Oh, What a Relief: Phil Regan
Right-handed pitcher Phil Regan (aka, the “Vulture”) began his 13-year major league career as a starter with the Detroit Tigers. But his greatest success on the mound came after he converted to a relief specialist, where he dominated National League batters from 1966-1969.
After struggling as a starting pitcher for six seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Phil Regan was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and established himself as one of the best relievers in the National League. In 1966, he was 14-1 with a 1.62 ERA and a league-leading total of 21 saves.
Regan was signed by the Tigers in 1956 and made his major league debut in Detroit in 1960. In six seasons with the Tigers, Regan was 42-44 with a 4.50 ERA. His best season in Detroit came in 1963, when he was 15-9 with a 3.86 earned run average, his only season with the Tigers when he registered an ERA under 4.00.
Following a 1-5 season in 1965, the Tigers traded Regan to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Dick Tracewski. The Dodgers converted him to a reliever and the impact on his career – and on the Dodgers’ pennant-winning 1966 season – was immediate, and immense. Regan appeared in 65 games, all in relief, finishing 48 and saving 21, leading the National League in both of those pitching categories. His earned run average dropped to 1.62 and he posted a 14-1 record.
As the Dodgers’ fortunes dipped in 1967, so did Regan’s record. He finished that season at 6-9 with six saves and a 2.99 ERA. He appeared in five games for the Dodgers in 1968, winning two, before being traded with outfielder Jim Hickman to the Chicago Cubs for Jim Ellis and Ted Savage. The magic returned with his change of teams. Over the rest of the 1968 season, Regan was 10-5 with a 2.20 ERA. He appeared in 68 games for the Cubs, finishing 60 and saving 25, again leading the league in saves.
Regan remained the Cubs’ bullpen ace in 1969, appearing in 71 games and saving 17. He finished the 1969 season at 12-6 with a 3.70 ERA. From 1966-1969, he posted a combined record of 44-21 with 69 saves and a 2.60 ERA.
His numbers declined gradually in 1970 and 1971, going 10-14 with a 4.35 ERA and 18 saves over those two seasons. He was purchased by the Chicago White Sox in June of 1972 and was released later that season. He spent the next 30 years as a pitching coach and manager.
In 13 major league seasons, Regan compiled a record of 96-81 with a 3.84 ERA and 92 saves. He was named to the National League All-Star team in 1966.
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