Sunday, March 16, 2014

HALL OF FAME LEADERS XV: 1976 A.L. E.R.A. LEADERS

Today we move ahead to 1976 in our chronological look at 1970's League Leader cards that feature solely future Hall of Famers.
The only card in the 1976 Topps set to feature such a group is the American League E.R.A. card (#202), featuring to established veterans at the time, and one young stud who'd make a change in career path, and walking that path straight to Cooperstown: Jim Palmer, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, and Dennis Eckersley.
Take a look:


Palmer, who lead the league with a sterling 2.09 E.R.A., would win his second of three Cy Young awards in 1975, leading the league not only in earned run average but wins, with 23, and shutouts, with 10 (the only pitcher to reach double-digits in the decade).
It was also the fifth time Palmer would top 20-wins in his career, something he'd go on to do eight times!
Hunter, in his first season pitching for the Yankees after a highly publicized free agent courtship, did not disappoint the Bronx fans, as he tied Palmer for the league lead in wins with 23, as well as a second place finish in E.R.A. at 2.58, to go along with an amazing 30 complete games (out of 39 starts) and seven shutouts. 
That performance would get him a second place finish in Cy Young voting, a year after he won the award while in Oakland in 1974.
For Dennis Eckersley, 1975 was an excellent rookie campaign, as he posted a 13-7 record to along with his third-place 2.60 earned run average in 24 starts.
But sadly for him, this was the year a couple of Boston Red Sox rookies (Fred Lynn and Jim Rice) made a splash, leaving "Eck" out in the cold when it came time for "Rookie of the Year" consideration.
Nevertheless, Eckersley would stick around the Majors for another 23 years, switching over to a relief role after an effective 12 years as a starter, and redefining the relief pitcher role while pitching for the Oakland A's and Tony LaRussa, eventually getting him a Hall of Fame induction in 2004.
He narrowly missed being the only player ever to both win and save 200+ games in a career, finishing with 197 wins and 390 saves.
I do remember a moment back in 1987, when he was called in to relieve a starter against the Yankees, and I thought, "Huh, he's a reliever now?", thinking his career was pretty much done.
Little did I know…
Not a bad trio of future Hall members here.
Next up we move to the 1977 set and a couple of guys we've seen before: Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver.

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