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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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.

But Burdette also pitched for eight seasons into the 1960s, winning 77 games as a starter and reliever for four different teams.

Lew Burdette spent 13 of his 18 major league seasons with the Braves. His finest moment in a Braves uniform came in the 1957 World Series, when he won three complete game victories over the New York Yankees, including two shutouts.

Burdette was signed by the New York Yankees in 1947. He made his only two appearance in Yankee pinstripes at the end of the 1950 season.

In 1951, he was traded by the Yankees with $50,000 to the Boston Braves for Johnny Sain. He pitched in 45 games for the Braves in 1952, all but nine in relief, and compiled a 6-11 rookie season record with a 3.61 ERA. He became the Braves’ closer in 1953, finishing 24 of his 46 appearances. He posted a 15-5 record with a 3.24 ERA and eight saves.

By 1954, Burdette had moved into the Braves’ starting rotation, winning 28 games over the next two seasons. In 1956, he went 19-10 and led the National League with six shutouts and a 2.70 ERA. He won 17 games during the 1957 season, and was the Most Valuable Player in the 1957 World Series, beating the Yankees three times with a pair of shutouts. He closed out the 1950s with back-to-back 20-victory seasons: 20-10 in 1958 and 21-15 in 1959, while leading the league that season in starts (39) and shutouts (four).

In 1960, Burdette led the league in complete games (with 18, tied with Spahn and Vern Law) while going 19-13 with a 3.36 ERA. He also pitched a 1-0 no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies that season. He allowed only one base runner (hitting Tony Gonzalez with a pitch) and faced only 27 batters – while driving in the winning run. He won 18 games in 1961, and then slipped to 10-9 in 1962.

Lew Burdette was never afraid of piling up innings. For eight consecutive seasons (1954-1961), Burdette pitched 200 or more innings. From 1958 to 1961, he averaged 278 innings pitched per season.

In 1963, after more than 13 years with the Braves, Burdette was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for catcher Gene Oliver and pitcher Bob Sadowski. He had a combined record of 9-13 for the Braves and Cardinals, and the next season was a combined 10-9 for the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, after being traded in June for pitcher Glen Hobbie.

He split a 3-5 1965 season with the Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies. He closed out his career as a reliever for the California Angels, going a combined 8-2 with a 3.67 ERA in 73 appearances over two seasons.

Burdette retired after the 1967 season with a career record of 203-144 and a 3.66 ERA. He completed 158 games (out of 373 starts) with 33 shutouts over a career that amassed 3,067 innings. He was an All-Star twice.

 

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12/13 Perfect, and Pretty Solid Otherwise

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Harvey Haddix

Left-hander Harvey Haddix will always be remembered best as the pitcher who carried a perfect game into the thirteenth inning in a May 25, 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … a game Haddix eventually lost 1-0. Surrounding that game was a solid 14-year career as a starter and reliever for five different teams.

As a rookie for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, Harvey Haddix was 20-9 and led the National League with six shutouts.

As a rookie for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, Harvey Haddix was 20-9 and led the National League with six shutouts.

Haddix was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1947 and made seven appearances with the big league club in 1952. In 1953, the 27-year-old rookie went 20-9 for the Cardinals. His 3.06 ERA that season was fourth best in the National League, and his six shutouts led the league. He followed up in 1954 with an 18-13 record (3.57 ERA), and then slipped to 12-16 in 1955.

In May of 1956 the Cardinals sent Haddix to the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-player deal. He was 22-21 in two seasons with Philadelphia, and then was traded to the Cincinnati Reds (for outfielder Wally Post) where he posted an 8-7 record in 1958.

Prior to the 1959 season, Haddix was traded with Smoky Burgess and Don Hoak to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton, John Powers and Frank Thomas. All three players going to Pittsburgh would play major roles in the Pirates’ pennant-winning season of 1960.

Haddix went 12-12 for the Pirates in 1959, including his near-perfect game, which was one of the losses. In 1960, Haddix was 11-10 with a 3.97 ERA. He was the winning pitcher in two games of the 1960 World Series, including the epic seventh game won by the Pirates over the New York Yankees 10-9 on Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings in a 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … only to lose 1-0 in the thirteenth inning.

Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings in a 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … only to lose 1-0 in the thirteenth inning.

Haddix pitched three more seasons for the Pirates, going 22-16 with a 3.99 ERA. During that period, he made the transition from starting pitcher to reliever. He was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles following the 1963 season, and in the next two seasons made 73 appearances for the Orioles, all in relief, going 8-7 with 11 saves and a combined ERA of 2.63. He retired after the 1965 season with a career record of 136-113 and a lifetime ERA of 3.63.

A three-time All-Star, Haddix was one of the best defensive pitchers of his era. He won three consecutive Gold Gloves, from 1958 to 1960.

