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L E’s Stories – “Hooks Was The Invincible One Of Spahn & Sain And Pray For Rain” – Tribute To Warren Spahn

When Bone Daddy tells stories about the many “whiffleball games” that he played with his two brothers and the neighborhood kids while growing up in Midland, TX….he says that albeit he was a natural throwing right-hander….he would choose to be Warren Spahn when he was the pitcher….cuz he just loved to imitate Spanie’s big leg kick…. while actually throwing left-handed….for the “whiffleball” was a baseball size plastic ball with holes in it….which allowed a pitcher to throw a fastball, a curve, a screwball, a dropball and a riser….even though you weren’t throwing with your natural arm….cuz this ball was much lighter in weight than a typical baseball….and anyway, as seen in the video below….BD, Lil Wally and Runt ate Grape Nuts Flakes cereal….just so they could acquire a Warren Spahn “whiffleball and bat set”….which they played with for many years.  So, writing this story about the greatest left-hander to ever grace a mound….who in my book was better than Cy Young, Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson et al…..really comes easy due to the many times BD impersonated “The Invincible One” in the West Louisiana Street Whiffleball Leauge during the decade of the 1950’s in Midland, Texas…..not to mention how much Grape Nuts Flakes cereal he ate just because of Spahnie.                                     

TV Ads & MLB – 1952 – Warren Spahn For Grape Nuts Flakes Cereal Pitches His Whiffleball And Bat Set

Warren Spahn (April 23, 1921 – November 24, 2003) was an American professional baseball player….who played in Major League Baseball as a left-handed pitcher in 1942….and then from 1946 until 1965 most notably for the Boston Braves… who became the Milwaukee Braves after the team moved west before the 1953 season.  His baseball career was interrupted by his military service in the United States Army during the World War II.  With 363 victories over the span of his 21-year baseball playing career, Spahn holds the major league record for most career wins by a left-handed pitcher….and the most by a pitcher who played his entire career in the post-1920 live-ball era.  He was a 17-time All-Star player who won 20 games or more in 13 seasons….which included a 23–7 record when he was age 42….plus, Spahn won the 1957 Cy Young Award and was a three-time runner-up during the period….which was when only one award was given for both leagues.  At the time of his retirement in 1965, Spahn held the Major League Baseball record for career strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher.

 

MLB – 2019 – Baseball Rebellion Pitching Breakdown – “Warren Spahn: Throwing Mechanics and Pitching Mentality”                                                                 

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1973 with 82.89% of the vote.  The Warren Spahn Award, given annually to the major leagues’ best left-handed pitcher, is named in his honor.  He was regarded as a “thinking man’s” pitcher….who liked to outwit batters….as Spahn once described his approach on the mound by saying….“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”                                                                                   

MLB – 1942 To 1965 – MLB Special – Warren Spahn – “The Greatest Left-Handed Pitcher Of All Time”                                                                                              

Spahn’s major league career began in 1942 with the Braves….as he spent all but one year with that franchise….while first in Boston and then in Milwaukee….then he finished his career in 1965 with the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants.  With 363 wins, Spahn is the 6th most winning pitcher in history….while trailing only Cy Young (511), Walter Johnson (417), Grover Cleveland Alexander (373), Christy Mathewson (373) and Pud Galvin (364) on MLB’s all-time list. He led the league in wins eight times (1949–50, 1953, 1957–61….with 20+ wins in each season…. and won at least 20 games an additional five times (1947, 1951, 1954, 1956, 1963).  Spahn also threw two no-hitters in 1960 and 1961 at ages 39 and 40 ….won 3 ERA titles in 1947, 1953 and 1961….and won four strikeout crowns from 1949 to 1952.  He appeared in 14 All-Star Games….which was the most of any pitcher in the 20th century….plus, he won the NL Player of the Month Award in August 1960 (6–0, 2.30 ERA, 32 SO) and August 1961 (6–0, 1.00 ERA, 26 SO).

