Denny McLain

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Dennis Dale McLain

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Biographical Information[edit]

A chunky righthander who flew airplanes and sometimes played the organ during Detroit Tigers games, Denny McLain was arguably the American League's best pitcher from 1965 to 1969. He went 31-6 in 1968 and followed up with 24-9 record the next year (1969). A fierce competitor, McLain is the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season — 32 including a World Series victory. While doing so, he compiled 28 complete games, and a 1.96 ERA despite logging an incredible 336 innings pitched. Though detractors point out that his career ERA+ doesn't come close to making the top 100 all-time season list, some of this can be attributed to the fact that he pitched every fourth day, deep into games, and had a sore arm throughout much of his ML career.

He was originally signed by the Chicago White Sox organization in 1962, and they added him to the 40 man roster at the end of the season to protect him from the 1st year draft. Bruce Howard and Robert Gordon were the other 2 first year players added to the 40 man roster at the same time. The next April the White Sox were forced to place him on irrevocable waivers if they wanted to farm him out, and the Tigers claimed him.

Coincidentally, McLain's first major league start in September of 1963 was against the White Sox, and McLain not only got the win, but picked two men off base and hit an opposite field home run, the only one of his career.

He pitched 28 complete games in 1968 and 23 more in 1969 — with over 300 innings pitched in each of those two seasons. Beset with chronic arm problems from constant over-use, this controversial pitcher was worn out and out of baseball at the tender age of 28. He later spent time in the Intercounty Baseball League after his time in the majors.

McLain's brother Tim McLain pitched in the Chicago White Sox organization, and his father-in-law is Lou Boudreau and his brother-in-law Jim Boudreau. His wife was previously married to Cubs infielder Ken Hubbs, who died in a tragic plane crash.

McLain had numerous personal problems after leaving baseball and has been in prison twice, under charges of fraud and embezzlement. In April of 2008, he went to jail again after missing a court appearance about a foreclosure and eviction case.

As a player, former teammate Willie Horton once paid McLain the ultimate compliment, by saying: "Denny McLain was a great competitor and great teammate, and a man I'd gladly go to war with any day."

His first baseball card appearance was in the 1965 Topps set.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time AL All-Star (1966, 1968 & 1969)
  • AL MVP (1968)
  • 2-time AL Cy Young Award Winner (1968 & 1969)
  • 2-time AL Wins Leader (1968 & 1969)
  • AL Winning Percentage Leader (1968)
  • 2-time AL Innings Pitched Leader (1968 & 1969)
  • AL Complete Games Leader (1968)
  • AL Shutouts Leader (1969)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 5 (1965-1969)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 3 (1966, 1968 & 1969)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1968)
  • 30 Wins Seasons: 1 (1968)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 6 (1965-1969 & 1971)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1968 & 1969)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (1968)
  • Won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 1968

1967 1968 1969
Carl Yastrzemski Denny McLain Harmon Killebrew

AL Cy Young Award
1967 1968 1969
Jim Lonborg Denny McLain Mike Cuellar & Denny McLain
1968 1969 1970
Denny McLain Denny McLain & Mike Cuellar Jim Perry

Famous Last[edit]

Last pitcher to win 30 games in a season (1968)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mark Armour: "Denny McLain", in Chip Greene, ed.: Mustaches and Mayhem, Charlie O's Three-Time Champions: The Oakland Athletics 1972-74, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 269-274. ISBN 978-1-943816-07-1
  • Thomas Boswell: "All of Us Bear the Marks of the Lash", in How Life Imitates the World Series, Penguin Books, New York, 1982, pp. 106-108.
  • Denny McLain and Eli Zaret: I Told You I Wasn't Perfect, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2007.
  • Sridhar Pappu: The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball's Golden Age, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2017. ISBN 978-0-5477-1927-6

Related Sites[edit]