Year Inducted: 1972 (BBWAA ballot #4, 301/396)
When Randy Johnson won his 300th game in 2009, there was a lot of speculation about him being the last pitcher to achieve that milestone. The advent of relievers and 5-man rotations made a lot of baseball pundits hypothesize that it just wasn’t an achievable feat anymore. The interesting part is that no one really talked about how this sentiment isn’t new. When Gaylord Perry won his 300th game in 1982, he was actually the first player to do so in nearly two decades. Prior to Perry, the last one to achieve the milestone was Early Wynn.
Wynn was a hard throwing right hander who won exactly 300 games in a 23-year career. He posted an ERA of 3.54 in that time-frame and collected over 2300 strikeouts and nearly 1800 walks through more than 4500 innings. An imposing figure on the mound, Wynn stood 6’0″ and weighed about 200 pounds at a time when athletes were much more slender and shorter than he was. He used that imposing figure to intimidate batters, doing his best to control the inside of the plate with brush back pitches and chin music, especially if a batter hit a hard line drive back up the middle towards the mound. Wynn, a typical ballplayer of the 1940s and 1950s, was cordial and inviting in the clubhouse, but between the lines was one of the fiercest competitors in the league. One time, during batting practice at Yankee Stadium, he was facing his teenage son and brushed him back since he was crowding the plate.
That spark of toughness helped carry Wynn through a difficult career arc. Around 1950 Wynn developed gout which caused him a lot of pain that stuck with him throughout the rest of his career. Wynn worked hard to keep in shape, and upon joining Cleveland in 1949, developed a sharp curve ball and slider to help him offset his fastball, eventually adding a knuckle ball to the mix. While with Cleveland, Wynn helped form one of the toughest rotations of all-time. He teamed with future Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Bob Lemon to guide the Indians to the AL Pennant in 1954, a season that saw all three of them win 20 games.
Unfortunately, Wynn’s win total isn’t enough to make him rank very highly. Similarly to Tom Glavine, Wynn was a pitcher who was above average (ERA- of 94 and FIP- of 97) for a long time, throwing a lot of innings on some good teams helping him win a lot of games. The reason why it took him 23 years to achieve 300 wins was because he wasn’t a great pitcher, only a good one. He was inducted on his fourth ballot, something he was upset about. Wynn called it the “Hall of Shame” upon not being voted in on first ballot, a very bitter remark for someone who was very well respected in the game.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 8/12/16 the original Ironman. Well before Ripken and Gehrig.