Denny McLain

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Dennis Dale "Denny" McLain (born March 29, 1944) is a former American professional baseball player, and the last major league pitcher to win 30 or more games during a season (31–6 in 1968)—a feat accomplished by only thirteen players in the 20th century.

Contents

Professional playing career

McLain attended Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago, and played shortstop and pitcher. Originally signed by the Chicago White Sox, he was selected off waivers by the Detroit Tigers, with whom he broke into the major leagues at the age of 19 in 1963. His debut on September 21 (against the White Sox) was a success; not only did he beat the Sox, holding them to one earned run on seven hits, he picked two runners off base and even hit a home run, the only one he would ever hit in majors. After a mediocre 1964 season (McLain was still only twenty), he broke through in 1965, posting a 2.61 ERA and a 16–6 record. He would remain one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball through 1969.

His 1968 season was a remarkable one, as he went 31–6 with a 1.96 ERA, was an All-Star, won the Cy Young Award, received the AL Most Valuable Player Award, and was on the World Series-winning Detroit Tigers. He was the first pitcher in the history of the American League to win the MVP and the Cy Young Award in the same season.[1] His 31 wins that year made him the first pitcher to win 30 games in a season since St. Louis Cardinal Dizzy Dean did it in 1934. After the Tigers had clinched the '68 AL pennant, McLain exhibited a rare display of magnanimity in a game against the New York Yankees; in cruising to his 31st victory, with the Tigers leading 6–1, McLain grooved a "fat" pitch to Mickey Mantle, whom McLain had idolized while growing up. It allowed the soon-to-retire Mantle to hit his 535th homer and pass Jimmie Foxx on the all-time home run list.[2] The next batter, Joe Pepitone, waved his bat over the plate, as if asking for an easy pitch of his own. McLain responded by knocking Pepitone down with his next delivery.

McLain's 1968 World Series performance was not as stellar. Having already racked up an incredible 336 innings-pitched and 28 complete games during the regular season, the sore-armed hurler lost Games 1 and 4 to Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals, who posted a 1.12 ERA during the '68 season to win the National League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. Trailing 3 games to 2, McLain won the crucial Game 6 on just two days' rest, aided by a grand slam from Jim Northrup. Teammate Mickey Lolich went 3–0 in the series, including a complete game triumph in Game 7 against Gibson, and won the World Series MVP award.

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