"Sudden" Sam McDowell; A True Indians Hero from Days Gone By
With Major League Baseball in limbo with the coronavirus, we decided to take a look into the past of the Cleveland Indians, looking at the players who got us started in loving the game of baseball.
As a left-handed kid growing up in the 1960's, our first Tribe hero was the hard, throwing southpaw "Sudden" Sam McDowell.
McDowell made his Major League debut as an 18-year-old (he would be 19 in a few days) in 1962, throwing 6-1/3 scoreless innings against the Minnesota Twins, whose lineup included future Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew (0 for 2, 3 walks) and future manager Billy Martin.
He didn't come up to stay though until 1964, when he made 24 starts for the Indians, going 11-6 with a 2.77 ERA. He struck out 177 hitters in 173 innings, but also walked 100 at age 21.
His first big season, (and the first year we can recall) came the following season, in 1965. The lefty went 17-11 and led the AL in ERA at 2.18, and also led the league in strikeouts with 325 and in walks with 132.
For today's stat conscious people, Sudden Sam also led the Junior Circuit in ERA+, FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), hits per 9 innings, and home runs per 9 innings.
He made his first All Star team, the first of six he would make with the Indians.
You have to remember, at this point, the Indians were just six years from their last year of contention (1959) and 11 seasons from their last World Series appearance (1954) and 17 years from their last World Series title in 1948.
McDowell was the first star of what was supposed to be the next wave of great pitching put together by the Cleveland front office. Baseball folks have said the 1964 Portland Beavers' pitching staff, the Tribe's then AAA affiliate, might have been the greatest minor league staff of all time.
It featured McDowell (early in the season), Luis Tiant (229 MLB wins), Tommy John (288), Sonny Siebert (140), and another hard thrower in Steve Hargan, who stayed in the bigs until 1977.
One could only imagined what it might have been like back then if a player like "Sudden " Sam would have reached free agency.
Then again maybe that's the beauty of it -back then you never worried about losing your favorite player on your favorite team.
A lot more simpler - but in a lot of ways a lot more better.