Warren Spahn was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He won more games–363–than any other left-hander. Spahn was an All-Star 14 times and won at least 20 games 13 times, leading the National League in victories eight times. He pitched two no-hitters, the first coming when he was 39 years old.
Yet Spahn’s first major league win came at age 25, after he had served for three years as an Army combat engineer in World War II, where he took part in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded a battlefield commission, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Spahn really had two careers, the first when he could throw hard–he led the league in strikeouts four consecutive years, despite weighing only 175 pounds–and a second, even more productive career after he lost the fastball of his youth. His pitching coach with the Braves, Whitlow Wyatt, said: “Every pitch he throws has an idea behind it.”
Spahn pitched 20 seasons for the Boston/Milwaukee Braves and was a member of the great Braves teams of the mid-1950′s, one of the most fun baseball teams of all time. I suppose it says something about my aging memory, but I can still rattle off the starting lineup of those Braves teams, while if someone offered me $1 million to name the last three Super Bowl winners, I’d have to pass.
Spahn could hit, too–a career total of 35 homers. “One of the things I dislike about baseball today is we’ve made nonathletes out of pitchers,” he said. “They pitch once a week. They count the pitches. They don’t hit. They don’t run the bases. That’s not my kind of baseball.”
Warren Spahn, RIP.
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