 

MLB – 1948 – World Series Highlights – Cleveland Indians Vs. Boston Braves

Spahn acquired the nickname “Hooks”, not so much because of his pitching, but due to the prominent shape of his nose….as he had once been hit in the face by a thrown ball that he was not expecting….and his broken nose settled into a hook-like shape.  In Spahn’s final season, during his stint with the Mets, Yogi Berra came out of retirement briefly and caught 4 games…..as one of them was with Spahn pitching.  Yogi later told reporters, “I don’t think we’re the oldest battery, but we’re certainly the ugliest.”                                      

MLB – 1956 – Special – “Warren Spahn: Mechanics And Pitches”                                       

Spahn was known for a very high leg kick in his delivery…..which was similar to his later Giants teammate Juan Marichal…..as photo sequences show that this high kick served a specific purpose ….for as a left-hander, Spahn was able not only to watch any runner on first base…..but was also able to avoid telegraphing whether he was delivering to the plate or to first base….thus forcing the runner to stay close to the bag.  As his fastball waned, Spahn adapted, and relied more on location, changing speeds and a good screwball.  He led or shared the lead in the NL in wins in 1957–61 at age 36–40.                                                                                                                                      

 

MLB – 1957 – World Series Highlights – New York Yankees Vs Milwaukee Braves

Spahn was also a good hitter….while hitting at least one home run in 17 straight seasons….and finishing with an NL career record for pitchers with 35 home runs…..as Wes Ferrell, who spent most of his time in the American League, holds the overall record for pitchers, with 37.  Spahn posted a .194 batting average (363-for-1872) with 141 runs, 57 doubles, 6 triples, 94 bases on balls and 189 RBI.  He also drove in 10 or more runs nine times….with a career-high 18 in 1951….then in 1958 he batted a strong .333 (36-for-108)….and in eight World Series games, he batted .200 (4-for-20) with 4 RBI and 1 walk.                                                                                                                           

MLB – 1942 To 1965 – Special -Warren Spahn “Vertically Body Rolling Put Snap On A Ball Slowly” – Pitching Mechanics Slow Motion

First signed by the Boston Braves, he reported to the Class-D Bradford Bees of the PONY League – later known as the NY-Penn League – after graduating high school.  Spahn made his professional debut on July 6 at MacArthur Park (Dwyer Stadium) in Batavia, New York….as Spahn took the loss against the Batavia Clippers pitching out of the bullpen….when he walked two batters and struck out none….then he finished the season with a 5–4 record and 2.73 ERA.  In 1941 Spahn broke out and won 19 games against 6 losses with a 1.83 ERA….while pitching for the Class-B Evansville Bees of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League.

 

MLB – 2014 – Special – “Around The Horn With Bob Ryan On Warren Spahn And Modern Pitchers”                                                                                                        

Spahn reached the major leagues in 1942 at the age of 20….where he clashed with Braves manager Casey Stengel…..who sent him to the minors after Spahn refused to throw at Brooklyn Dodger batter Pee Wee Reese in an exhibition game.  Spahn had pitched in only 4 games, allowing 15 runs (10 earned) in ​15 23 innings.  Stengel later said that it was the worst managing mistake he had ever made while saying  “I said “no guts” to a kid who went on to become a war hero and one of the greatest left-handed pitchers you ever saw. You can’t say I don’t miss ’em when I miss ’em.”  The 1942 Braves finished next to last, and Stengel was fired the following year….whereas,  Spahn was reunited with Stengel 23 years later….for the even more woeful last-place New York Mets…and referring to Stengel’s success with the 1949–60 New York Yankees later quipped, “I’m probably the only guy who played for Casey before and after he was a genius.”  Spahn finished the 1942 season with a 17–12 record for the Hartford Bees of the Class-A Eastern League.                        

MLB – 1958 – World Series Highlights – New York Yankees Vs. Milwaukee Braves

Along with many other major league players, Spahn chose to enlist in the United States Army , after finishing the 1942 season in the minors…. where he served with distinction….and was awarded a Purple Heart….as he saw action in the Battle of the Bulge….and at the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen as a combat engineer….and was awarded a battlefield commission.                                  

