Monday, April 21, 2014

#720 Sam McDowell

Suddenly, a man on a decline…. imposing, intimidating, overpowering, wild, and formidable star in Cleveland topping 300 K’s twice…was coming off one of his best campaigns in 1970 where he reached 20 wins…got the honor of playing infield twice during the year because of the creative mind of manager Alvin Dark….It goes like this according to SABRA bioproject.
July 6, 1970…. As the game moved to the eighth inning, Cleveland was holding on to a 6-4 lead. Washington center fielder Eddie Stroud led off with a single to right field and, one out later, shortstop Eddie Brinkman also singled. McDowell struck out Tom Grieve, but uncorked a wild pitch in the process, and Stroud and Brinkman moved up a base. Up stepped first baseman Frank Howard, a nemesis of McDowell’s, who already was 2-for-2 with two walks (one intentional) and a run scored. 

Indians manager Alvin Dark made his way to the mound. He made his plans clear. He told McDowell: “I think I’m going to put you on second base, move Eddie Leon to third and bring in (Dean) Chance to pitch to Howard.” Big Sam gulped, blinked his eyes, and agreed to the move. Later, he recalled, “When I could talk, I said, ‘That’s fine. . . . I can handle it.’” The 11,950 spectators buzzed as McDowell moved over to second, keystone sacker Leon replaced Graig Nettles at third base, and Dean Chance came in to face Howard.   Chance walked Howard intentionally to load the bases, the strategy being that perhaps Washington skipper Ted Williams would send a left-hander up to pinch-hit for the right-handed hitting Rick Reichardt and southpaw McDowell could return to the mound. But Williams let Reichardt hit, so everyone stayed at their positions.   Chance got Reichardt to hit to third, where Leon threw low to a kneeling McDowell at second base.   “I lost the ball momentarily in the crowd when Eddie threw but I knew it was coming in low,” McDowell recalled. “That’s why I went down on my knees for it.   Jack (Shortstop Jack Heidemann) kept telling me to make sure I covered second base on a ball hit on the ground.”   McDowell returned to the mound in the ninth and earned his 12th victory of the season by striking out the side, giving him 15 K’s for the game.   It was the eighth time he had achieved ten or more strikeouts in a game thus far that season.   
…Sam started decline in 1971….a losing record and strikeout dropping lowest level since 1964 while most retaining the dubious title of most walks surrendered…The trade to the Giants is considered a failure especially since Gaylord Perry had a Cy Young year for the tribe…went 10-8 with a paltry 122 SO….eventually shipped Yankees in 1973 and then exiled to bullpen…. 6 time all star…5 time strikeout leader… and walks too… Career strikeouts total of 2451 would have been larger if his career was not cut short by injuries and alcoholism…eventually entered rehabilitation and became an AODA counselor employed by various sport teams.

Jim in Downingtown covers his early career nicely in a recent post.


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