 

 

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Saving Face

 

Oh, What a Relief: Roy Face

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ march to the National League pennant in 1960 was driven by solid pitching throughout the season. The team featured four dependable starters in Vern Law (the Cy Young winner at 20-9), Bob Friend (18-12), Vinegar Bend Mizell (13-5) and Harvey Haddix (11-10), a rotation that completed its starts in nearly half of the team’s victories (47 complete games in 95 wins).

Roy Face was Pittsburgh’s bullpen ace when the Pirates won the National League pennant in 1960. That season, he was 10-8 with 24 saves and a 2.90 ERA.

Roy Face was Pittsburgh’s bullpen ace when the Pirates won the National League pennant in 1960. That season, he was 10-8 with 24 saves and a 2.90 ERA.

The bullpen for the 1960 Pirates was equally effective, registering 33 saves, second-highest in the league to Cincinnati’s 35. (These save totals may seem modest compared to the save totals today, but when was the last time a major league team finished with 47 complete games in a season – and that wasn’t even best in the National League?)

The leader of that bullpen was Roy Face, a diminutive pitcher with a wicked split-fingered fastball (known then as a forkball). Face was a spot starter and reliever when he joined the Pirates to stay in 1955. He led the league in appearances (68) in 1956 and in saves (20) in 1958. His career season came in 1959, when Face set the major league record for winning percentage (.947) on an 18-1 record.

The year the Pirates won the pennant, Face went 10-8 with 24 saves and a 2.90 ERA on a league-leading 68 appearances. He led the league again in saves in both 1961 (17) and 1962 (28). In 1962, he also had the lowest ERA of his career (1.88). Face continued pitching for Pittsburgh through the 1967 season, and pitched for Detroit and Montreal before retiring toward the end of the 1969 season.

Roy Face holds the major league record for relief wins in a season, going 18-1 in 1959.

Roy Face holds the major league record for relief wins in a season, going 18-1 in 1959.

In his 16-year career, Face posted a respectable 3.48 ERA while accumulating 193 saves pitching in 848 games.

 

 

 

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Law and Order

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Vern Law

A member of the Pittsburgh Pirates for his entire 16-year major league career, Vern Law was a fixture in the Bucs’ starting rotation from the late 1950s through the mid-1960s. He was signed by the Pirates in 1948 and made the big league club in 1950, pitching for two seasons before entering the military.

Vern Law won the Cy Young award in 1960, going 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA. He also won two games against the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series.

Vern Law won the Cy Young award in 1960, going 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA. He also won two games against the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series.

Law rejoined the Pirates for the 1954 season and was a consistent, “innings-eating” starter. From 1954 through 1960, he averaged nearly 30 starts per season with over 200 innings pitched per year. He posted a combined 3.69 ERA during that period. Law blossomed in 1959, winning 18 games while completing 20 with a 2.98 ERA.

In 1960, Law was baseball’s best pitcher, winning the Cy Young award with a 20-9 record and a 3.08 ERA. He led the majors with 18 complete games that season, and won two games in the 1960 World Series. Injuries slowed him over the next three seasons, when he posted a combined 17-16 record and averaged only 92 innings per season. But he came back to win 12 games in 1964 and 17 games in 1965. His 2.15 ERA in 1965 was the best of his career and third best in the National League behind Sandy Koufax (2.04) and Juan Marichal (2.13).

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From 1955-1960, Vern Law was a workhorse for the Pittsburgh Pirates, averaging 218 innings per season.

In 1966, at age 36, Law was 12-8 and pitched 177.2 innings. But his 4.05 ERA was the highest of any full season in his career. He retired after the 1967 season with a career record of 162-147 and a career ERA of 3.77. For the Pirate franchise, Law ranks seventh all-time in victories and shutouts (28).

 

 

 

 

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A Pirate’s Best Friend

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Friend

For 15 seasons, Bob Friend was a solid starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning 191 games and losing more than he generally deserved.

Bob Friend won 18 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 and in 1962.

Bob Friend won 18 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 and in 1962.

Friend was signed by the Pirates in 1949 and joined the big league team two seasons later. In his first four years with the Pirates, Friend compiled a 28-50 record as a starter and reliever for Pirate teams that finished seventh once and last three times. In 1955, Friend posted a 14-9 record while leading the National League with a 2.83 ERA. In 1956 and 1957, he led the major leagues in starts and innings pitched.  In 1958 he had the most wins in the majors, going 22-14.

Friend went 18-12 in 1960, second on the team in wins (to Vern Law’s 20-9) and playing a key role in the Pirates’ world championship that year. He slipped to 14-19 in 1961, but rebounded in 1962 with an 18-14 record and won 17 games in 1963.

From 1952 through 1965, Friend pitched an average of 238 innings per season for the Pirates. His last season was 1966, which he split between the New York Mets and the New York Yankees. A three-time All-Star, Friend finished his career with 197 victories. He remains the Pirates’ all-time leader in innings pitched (3,480.1), games started (477) and strikeouts (1,682).

