Wednesday, March 5, 2014

TOPPS 1976 "ALL-TIME ALL-STARS"- AN EXPANDED VIEW #10: LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS

Next up on my "All-Time All-Stars" thread are the lefty pitchers on the team, and when you're nickname is "Lefty" and you win 300 games, you can see why the Sporting News picked Robert "Lefty" Grove as their all-time left-handed pitcher back in 1976 in honor of Major League baseball's 100th season.
Now for the National league, I went ahead and picked one of my all-time favorite players: Warren Spahn.
Take a look at the cards, Grove's as issued by Topps for the 1976 set, and Spahn, which I designed myself:



Starting off with Lefty Grove, we can see why it was so easy to pick him as the all-time lefty.
Starting out at the age of 25 because his Minor League team refused to sell him earlier in his career, all Grove did was go on to win 300 games against only 141 losses, good for the best winning percentage among all 300-game winner at .680.
He won nine E.R.A. titles, four games won titles, and seven strikeout titles in his 17 year career.
In 1931 he won the first BBWA American league M.V.P. award when he went 31-4 with a 2.06 E.R.A. and 175 strikeouts, all league leading numbers. That would also be his second straight pitching triple-crown, as he lead the league in the same categories in 1930 as well.
His .886 winning percentage that year is second all-time among 20+ game winning seasons, behind Ron Guidry's .893 winning percentage when he went 25-3 in 1978.
How about this for a cool performance: in 1930, as Grove went 28-5 with a 2.54 E.R.A. and 209 strikeouts for his first pitching triple-crown, he also lead the league in saves with nine.
By the time Grove retired after the 1941 season playing for the Red Sox, he was a sure fire Hall of Famer, and was inducted his first year of eligibility in 1947, getting named on 123 of 161 ballots cast.
But also take into account those "lost" years pitching for the Baltimore Orioles Minor League franchise in the early 1920's, when the team owner refused to sell him to a Major League franchise. Those were some of the all-time best Minor League clubs, and all Grove did in his five years there was go 111-39! That's a .740 winning percentage. Imagine some of those wins tacked on to his Major League totals. Just awesome.
As for my National League pick, I've already gone and described at length the insanity of Warren Spahn's incredible career.
Here's another guy who didn't get started in the Majors until he was in his mid-20's, 25 to be exact after military service took three full seasons from him, and he STILL went on to have 13 20-win seasons, pitch for 21 years, and win an incredible 363 games before he was said and done!
Spahn was amazing. Between 1947 and 1963, that's 17 seasons, he won 20+ games 13 times! Can you imagine that type of consistency?
In that time he won the second Cy Young Award in 1957 as he lead the Milwaukee Braves to their only World Championship over the Yankees, lead the league in wins eight times, E.R.A. three times, and strikeouts four times.
It's easy to see how if not for the outbreak of World War II, we'd be looking at a 400+ game winner, perhaps only behind Cy Young himself in career wins!
In 1973 he was inducted in the Hall of Fame as well, his rightful place among the legends of the sport.
Two fantastic pitchers who threw from the "South-Side".
That wraps up the position players on the All-Time team. But I have one last entry in this thread: All-Time Managers, something I wish Topps put out with this sub-set back in '76.
Keep an eye out for it next week.


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