Remembering Dave McNally's Streak Without A LossPosted on July 11, 2013
By Phil Jackman
Each day in The Baltimore Sun, together with the baseball standings, the sports staff tacks on a little statistical fact to help enliven the endless numbers. Most readers probably skip right over it, preferring to move on to the box scores.
Not this guy. Players' names, the older the better, that's my preference.
Recently, the "Quick Hit" dealt with most games started by pitchers from the 30 different teams without a loss. There were a bunch of dynamite names in there: Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson, Rick Sutcliffe, Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden and Whitey Ford, plus, for you octogenarians, Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell and -- to test your memory -- Kirby Higbe.
Lo and behold, the pitcher leading the list of standouts was former Oriole Dave McNally. McNally started 29 straight games at the end of the 1968 season and the beginning of the 1969 campaign without recording a loss.
Oh no, here we go again harkening back to the good old days when pitching was a pleasure to watch here in Baltimore and throughout baseball. To any charge you may bring, I plead guilty with the excuse that it's just so much fun to think about and expound.
Tell you what McNally was like in those days -- worried. After the World Series-winning season of 1966, the left-handed McNally was only 7-7 in '67, when the Birds were amiss. He had a sore left elbow, and Jim Palmer wasn't even around, trying to recover from a bum shoulder in the minor leagues.
Things weren't much better for McNally up until the All-Star break in 1968, when he was 8-8. Then he took off. By the end of the season, his record was 22-10, and during that stretch, he won a dozen games in a row. I remember Andy Etchebarren saying one day, "I don't care who you name, Mac has had better control with all his pitches than anyone else in the history of the game."
You want numbers? McNally pitched 273 innings to an earned run average of 1.95 with 18 complete games and five shutouts.
Thing is, he improved on that come the 1969 season. He set a record for most wins at the start of a season -- 15 -- and that streak didn't end until his loss on Aug. 3, 1969. Imagine, four months -- April, May, June and July -- without a loss.
I heard someone ask McNally to describe that fateful day, a Sunday afternoon at the old ballpark in Bloomington, Minn., and he started out detailing how first baseman Rich Reese was sent up to pinch hit with the bases loaded.
"He ended up hitting sort of a fly ball the opposite way and ..." At this point, McNally was told to tell where the ball ended up. "Uh, a few rows deep in the center field bleachers," he admitted sheepishly.
Regardless, McNally, despite a sometimes-sore elbow, ended up with a 20-7 record that season, pitching 268.2 innings to a 3.22 ERA. With Palmer then back in Baltimore and going 16-4 and Mike Cuellar going 23-11, that Orioles team ended up winning 109 games with a staff ERA of 2.83 and 50 complete games. Eddie Watt and Pete Richert, out of the bullpen, ended up saving 16 and 12 games, respectively, under a more restrictive set of rules for gaining saves during those days.
The Birds had three 20-game winners in 1970 and four in 1971, and after McNally was traded to Montreal, Cueller and Palmer wracked up 20s as a matter of course. It's a tad embarrassing to realize the O's have not had a 20-game winner since 1984 (Mike Boddicker).
Oh well, it was fun thinking about it, considering we probably won't have multiple 20-game winners to think about for at least a generation or so.
Quickies: What do you think New York Jets coach Rex Ryan had in mind running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain? Yeah, he lost a lot of weight, but Ryan, a former Ravens defensive coordinator, is 50 years old.
In case you were wondering what golfer John Daly is up to these days, he's hawking golf balls (Polara XD) that supposedly get rid of at least 50 percent of the slice besetting most golfers. Actually, those wild shots into the water and woods make golf fun.
It's funny listening to Orioles manager Buck Showalter talking about his starting pitchers getting a little extra rest. Considering the way things are going, a little less rest would seem to be in order.
Something else Showalter says on occasion may mystify some readers. When he says, "There were some balls that found some places that you can't defend," what he meant was, "Row 15 in the left-field grandstand."
Posted July 11, 2013