Thomas Earl Dukes
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 185 lb.
- School University of Tennessee
- Debut August 15, 1967
- Final Game September 20, 1972
- Born August 31, 1942 in Knoxville, TN USA
Tom Dukes appeared in 161 major league games, all as a reliever, in a six-year period. He had been pitching in the minors as a starter until partway through 1966 when he was converted into a reliever. By the summer of 1967 he was up in the majors with the Houston Astros.
Dukes began in the minors at age 17 with the St. Petersburg Saints, going 0-7, but stuck anyway and over the next several years his ERA dropped each year. In 1966, starting most of his games in half a season with the Austin Braves, he sported a 2.70 ERA but his future was as a reliever and in 1967 with the Oklahoma City 89ers his ERA as a reliever was 2.45.
A bit later, in 1969 with the Elmira Pioneers, he had 14 saves with an ERA of 2.67.
In the majors, he made his debut with the Astros in 1967. He was 24 while the team's average age was 25.9. Teammates Joe Morgan and Rusty Staub were both 23. Dukes had 23 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings, the best strikeout/inning percentage on the team. He pitched 43 games in relief for the Astros in 1968, going 2-2 with a 4.27 ERA and 4 saves. On April 15th, the Astros played a 24-inning game. Due to an injury to Mike Cuellar, Dukes had been called up and spent the day driving from Tennessee (where his team was playing) to Dallas, TX. Hearing that the game was going on forever, he kept driving to Houston but hadn't quite reached the Astrodome when the game finally ended. Source: A Long Goodnight
In 1969 Dukes moved to the San Diego Padres, after having been picked in the expansion draft. He was the same age as teammate Walt Hriniak, who would later become a well-known hitting coach. He was rocked in one early-season appearance, was sent down to AA for the bulk of the season, and did not return to the big leagues until September. In all, he made 13 appearances with a bloated 7.25 ERA. In 1970, however, he pitched well out of the Padres' bullpen, going 1-6, but with a 4.04 ERA and 10 saves for the last-place team.
1971 found him with the Baltimore Orioles, a team which won 101 games. He had been traded along with starting pitcher Pat Dobson in return for four players. He was three years older than teammate Jim Palmer. He 28 appearances with a record of 1-5, 3.52. The Orioles did not need much work out of their relievers that year, as they famously had four twenty-game winners in their starting rotation in Palmer, Dobson, Dave McNally and Cuellar, who had also moved to Baltimore in the meantime. The team reached the 1971 World Series after sweeping the Oakland Athletics in the 1971 ALCS, where the Orioles met the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dukes pitched twice, in Games 3 and 5, giving up no runs in 4 innings as the O's lost both contests, on their way to losing the Series in seven games.
His last major league season was with the California Angels in 1972, for whom he had a 1.64 ERA in seven games after arriving in a trade for Frank Estrada on May 29th. He was four years older than teammate Nolan Ryan, who had a 2.28 ERA. He spent some time in the minors with the Rochester Red Wings and Salt Lake City Angels in between his stints in the big leagues that season, pitching 14 games with a 2.57 ERA.
The book Baseball: An Illustrated History mentions that at one point in the 1960s Dukes pitched in nine straight games in the majors.
The website of the Lancaster Jethawks indicates that Dukes, while with the Columbus Confederate Yankees in 1964, set the record (since tied several times) of five strikeouts in one inning in the minors.
For those fans of the song "Duke of Earl", it's amusing that Dukes' middle name is "Earl".