Tuesday, January 26, 2010

22 Days Until Spring Training: Allie Reynolds

Like the player we chose for #23 of this countdown, Allie Reynolds occupies a place in Yankee lore just outside the inner circle of legendary greats. His career wasn't long enough to get him elected to him in the Hall of Fame although he only missed being appointed by the Veterans Committee by one vote in 2009. Coincidentally, the only player who did make it in on that ballot that year was Joe Gordon, the player who Reynolds was brought to the Yankees in exchange for in 1947.

Reynolds was one of the rare ballplayers who went to college back in his time and it was mostly because he had never played much baseball before that and had no aspirations to do so professionally. A quarter-part Creek Indian from Bethany, Oklahoma, Reynolds was recruited by Oklahoma A&M (today Oklahoma State) for football and track but according to legend, he was asked to throw batting practice to the team and struck out the first four hitters he faced and never looked back.

Somewhat fittingly, the Superchief came up through the Indians organization. After three odd years in the minors, Reynolds made his major league debut in September of 1942. He spend four years pitching for the Indians - both starting and relieving - before being dealt to the Yankees. He was widely considered one of the hardest throwers in the league, close behind his teammate Bob Feller but Allie lacked the control to go along with his velocity. He averaged five walks and five strikeouts per nine innings in Cleveland but the Yankees decided to take a shot on the flamethrower and his 3.31 ERA.

Reynolds' first season in New York was 1947 and he had the best year of any Yankee pitcher, going 19-8 with a 3.20 ERA in 241 innings (including to two saves in four relief appearances). He was primarily a starting pitcher but over his 12 full seasons in the Majors, he appeared in relief 123 times. Casey Stengel was purported to have the habit of holding Reynolds back to pitch against tougher opponents, making him a tremendously valuable asset to the team.

That year, the Yankees won the World Series that year against the Dodgers with Reynolds contributing a complete game victory in Game 2.

The Yanks finished third in the American league in 1948 but the next year, Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat won 53 games between them and the Yankees again won the World Series against the Dodgers, their first of five consecutive Championships. Reynolds didn't allow a run in 12.1 innings in the Fall Classic collecting another complete game World Series victory in a 1-0 contest in Game 1 against Brooklyn. He also protected a two run lead for 3.1 innings in Game 4, earning him a save to go along with his victory.

In 1951, he pitched two no-hitters, one against the Red Sox to clinch the American League pennant. Retrosheet doesn't go back this far, but again according to legend, Reynolds needed to retire Ted Williams for the final out of that game and got him to pop out behind the plate - but Yogi Berra dropped the ball. Reynolds then got Williams to pop to the same spot, thereby completing the no-hitter.

By far the best regular season of his career came in 1952 when he compiled a 2.06 ERA in 244 innings and won 20 games. The 1952 World Series was the crowning jewel to his fine season. Reynolds appeared in four of the seven games in the series, starting Game 1 and 4, the latter a complete game shutout on two days rest. He got a four out save in Game 6 and the win by virtue of three one run relief innings in Game 7.

In the final two years of his career the Supercheif had more and more of his innings transitioned into the bullpen. He served as the Yanks' primary closer in '53, picking up 13 saves. He reliquished that role to Johnny Sain in 1954 and retired after the Yanks won 103 games but finished 3rd in the American League that year.

It took until 1989 for it to happen but Reynolds has a plaque dedicated to him in Monument Park, although his number isn't retired by the Yankees.

Unlike Mattingly, he was probably under appreciated in his time. He wasn't a product of the farm system and the fact that he went to college deprived him of a longer career, but I'm sure most players would swap spots with ol' Allie given that he won 6 Championships and played alongside Whitey Ford, Vic Raschi, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Moose Skowron, Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, Enos Slaughter, Bob Feller and Lou Boudreau.

1 comment:

  1. When my dear departed Dad would tell me stories about the Ol' Perfesser's teams, he would always start with the pitching staff. He loved Lopat, Raschi, and especially the Superchief, and he loved the way Casey would mix and match them in appropriate situations.