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Steven Michael Stone

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[edit] Biographical Information

Steve Stone, the 1980 AL Cy Young Award winner, has certainly become more famous as a broadcaster.

[edit] Amateur career

Steve was a ping-pong champion in high school and played golf and tennis as well as baseball. In 1963, he won both ends of a doubleheaer in a city playoff series. In college, he was a member of the bowling and volleyball teams and played pool in addition to baseball. A frequent pool opponent was his catcher, Thurman Munson. Munson considered himself a pool shark but Stone "was careful never to disillusion him - especially when I was in the process of beating him 25 matches in a row." Steve had a 2.00 ERA in the Cape Cod League in 1968. He became the captain of Kent State's baseball team as a junior and made the All-Mid-American Conference team.

[edit] 1969-1971: In the minors

Stone was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the 4th round of the 1969 amateur draft and was assigned to the Fresno Giants. There, he went 12-13 with a 3.61 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 167 innings. He was fifth in the California League in batters struck out. On May 23, he whiffed 17 Lodi Crushers. From July 17 through August 22, he had a 7-game winning streak, including three shutouts.

Stone graduated with a teaching degree in social studies in 1970. Back on the baseball field, he had a 9-5, 3.95 for the Amarillo Giants and was promoted to the Phoenix Giants, where he had a 5-3 record in 8 starts despie a 1.71 ERA. It was not a low-scoring league, either, as the median ERA in the Pacific Coast League that year was almost definitely over 4.

In 1971, Steve spent part of July and August back in Phoenix, going 6-3 with a 3.98 ERA and almost a strikeout per inning, but was with San Francisco most of the season, going 5-9 with a 4.15 ERA.

[edit] 1972: Giants

Stone never returned to the minors after his 24th birthday. He had a 6-8, 2.98 record as a starter-reliever for the 1972 Giants for a fine 117 ERA+ and allowed only 97 hits in 123 2/3 innings pitched. He had a sore arm, though, by year's end and the Giants dealt him to the Chicago White Sox with Ken Henderson for Tom Bradley.

[edit] 1973: White Sox

Stone had a 6-11, 4.24 record for the 1973 White Sox, posting a weak 5.75 ERA in 14 relief appearances but a 3.85 ERA in 22 starts, about league average. In his final outing of the 1973 season, he pitched nine innings of 12-strikeout, three-hit ball against the World Champion 1973 Athletics, perhaps the best game of his career to that point. He finished 4th in the 1973 AL in strikeouts per 9 innings. He was then dealt across the city to the Chicago Cubs with Ken Frailing and Steve Swisher in exchange for Cubs legend Ron Santo.

[edit] 1974-76: Same city, other league

Stone was 8-6 with a 4.14 ERA for the 1974 Cubs. He tied for 9th in the 1974 NL with 19 homers allowed but was in impressive company, joining Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver and Steve Rogers. In 1975, the Ohioan moved up to a tie for third in the NL in gopher balls (24), even with Steve Carlton and Larry Dierker. Steve was 12-8 with a 3.95 ERA as the #2 man on the Cubs staff after Rick Reuschel.

Chicago asked Stone to take a pay cut for 1976 but he refused and told the team he would pursue free agency after the year. He had a 3-6, 4.08 record for the 1976 Cubs but tore the rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder early in the year, missing most of the season. The Cubs advised him to have an operation or at least cortisone injections but he opted against both requests from the club doctor. Going to another doctor at the University of Illinois, he underwent some odd experiments where his shoulder was frozen to try to increase the circulation to the area.

[edit] 1977-78: Boomerang

Five clubs offered Stone contracts after the year and he re-signed with his old mates across town, joining the 1977 White Sox for $60,000. He had a 15-12, 4.51 record, as his 91 ERA+ was the lowest since his rookie season though he set a new highwater mark in wins thanks to the #2 offense in the 1977 AL.

His salary jumped to $125,000 but Steve's ERA+ fell further in 1978 to 87 and he was 12-12 with a 4.37 ERA. In both of these two years, he was among the top ten in the American League in earned runs allowed.

[edit] 1979-1981: Baltimore: the brightest days

Stone became the first two-time free agent in 1979 and again had five offers. He inked a four-year, $760,000 deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Stone began the year 6-7 with a 4.40 ERA. Studying with Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan and developing patterns of music listening and meals, Stone started a whole series of changes. He began to place a toy elephant in his locker, met with a psychic and tried meditation and optimistic thought patterns. He read Sandy Koufax's autobiography five times, changed his uniform number from 21 to Koufax's old number, 32. Stone went 5-0 the rest of the year with a 2.94 ERA; his strikeout ratio improved and his hits per inning fell from 1.03 in the first half to .79 in the second half. His career record was now at 78-79. He did not pitch in the 1979 ALCS and threw two innings in the 1979 World Series, allowing two runs out of the bullpen in game four, Baltimore's last win of the series.

Stone decided to try for one big year in 1980, throwing more curveballs at the expense of his arm. He later said "I knew it would ruin my arm. But one year of 25-7 is worth five of 15-15." Throwing the curve ball over fifty percent of the time, he dazzled with a 3.23 ERA (123 ERA+) to go with his 25-7 mark. He led the 1980 AL in winning percentage and victories, was 7th in ERA, 9th in innings (250 2/3), tied for 7th with Jerry Koosman in strikeouts (149), the 7th-hardest to hit pitcher in the AL for the second consecutive season, second behind Jim Clancy in walks (101) and 10th in ERA+. At one point, he had won 14 games in a row. He made his only All-Star team (throwing three perfect innings in the 1980 All-Star Game), won The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award, won the Cy Young Award and was 9th in the league in MVP voting. The rest of the stellar rotation included Jim Palmer, a multiple Cy Young Award winner in the 1970's, Mike Flanagan, the 1979 Cy Young Award winner, and Scott McGregor, who twice finished as high as sixth in the Cy Young Award voting.

The heavy curveball diet took its toll and Stone struggled with tendonitis in 1981, going 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA and reaching the point where his career ended a year after his best season.

[edit] Post-playing career

In 1983, he joined WGN-TV as an analyst, alongside the legendary Harry Caray, a pairing that lasted 15 seasons until Caray's death in February 1998. Chip Caray replaced his grandfather alongside Stone that season, and they stayed together until 2004, with the exception of 2001-2002, when Stone stepped out of the booth for health-related reasons. He later called White Sox games for WSCR-AM (670) and moves to the TV side in 2009, where he will work alongside long-time Sox play-by-play announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson. Stone continues to contribute as the baseball expert for Chicago's WSCR-AM (670), making semi-regular appearances on several score programs.

He also has continued to play ping-pong regularly, has run restaurants in Chicago, IL and Scottsdale, AZ, plays chess and writes poetry.

[edit] Sources

The Big Book of Jewish Baseball by Peter Horvitz and Joachim Horvitz, 1970-72 Baseball Guides

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • AL All-Star (1980)
  • AL Cy Young Award Winner (1980)
  • AL Wins Leader (1980)
  • AL Winning Percentage Leader (1980)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 2 (1977 & 1980)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (1980)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1980)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 4 (1975, 1977, 1978 & 1980)


AL Cy Young Award
1979 1980 1981
Mike Flanagan Steve Stone Rollie Fingers

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