Hal Newhouser

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Detroit Tigers, 1939-1953; Cleveland Indians, 1954-1955

Hal Newhouser
Detroit native Hal Newhouser signed on
with the Tigers in 1938 at the age of 17.

Hal Newhouser was a Detroit native who made good with the hometown Tigers. Though he was 13 years old before he began playing baseball, Harold Newhouser (1921-1998) blossomed into such a star American Legion player that the Tigers signed him in 1938 at age 17. He received $400 to sign. Detroit secured his contract moments before the Cleveland Indians offered $15,000 and a new car. A year later, in 1939, he pitched in his first major-league game, and the 6920 lefty spent 15 of his 17 major-league seasons with the Bengals.

Early in his career, Newhouser had difficulty with control. Plagued by streaks of wildness and a volcanic temper, he alienated both managers and teammates. His fortunes changed, however, with the 1943 arrival of catcher Paul Richards in Detroit.

Richards helped the talented but erratic Newhouser develop into the American League’s premier pitcher during the war years. Newhouser wanted to serve in the armed forces during the war, but a congenital heart disorder kept him at home, and for a while even threatened his baseball career. Hal had a 29-9 record with a 2.22 ERA in 1944, winning his first Most Valuable Player Award. He went 25-9 with a 1.81 ERA in 1945 to earn his second MVP trophy, as the Tigers won the pennant and beat the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Hal was 2-1 with a 6.10 ERA in that tourney.

Newhouser paralyzed opponents with an arsenal that included a fastball, curveball, and changeup. He led the league in victories three times and strikeouts and ERA twice each. With 152 wins by age 27, Hal seemed certain to challenge Eddie Plank’s record (since broken) of victories by a left-handed pitcher.

Pitching with one day’s rest on the last day of the 1948 campaign, Newhouser beat
Cleveland star Bob Feller -- forcing the Indians into a one-game pennant playoff with Boston. Nevertheless, the victory -- the league-leading 21st for Hal -- had its price. Newhouser started to experience the shoulder pain that eventually would shorten his career. He won 18 games in 1949 -- and after winning 15 games in 1950, he never again won in double figures in a season.

Released by Detroit at age 32 after the 1953 season, Hal received a tryout with Cleveland. The general manager of the Indians at the time, Hank Greenberg, had been a teammate of Newhouser’s in Detroit. The Indians were short of left-handed pitching, and they found Hal a welcome addition. He hurled for the Tribe in 1954, but he hung up his spikes after two games in 1955. Newhouser was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.

Here are Hal Newhouser's major league totals:





















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