MLB – March 7, 1945 – Special – “HOF Pitcher Warren Spahn Shares His Remagen Bridge Experiences”                                                                                           

News – March 7, 1945 – World War II Special – “Remagen: The Race For The Bridge”                                                                                                                                 

Spahn returned to the major leagues in 1946 at the age of 25….after having missed three full seasons. Had he played, it is possible that Spahn would have finished his career behind only Walter Johnson and Cy Young in all-time wins.  Spahn was unsure of the war’s impact on his career saying People say that my absence from the big leagues may have cost me a chance to win 400 games.  But I don’t know about that. I matured a lot in three years, and I think I was better equipped to handle major league hitters at 25 than I was at 22.  Also, I pitched until I was 44.  Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do that otherwise.”                                                                                       

MLB – 1953 To 2000 – Special – Mr. Baseball Bob Uecker Presents – “Legends And Legacies” – Memories Of Milwaukee County Stadium

In 1947, Spahn led the National League in ERA while posting a 21–10 record. It was the first of his thirteen 20-win seasons. Spahn also won two more ERA titles, in 1953 and 1961.  Also, on June 11, 1950, Spahn and pitcher Bob Rush of the Cubs each stole a base against each other….as no opposing pitchers again stole a base in the same game until May 3, 2004….when Jason Marquis and Greg Maddux repeated the feat.                                                                                  

MLB – 1942 To 1965 – Baseball Hall Of Fame Biographies – Warren Spahn

In 1951, Spahn allowed the first career hit to Willie Mays, a home run….as Mays had begun his career 0-for-12….and Spahn responded to reporters after the game while citing the distance between home plate and the pitcher’s mound of 60 feet 6 inches (18.44 m) by saying “Gentlemen, for the first 60 feet, that was a hell of a pitch.”  Spahn joked a long time later, “I’ll never forgive myself. We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I’d only struck him out.”  In 1962, another Hall of Fame player hit his first career home run off Spahn….as Sandy Koufax, who only hit one other, took “Hooks” deep.

 

MLB – 1964 – Milwaukee Braves Special – Chuck Thompson Interviews Pitcher Warren Spahn

Spahn’s teammate Johnny Sain was the ace of the pennant-winning 1948 Braves staff, with a win–loss record of 24–15…..while Spahn went 15–12….and contrary to legend, teammates Bill Voiselle (13–13), and Vern Bickford (11–5) also pitched well.  In honor of the pitching duo, Boston Post sports editor Gerald V. Hern wrote this poem which the popular media eventually condensed to “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain” as follows:          First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.                                                                                                             

MLB – 1945 To 1965 – Special – 17 Famous Quotes By Braves HOF Pitcher Warren Spahn

The poem was inspired by the performance of Spahn and Sain during the Braves’ 1948 pennant drive…..as the team swept a Labor Day doubleheader….with Spahn throwing a complete 14-inning win in the opener….and Sain pitching a shutout in the second game.  Following two off days because it did rain…..Spahn won the next day, and Sain won the day after that….and three days later, Spahn won again….as Sain won the next day. After one more off day, the two pitchers were brought back….and won another doubleheader. The two pitchers had gone 8–0 in 12 days’ time.  Other sayings have been derived from “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.” For example, some referred to the 1993 San Francisco Giants’ imbalanced rotation as “Burkett and Swift and pray for snow drift.”

 

MLB – 1957 – All Star Game Highlights – Featuring Braves P Warren Spahn

In 1957, Spahn was the ace of the champion Milwaukee Braves…..plus he pitched on two other Braves pennant winners in 1948 and 1958.  Spahn led the NL in strikeouts for four consecutive seasons, from 1949 to 1952….after tying with Don Newcombe in 1951….which included a single game high of 18 strike outs (then the NL record) in a 15-inning appearance on June 14, 1952.

