Tony Ponce

From BR Bullpen

Anthony Martinez Ponce
(Iron Man)

BR Minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Tony Ponce had a long minor league career including several seasons in AAA, but never pitched in the major leagues. He is first listed with the Anaheim Aces of the California League in 1941, for just 4 games, but then did not reappear in the U.S. minor leagues in 1948 for the first of five consecutive seasons with the Phoenix Senators of the Arizona-Texas League and Southwest International League. In the interim, he had spent two years serving in the military during World War II, then pitched in the Mexican Pacific League and in the Sonora State League with Hermosillo until 1947. He had a cup of coffee with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League early in the 1948 season, going 0-1, before joining Phoenix.

With Phoenix, he won in double figures every year, with a very positive record each season. In chronological order, he went 15-10, 22-6, 18-11, 25-16 and 19-12 between 1948 and 1952. In 1951, the year he won 25 games, he pitched 38 consecutive complete games, a feat so rare that it made the papers around the country when he recorded his final win of the season over the Yuma Panthers on September 2nd. Indeed, that accounted for every one of his starts that year, setting what was believed to be a minor league record, and he also pitched 8 times in relief, for a total of 352 innings (there were likely a number of seven-inning doubleheaders, in addition to eight-inning losses during the streak). After he established the supposed record, journalists began digging in old records and found evidence that in 1906, Glenn Liebhardt had managed to complete 40 straight starts on his way to completing 45 of 46 starts, but that did not make Ponce's season any less remarkable. The feat earned him the nickname "Iron Man". In 1953, he moved back to the California League more than a decade since he had first pitched there, going 15-20 for the last-place Ventura Oilers. He also got his first real shot at the PCL that season, being brought up at the end of August, and made the best of it, going 8-0, 1.31 in 10 games with the San Francisco Seals. The 7 wins were recorded in a span of just 17 days, including sweeping both ends of a doubleheader on the season's final day on September 13th, earning him more press coverage.

He was with San Francisco for a full season in both 1954 and 1955, going 14-16 and 10-12 respectively. He was already 33 the second year, a result of his late start, so he was not going to take the last step to the majors, but the PCL in those pre-expansion years was not far from big league caliber anyway. In 1956, he went 1-1, 2.93 in 15 games for the Miami Marlins of the International League and 9-7, 4.46 for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association, followed by a year of going 12-13, 4.55 for the Indianapolis Indians, also in the American Association. His final season, 1958 did not go so well as he was a combined 4-15 between four teams: a brief stint of 2 games with Indianapolis, 18 games in the Southern League split between the Chattanooga Lookouts and the New Orleans Pelicans, and 15 games in the Arizona-Mexico League with the Mexicali Aguilas. That was the successor of the circuit in which he had had so much success a decade earlier, but at 36, he was just 3-10, 5.91 and retired at the end of that season, although he continued to play semi-pro baseball after that.

He was known as a very fast worker and credited his knuckleball for his ability to pitch so many innings in a limited span of time.

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