Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Best Hitting Pitcher of the 1960's

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TRIVIA QUESTION: Who holds the record for most home runs hit by a pitcher in a major league career?  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Pete Cimino might be best known for scoring 114 points in a high school basketball game on January 22, 1960. The single-game shooting outburst occurred during a 134–86 win over Palisades High School, in a Lower Bucks County League game. Cimino hit on 44 of 79 shots from the field and was 26 of 29 from the charity stripe. He scored all 69 of his team's second half points. The 114-point total is still a Pennsylvania state record.

 When the words "good hitting pitcher" comes to mind, National League fans think of Don Drysdale. If you are an American League fan, the name Earl Wilson stands out and nowhere other than June 28, 1966, does it become more apparent Wilson was as good a hitting pitcher as there was.
The Detroit Tigers were playing good baseball riding high at 43-26. They invaded Anaheim Stadium on this Tuesday night to take on the Angels who were playing good ball themselves. The club was 38-34 and the 1966 season was decent for the Halo's. The season for Wilson actually started in Boston, before he was traded just two weeks before the game with the Angels.

The game opened quietly enough with Wilson facing Clyde Wright. Detroit began the scoring with Al Kaline's 13th homer of the year in the second. A solo shot. In the third Don Wert singled followed by a single from Wilson. A bunt put the runners in scoring position and Jake Wood drove them both home with a single giving Detroit a 3-0 lead. Norm Cash then blasted a two run shot chasing Wright and the Tigers led 5-0. 

Lew Burdette relieved and didn't do much better. While he was able to strike out Wilson in the fourth (the only time the pitcher didn't get on base that day) he didn't handle the rest of the Tigers very well. In the fifth he gave up four singles and a walk before leaving for Howie Reed, giving up four runs in the process.

In the sixth Wilson led off the inning with a single and came around to score later in the inning. In the seventh Wilson came up again with a man on and promptly tripled off Jim McGlothlin to drive in a run. 
Meanwhile, Wilson was masterful on the mound, limiting the Angels to two runs on five hits in seven solid innings. With the Tigers leading 15-2 at that point, manager Mayo Smith decided to save his ace and bring in aging Johnny Podres to close it out and the Tigers embarrassed the Angels 15-3. 

On the day Wilson won his seventh game, striking out five while not walking a batter. As a hitter that June 28th, he went three-for-four at the plate, driving in a run and scoring two. He also tripled. 

Wilson would finish the 1966 season with a combined BA of .240, which in itself was a strong showing for a pitcher. But his 7 home runs, two triples and 22 RBI only added to his hitting legend. He also drew eight walks and finished 14th in the AL MVP voting that season. 

For his career, the slugging pitcher would belt 35 home runs, drive in 111 while hitting .195. He slugged .369 and showing how much confidence his managers had in his hitting, he only recorded 22 sacrifice bunts over 11 years. Showing his respect from opposing pitcher, the 6'3" right-hander was hit by the pitch five times in his career.

By comparison, Drysdale, the 6'5" right-hander, hit 29 homers, drove in 113 and batted .186 while recording 69 sacrifice bunts and also got hit five times.
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