 

MLB – 1957 – Special – “Were The 1957 Milwaukee Braves The Best Team Ever?”

                                                                                        During the 1957 World Series, Sal Maglie of the Yankees, ineligible to pitch in the series because he was acquired too late in the season, watched the games with Robert Creamer of Sports Illustrated…..and made assessments of the players….and when Spahn was pitching, Maglie observed that batters had to try to hit balls to the opposite field against Spahn…..as he was more likely to get them out if they tried to pull the ball.  Spahn maintained that “A pitcher needs two pitches — one they’re looking for, and one to cross ’em up.” and with that attitude, he was thus able to maintain his position as one of the game’s top pitchers until his 19th season in the sport…..which was exemplified by his start on July 2, 1963….while facing the San Francisco Giants, the 42-year-old Spahn became locked into a storied pitchers’ duel with 25-year-old Juan Marichal…..as the score was still 0–0 after more than four hours….when Willie Mays hit a game-winning solo home run off Spahn with one out in the bottom of the 16th inning. Marichal’s manager, Alvin Dark, visited the mound in the 9th, 10th, 11th, 13th, and 14th innings….and was talked out of removing Marichal each time…. when during the 14th-inning visit, Marichal told Dark, “Do you see that man pitching for the other side? Do you know that man is 42 years old? I’m only 25. If that man is on the mound, nobody is going to take me out of here.”  Marichal ended up throwing 227 pitches in the complete game 1–0 win….while Spahn threw 201 in the loss….after  allowing just nine hits and one walk.  Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell, who was in attendance that night, said of Spahn, “He ought to will his body to medical science.”

 

MLB – July 2, 1963 – Special – “The Greatest Pitching Duel In MLB Ever” – SF Giants Vs Milwaukee Braves – With Juan Marichal Vs Warren Spahn

Spahn threw his 1st no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies on September 16, 1960…. when he was 39 years old….and then pitched his 2nd no-hitter the following year on April 28, 1961, against the Giants.  By the last two seasons of his career, Spahn was the oldest active player in baseball.  He lost this distinction for a single day: September 25, 1965…..when 58-year-old Satchel Paige pitched three innings.  Spahn’s seemingly ageless ability caused Stan Musial to quip, “Spahn will never get into the Hall of Fame.  He won’t stop pitching.”                                                                                                             

Baseball – 1960 – Highlights Of The 1960 Milwaukee Braves – With Eddie Mathews + Hank Aaron + Warren Spahn

Following the 1964 season, after 25 years with the franchise, Spahn was sold by the Braves to the New York Mets.  Braves manager Bobby Bragan predicted, “Spahnie won’t win six games with the Mets.”  Spahn took on the dual role of pitcher and pitching coach….when Spahn won four and lost 12 at which point the Mets put Spahn on waivers.  He was put on waivers on July 15, 1965, and released on July 22, 1965.  He signed with the San Francisco Giants, with whom he appeared in his final major league game on October 1, 1965, at the age of 44.  With the Mets and Giants combined, he won seven games for the season….which was his last in the major leagues.  His number would be retired by the Braves later that year.                                                                                                                                                                                                    

MLB – 1982 – Cracker Jacks Old Timers Game Classic – With NL Starting Pitcher Warren Spahn + Joe Dimaggio + Willie Mays + Whitey Ford Et Al

In a 22-season major league career, Spahn posted a 363–245 win–loss record….with 2,583 strikeouts and a 3.09 ERA in ​5,243 23 innings pitched….which including 63 shutouts and 382 complete games….which in and of itself is a feat that most baseball fans can’t even get their head around.  His 363 career win total ranks 6th overall in major league history….which is also the most by a pitcher who played his entire career in the post-1920 live-ball era…..as Spahn still holds the major league record for most career wins by a left-handed pitcher.  His 63 career shutouts is the highest total in the live-ball era and 6th highest overall.  His 2,583 career strikeouts were the most by a left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball history until he was surpassed by Mickey Lolich in 1975.                                                 

