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George Zuverink

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George Zuverink

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[edit] Biographical Information

The likelihood of George Zuverink ever pitching in the major leagues appeared very remote. He went 0-7 as a high school senior and was subsequently released from a pro baseball team. But not only did the 6' 4" righthander make it to the big time, he became one of the top relief pitchers in the American League in the 1950s.

He entered the United States Army Air Force in March of 1943 serving until January of 1946 in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II.

The St. Louis Cardinals signed him as an amateur free agent before the 1946 season and assigned him to the Fresno Cardinals of the class C California League where he went 11-13 with a .458 ERA. George didn't pitch in 1947 and he ended up with the Cleveland Indians organization in 1948.

During the next three seasons (1948-1950) George won 54 times and lost only 33 with a 3.71 ERA. This earned the big guy his trip to Cleveland in 1951. Zuverink made his debut out of the bullpen on April 21st of that year, when he relieved Bob Lemon in St. Louis at Sportsman's Park. His first strikeout victim in the "Show" was the Browns' catcher, Les Moss. George then spent most of the next two seasons with the Indianapolis Indians where he won 25 times while losing but 19 before his contract was bought by the Cincinnati Reds in late 1953. The Redlegs returned him home to the Detroit Tigers on April 26, 1954, which fulfilled a childhood dream of his.

The 1954 season was the only campaign in his career in which he was used primarily as a starter. He went 9-13, highlighted by a July 5th game when he beat Don Mossi and the Indians, 1-0, in eleven innings. Harvey Kuenn, his roommate, homered in the bottom of the 11th inning before 54,000 fans to win the game for the Tigers. The same season, Zuverink pitched a complete game victory without recording a strikeout or base on balls. The next Detroit hurler to duplicate the feat was Bill Gullickson, who did it in 1992. George began the 1955 season 0-5 and since he didn't figure in manager Bucky Harris's plans, he was sold to the Baltimore Orioles for the $10,000 waiver price.

George spent the rest of his major league career (from 1955 to 1959) with the Orioles, notching a 23-18 record for the club under manager Paul Richards, being used mostly out of the bullpen. His best year came in 1957 when he went 10-6 with a 2.48 ERA. "Zuve" led the American League in appearances with 62 in 1956 and in again in 1957 with 56. His 16 saves led the league in 1956, a year he appeared in 27 of the Orioles' first 54 games. In one contest he combined with Connie Johnson to one-hit Jack Harshman and the Chicago White Sox but lost, 1-0, as Harshman also pitched a one-hitter. In 1957, he and Frank Zupo became the first battery in the history of baseball whose last names both began with "Z".

A sore shoulder in 1959 ended Zuverink's career. He tried pitching for the San Francisco Giants in spring training in 1960 but couldn't shake his arm problems and ended his eight-year major league run with a 32-36 mark with 40 saves and a 3.54 ERA. George also had eight years in the minors where he finished up his pro baseball career with a short stay with the Vancouver Mounties in 1960, finishing out in the minors with a 94-70 record with a 3.81 ERA.

Zuverink retired in Tempe, Arizona, after spending thirty years selling life and health insurance for Banks Life Nebraska. In addition he umpired college and high school baseball games and also filled in during spring training in the 1979 umpires' strike. he passed away in 2014, at age 90, of complications following a broken hip in May of that year.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 2-time AL Games Pitched Leader (1956 & 1957)
  • AL Saves Leader (56)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1954)

[edit] Sources

Baseball Players of the 1950s

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