 

 

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Baseball’s Best .500 Pitcher?

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Joe Horlen

Every era of major league baseball seems to include a pitcher whose numbers are outstanding except where it matters most to pennant races: in the won-lost column. Whether it’s a Bert Blyleven (287-250) in the 1970s and 1980s or a Tim Belcher (146-140) in the 1990s, these are pitchers with great stuff who, on their best days, are absolutely unhittable – but in the end, they’re basically .500 pitchers, a fact that, more often than not, is more of an indication of the caliber of teams they played for rather than their pitching prowess.

No pitcher in the 1960s understood frustration as well as Joe Horlen. From 1964-1966, pitching for the Chicago White Sox, Horlen had a combined ERA of 2.40, yet a won-loss record of only 36-35.

No pitcher in the 1960s understood frustration as well as Joe Horlen. From 1964-1966, pitching for the Chicago White Sox, Horlen had a combined ERA of 2.40, yet a won-loss record of only 36-35.

In the pitching-rich 1960s, no one had a more impressive yet frustrating career than Joe Horlen. Signed by the Chicago White Sox off the campus of Oklahoma State University in 1959, the right-hander made his debut with the big league club at the end of 1961, going 1-3 in four starts. By 1963, Horlen was a regular in the starting rotation, posting a record of 11-7 with a 3.27 ERA.

Over the next five seasons, Horlen didn’t post an ERA above 2.88, yet during that period his won-lost record was only 67-56, with a combined ERA of 2.34. He had a winning record in only one of those seasons: 1967, when Horlen went 19-7 with a league-leading 2.06 ERA. He was tops in the major leagues with six shutouts. He pitched a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers on September 10, 1967, and averaged less than seven hits per nine innings pitched for that season. That same year, he finished second in the Cy Young voting to Boston’s Jim Lonborg. It was Horlen’s last winning season.

Horlen pitched for the White Sox through 1971, and was released following an 8-9 campaign. He signed with the Oakland A’s and pitched mostly in relief in 1972, going 3-4 with a respectable ERA of 3.00. But Oakland released him at the end of the season, and no other team signed him. Horlen was out of baseball at age 34.

Horlen’s best season came in 1967. He was 19-7 and led the American League with a 2.06 ERA and six shutouts. It was his only All-Star season.

Horlen’s best season came in 1967. He was 19-7 and led the American League with a 2.06 ERA and six shutouts. It was his only All-Star season.

For the nine years he played during the 1960s (1961-1969), Horlen’s 2.83 ERA was better than the earned run averages of Cy Young award winners Vern Law and Denny McLain and Hall of Famers such as Jim Bunning and Gaylord Perry. But his efforts returned only a 99-88 record, with a single All-Star appearance (1967).

 

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Pirate’s Blast Scuttles Yankees

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(October 13, 1960) – Today at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski‘s dramatic bottom of the ninth inning home run off Yankee hurler Ralph Terry broke up a 9-9 tie and ended one of the most exciting seven-game World Series ever played.

The National League’s best second baseman, Bill Mazeroski, traded his magical glove for a home run bat in hitting the long ball that beat the Yankees 10-9.

The National League’s best second baseman, Bill Mazeroski, traded his magical glove for a home run bat in hitting the long ball that beat the Yankees 10-9.

It had been a World Series of improbabilities, played out as no one could have expected or predicted.

On the one hand you had the New York Yankees, the perennial October players, back in the World Series (their tenth appearance in the last 12 years) after a one-year absence. The Yankees earned their World Series berth by sprinting ahead of the rest of the American League in September, winning their last 15 games.

For the Pirates, it was their first World Series appearance since 1927.

In the first six games of the 1960 World Series, the Yankees were clearly the dominant team (outscoring the Pirates 46-17), but had only three victories to show for it. Whitey Ford pitched shutouts for the Yankees in Game Three and Game Six. Vern Law, the Pirates’ 20-game winner and the eventual Cy Young Award recipient that year, claimed two of the Pirates’ wins, while veteran left-hander Harvey Haddix posted one victory and a save.

Game Seven turned out to be one of the most exciting in World Series history.

Mazeroski’s dramatic home run off Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry (left) sent the Yankees home and sent Casey Stengel to the National League … as the New York Mets’ first field manager.

Mazeroski’s dramatic home run off Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry (left) sent the Yankees home and sent Casey Stengel to the National League … as the New York Mets’ first field manager.

Law retired the Yankees in order in the first two innings, while the Pirates scored 2 runs in each of the first two frames. The Yankees finally scored off Law in the fifth inning as Bill Skowron led off the inning with a solo home run to the right field seats. The Yankees scored four more runs in the sixth inning, off the Pirates’ ace reliever Roy Face, who gave up an RBI single to Mickey Mantle and then surrendered Yogi Berra’s three-run homer.

