Teams: Boston Braves, 1942, 1946-1952; Milwaukee Braves, 1953-1964; New York Mets, 1965; San Francisco Giants, 1965
Warren Spahn won more than 20 games in 13 of the 17 years in which he had 30 starts, on his way to winning more games than any lefty in history. He was often the only good pitcher on two decades of Braves teams, from Boston to Milwaukee, as he led the league in wins a record eight times, and in complete games a record nine times.
When Warren Spahn retired from
baseball in 1965, he finished in the top
ten for career wins, innings pitched,
Born in Buffalo in 1921, Warren Edward Spahn (1921-2003) was the son of an avid amateur baseball player. Warren grew up as a first baseman, but he was unable to win the first base job in high school, so he switched to pitching. Signed by the Braves in 1940, he struck out 62 Class-D batters in 66 innings. In 1941, he moved up to Evansville and led the Three-I League with 19 wins and a 1.83 ERA in 1941.
Spahn was called up to Boston in 1942 and did not win in four appearances that year. When he failed to knock down Pee Wee Reese in a game, Braves manager Casey Stengel said, “Young man, you’ve got no guts.” Spahn was off to war for the next three years, where he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Warren returned in 1946 and went 8-5 with a 2.94 ERA. He bloomed in 1947, winning 21 and leading the NL with a 2.33 ERA. In 1948, he teamed with Johnny Sain in the famous “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” rotation. Sain won 24 games to lead the league, Warren went 15-12, and the Braves won the pennant, losing to Cleveland in the Series.
In 1949, Spahn led the National League with 21 wins, 25 complete games, 3021/3 innings, and 151 strikeouts. He led the NL with 21 wins and 191 Ks again in 1950. He won 22 games in 1951, a league-leading 23 in 1953, 21 in 1954, and 20 in 1956. He began to lose some velocity on his fastball in the early 1950s, but he compensated by developing new pitches and researching the league’s batters.
The Braves, with Eddie Mathews, Lew Burdette, and Hank Aaron, were a pennant-caliber team in the late 1950s, and they won the World Series while Spahn went 21-11 on the season. They returned to the fall classic in 1958 (with Spahn going 22-11), and he pitched beautifully (a 2-1 record with a 2.20 ERA). Warren’s only World Series win came in 1957, and his last Series appearance came in 1958. He won more than 20 games, though, in 1959, ’60, ’61, and ’63.
“You don’t make concessions,” Spahn once said. “If you concede one little thing, pretty soon you find yourself conceding another, then another.” He retired in 1965, finishing in the top ten for career wins, innings pitched, and shutouts. Warren was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973.
Here are Warren Spahn's major league totals:
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