Before Pitch Counts

In 2018, if a pitcher nears 100 pitches in a game, it’s almost certain he’s near the end of his workday. There were  some exceptions in 2017.  Corey Kluber and Ervin Santana had 5 complete games each.  (And 3 shutouts, as well.)  Chris Sale  had the most innings pitched (214.1).

But it wasn’t always this way.  When professional baseball began, if you were scheduled to pitch, it was assumed you would pitch the whole game.  It was a gradual evolution to a 5 man rotation with 7+ relievers available.

Take Will White as an example.  In 1879, pitching for the Cincinnati Reds, he started and completed 75 games.  He “completed” another game.  (Who didn’t do their job that day?)  Will pitched 680 innings, gave up 676 hits, threw 49 wild pitches, allowed 10 home runs (times have changed), and posted a 1.99 ERA.  (The next season Will’s ERA “ballooned” to 2.14 and his W-L record showed it: 18 – 42.  He pitched a mere 517.1 innings.)

 

2Spahn 

 In between then and now, a game was played on July 2, 1963 that fans remember as one of the last great pitching duels.  Braves versus Giants.  Warren Spahn versus Juan Marichal.  Age versus Youth.  Spahn  (see above)was 42, a veteran of WWII’s Battle of the Bulge and the Bridge at Remagen. (He may have walked beside my Father on both occasions.)  Now, he was on the way to pitching his 13th20 win season.  Soon he would complete his 21stand final year, and win more games (363) than any lefty ever.  Marichal, (see below)at 25, was having his first 20 win season.  He pitched 18 complete games , while Spahn had a league-leadng 22.  Both men are in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

2Marichal

 

On this day, they both pitched a complete game.  And after 9 innings, the score was  0 – 0. Neither blinked.  Five other Hall of Famers battled: Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey for the Giants; Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews for the Braves.

 

3Mays

As the game wore on, Willie Mays (see above)told Marichal: “Just keep pitching;  I’ll win it with a home run.”  The Giants’ manager, Alvin Dark, asked Marichal  if he wanted to stop. His pitcher’s response: “He’s 42and I’m 25, and you can’t take me out until that man is not pitching.”

At games end, Spahn had thrown 201 pitches, given up 9 hits, had one walk (intentional), and 2 strikeouts. Marichal threw 227 pitches, allowed 8 hits, walked 4, and struck out 10.

With one out in the bottom of the 16thinning, Mays came to bat.  He was 0 for 5, with the intentional walk.  On Spahn’s 201thpitch, Mays hit his promised home run. Final score:  Giants 1, Braves 0.

After the game, a reporter said: “When Spahn arrived in the clubhouse, everyone stood, applauded, and lined up to shake his hand.”

Marichal, for the next 4 years, challenged Sandy Koufax as the NL’s finest pitcher.  Juan’s record: 93 – 35, with 23 Shutouts, and 916 strikeouts. Koufax’s record:  97 – 27, with 31 shutouts, and 1,228 strikeouts…and 3 Cy Young awards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures above...it's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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