MLB – 1961 – Special Highlights – Warren Spahn’s 300th Win Game Verses The Chicago Cubs

Spahn managed the Tulsa Oilers for five seasons, winning 372 games from 1967 to 1971….as his 1968 club won the Pacific Coast League championship….plus, he also coached for the Mexico City Tigers….and pitched a handful of games there.  He was a pitching coach with the Cleveland Indians….and was in the minor leagues for the California Angels….and for six years, with Japan’s Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

 

MLB – 2020 – DiamondYard Sportscards Special – Greatest Live Ball Left-Handed Pitchers Ever – With Warren Spahn 1948 Rookie Card

For many years he owned and ran the large Diamond Star Ranch south of Hartshorne, Oklahoma before retiring to live near a golf course in Broken Arrow.  A few months before his death, Spahn attended the unveiling of a statue outside Atlanta’s Turner Field.  When the Braves vacated Turner Field to move into their current home of Truist Park, the statue was moved….and now stands outside that ballpark….as the statue depicts Spahn in the middle of one of his leg kicks…..which was created by Shan Gray….who has sculpted numerous other statues of athletes which stand in Oklahoma, including two others of Spahn….as one  resides at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame located at the Oklahoma City Bricktown Ballpark…. and the other is located in Hartshorne, Oklahoma at the Hartshorne Event Center.

 

MLB & News – 2015 – The Oklahoman Video Archives – Linda Griffin Tells The Story Of How Warren Spahn Retired In Oklahoma

Spahn died of natural causes, at his home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  He is interred in the Elmwood Cemetery in Hartshorne.  After his death a street was named after him in Buffalo, New York that connects Abbott Road with Seneca Street, through Cazenovia Park, in the heart of South Buffalo….as the street is near South Park High School, Spahn’s alma mater.  Spahn was selected for the all-time All-Star baseball team by Sports Illustrated magazine in 1991, as the left-handed pitcher. The other selections were: outfielders Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays; shortstop Cal Ripken, third baseman Mike Schmidt, second baseman Jackie Robinson, first baseman Lou Gehrig, catcher Mickey Cochrane, right-handed pitcher Christy Mathewson, relief pitcher Dennis Eckersley, and manager Casey Stengel.

 

MLB – 2008 – Oklahoman Columnist Bryan Painter Interviews Greg Spahn. Son Of Warren Spahn – “Memories OF A Legend”                                                   

Spahn was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1973 and became a charter member of both the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.  In 1999, Spahn was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame.  Also in 1999, editors at The Sporting News ranked Warren Spahn 21st on their list of “Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players”.

 

MLB – 1999 – Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Induction Special – “Tribute To Warren Spahn”                                                                                                             

While writing this tribute to Braves Hall of Fame Pitcher Warren Spahn….I have been reminder just how great “Hooks The Invincible One” was…..and just how loved this man was in Boston and Milwaukee was….not to mention how beloved he was by Bone Daddy during his whiffleball years in Midland, Texas during the decade of the 1950’s…..for here was a man to chose to give up his years of ages 21, 22, 23 and 24 in Major League Baseball to serve his nation in the US Army Corp of Engineers….who distinguished himself as a hero in the battle of “A Bridge Too Far” at Remagen, Germany….while being awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for bravery…..for the fact remains that if world war was to breakout today in 2021….it is my guess that not many of these “overpaid pitchers” in today’s MLB would even consider giving up their careers to go fight for their country….much less have what it takes to exhibit such bravery in pursuit of freedom….so, after seeing all the videos seen herewith….it has given me a new found respect and appreciation for this man…..who wasn’t just a hero on the field of play….but a hero off the field of play.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

MLB – 1979 – Special – Warren Spahn Returns To Milwaukee For A Tribute To The Hall of Fame Pitcher – “Spahnie: The Last Pitch”                                                                                                    

MLB – 1948 To 1963 – Milwaukee Braves Slideshow Special – Featuring Hank Aaron + Eddie Mathews + Warren Spahn

 

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