The game stayed 5-4 in favor of the Yankees until the top of the eighth inning, when back-to-back RBI hits by John Blanchard and Clete Boyer raised the Yankees’ lead to 7-4. But in the bottom of the eighth, the Pirates rallied for five runs – on singles by Dick Groat and Roberto Clemente and a three-run homer by Hal Smith – to take a 9-7 lead into the ninth inning.

Bob Friend, an 18-game winner during the regular season, came in to close out the ninth. But he gave up back-to-back singles to Bobby Richardson and Dale Long. So Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh brought in Haddix to pitch to Roger Maris, the American League MVP of 1960. Haddix got Maris to foul out, and then gave up an RBI single to Mantle. Berra grounded out to Rocky Nelson at first, scoring Gil McDougald (pinch running for Long). Skowron grounded out to end the inning with the score tied at nine.

In the bottom of the ninth, Mazeroski led off for the Pirates. On deck was Dick Stuart, the team’s leading home run hitter.

Harvey Haddix got the last out in the top of the ninth inning, and was the pitcher of record when Mazeroski homered ... his second victory of the 1960 World Series.

Harvey Haddix got the last out in the top of the ninth inning, and was the pitcher of record when Mazeroski homered … his second victory of the 1960 World Series.

The Yankees’ pitcher was right-hander Terry, a 10-game winner for New York during the regular season. Terry had recorded the last out of the eighth inning, inducing third baseman Don Hoak to fly out. Hoak would be the last Pirate to make an out in the Series. Mazeroski took a strike on Terry’s first pitch, and sent the second one over the left field wall at Forbes Field for a 10-9 Pirate victory.

Mazeroski scores, Pittsburgh erupts.

It ended the 1960 World Series, and Casey Stengel’s career as New York Yankees manager.

It was the first walk-off home run in World Series history.

 

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Travelin’ Man

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Cardwell

In 14 major league seasons – all in the National League – Don Cardwell pitched for five different teams. He was frequently a key player in the trades that involved him every three years or so, and his lifetime won-loss record reflected not so much his pitching ability as it did the quality of the teams supporting –or, more often, not supporting – him.

Don Cardwell began his 14-year major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Don Cardwell began his 14-year major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The right-handed Cardwell signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1954. He found a place on the big league club by 1957, but struggled with the then-struggling Phillies, as he posted a combined record of 17-26 over three-plus seasons in Philadelphia. In May of 1960, the Chicago Cubs acquired Cardwell in a trade for Cal Neeman and Tony Taylor. (Ed Bouchee went to Chicago with Cardwell.) His first start as a Cub was particularly memorable, as Cardwell pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 13, 1960—the first (and still only) major league pitcher to toss a no-hitter in his first appearance after a trade. He went 8-14 that season with the woeful Cubs.

His best season came in 1961. Pitching for a Cubs team that would finish in seventh place, 26 games under .500, Cardwell’s record was 15-14 with a 3.82 ERA. He pitched three shutouts and led the National League in games started with 38. He was one of only two Cubs’ pitchers with winning records that season. (Reliever Barney Schultz was 7-6).

The following year, Cardwell was 7-16 for the Cubs, who traded him with George Altman and Moe Thacker to the St. Louis Cardinals for Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer. Cardwell never had the opportunity to pitch in a Cardinals uniform. The Cards in turn packaged Cardwell in a deal with Julio Gotay to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Dick Groat and Diomedes Olivo.

With injuries making Vern Law’s contributions unpredictable for the 1963 season, the Pirates needed an innings-eater like Cardwell. His record was 13-13, with a 3.02 ERA in 213.2 innings. Injuries limited his 1964 season to only four appearances, but he rebounded in 1965 to 13-10 with an ERA of 3.18 in 240.1 innings. In 1966, he was 6-6 as a starter and reliever for the Pirates.

Cardwell was 5-1 down the September stretch for the New York Mets in 1969.

Cardwell was 5-1 down the September stretch for the New York Mets in 1969.

In December of 1966, Cardwell was traded by the Pirates with Don Bosch to the New York Mets for Gary Kolb and Dennis Ribant. As a starter-reliever for the Mets in 1967, he was 5-9 with a respectable 3.57 ERA. Of his five victories, three were shutouts. In 1968, as a member of the Mets’ starting rotation, Cardwell was 7-13 with a 2.95 ERA. Then in 1969, Cardwell played a major role in the Mets’ “miracle” season. He finished the year 8-10 with a 3.01 ERA, but was 5-1 down the pennant stretch.

In 1970, Cardwell was traded to the Atlanta Braves, where he saw spot duty, almost entirely in relief, and retired after that season with a career record of 102-138 and an ERA of 3.92.

 

 

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