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Dean Chance

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Wilmer Dean Chance

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[edit] Biographical Information

"Every time I see his name on a lineup card, I feel like throwing up" - Mickey Mantle
"He is the dumbest guy I've caught" - Buck Rodgers

Dean Chance was the first big pitching star of the fledgling Los Angeles Angels, and later in his career he was part of the division-winning Minnesota Twins team in 1969.

He won the 1964 Cy Young Award, dominating the 1964 American League with a 1.65 ERA and 11 shutouts. He had started that season slowly, going 5-5 over the first half, but was then utterly dominant over the second half, with a record of 15-4, 1.29. At a time when there was only one Cy Young Award winner for all of baseball, he was the only recipient from the American League between 1962 and 1966, after which one award was given per league. During that five-year period, all five winners were from Los Angeles, the other four going to Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Chance, born in 1941, signed with the Baltimore Orioles as an amateur free agent in 1959 and went 10-3 for Bluefield in the Appalachian League that year. In 1960 he was 12-9 for Fox Cities. He was picked by the Washington Senators in the 1961 expansion draft and then was traded to that year's other expansion team, the Angels, as part of one of the trades mandated by American League President Joe Cronin. He pitched most of 1961 for Dallas-Fort Worth, going 9-12, before coming up to the majors for his debut on September 11th, at the age of 20. Surprisingly, Chance was not the team's youngest player. Jim Fregosi and Bob Sprout were both 19, while Tom Satriano and Dan Ardell were both also 20.

Chance became part of the regular rotation in 1962, winning in double figures for the first of seven straight seasons. In his big year in 1964, he was 20-9 in 46 games, picking up 4 saves in addition to his exploits as a starter. He made the AL Al-Star team for the first time that season. He was traded after the 1966 season to the Minnesota Twins, and continued his winning ways there. In 1967, he went 20-14, 2.73 and returned to the All-Star Game, then went 16-16, 2.53 the next year. He pitched only 20 games, going 5-4, 2.95, in the division-winning 1969 season, and he gave 3 runs in 2 innings in the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles in what would turn out to be the only postseason appearance of his career. In 1970 he spent most of the year with the Cleveland Indians, going 9-8 before the New York Mets bought him near the end of the season. He closed out his career with the Detroit Tigers in 1971, where he had an ERA of 3.51 for manager Billy Martin.

He was a power pitcher, relying on a sinking fastball to get batters out; he also threw the occasional screwball as a change-up. He threw his pitches low, usually working the outside corner at knee-high. He had a three-quarters delivery with a bent body motion, and almost never threw a pitch above the waist. However, as noted in the quote from his catcher Buck Rodgers above, he did not have the most cerebral approach to the game, and once his fastball was gone, he was unable to adjust. He was a close friend of Bo Belinsky, who had been a teammate in the Orioles' organization and emerged as a (briefly shining) star with the Angels in 1962. The two were men-about-town, using Los Angeles as their playground, hanging out with models and movie stars (Chance had married in 1961, and had a son the following year, but the marriage did not last).

Chance had a major league career ERA of 2.92, currently (as of September 2009) # 146 on the all time list for lowest ERA. He was helped by the fact that most of his career took place in the second dead-ball era, but his lifetime ERA+ is still an excellent 119. He was however a terrible hitter, batting a mere .066 in 662 at-bats for his career, striking out 420 times for one of the highest strikeout rates in history.

In 1969 he became a boxing manager and promoter, and as of 2006 he was president of the International Boxing Association. He also ran various business ventures, investing in real estate, working in a carnival and for a poster company among other gigs.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 1962 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 2-time AL All-Star (1964 & 1967)
  • ML Cy Young Award Winner (1964)
  • 1967 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award
  • AL ERA Leader (1964)
  • AL Wins Leader (1964)
  • 2-time AL Innings Pitched Leader (1964 & 1967)
  • 2-time AL Complete Games Leader (1964 & 1967)
  • AL Shutouts Leader (1964)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 4 (1964, 1965, 1967 & 1968)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (1964 & 1967)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 7 (1962-1968)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (1964, 1967 & 1968)


ML Cy Young Award
1963 1964 1965
Sandy Koufax Dean Chance Sandy Koufax

[edit] Further Reading

  • Tom Nahigian: "Bo and Dean: A Lifetime of Fun and Friendship", in Jean Hastings Ardell and Andy McCue, ed.: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 41, 2011, pp. 49-52.

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