the Baltimore Orioles. Roberts would win 42 games in four seasons with the Orioles, and finish his 19-year major league career with 286 victories. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.