Wednesday, September 16, 2009

#214 Bob Purkey

#214 Bob Purkey
Reason #578 that I'm glad Chris Berman wasn't on the air in the 1960s: Bob "Purkey in the Straw". You read it. You can't un-read it.

Fun facts about Bob Purkey:

-Signed with his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 1948.

-Known for his knuckleball, he was apparently a quick study: he claimed that Branch Rickey spent ten minutes teaching him the pitch, and that he subsequently went out and threw it 96 times in a game that same day.

-Debuted for the Pirates in 1954 and struggled on a series of subpar teams in the Steel City, going 16-29 with a 4.52 ERA in parts of four seasons while splitting time between starting and relieving.

-Traded to Cincinnati in December of 1957, Bob broke out in his first season with his new team, sporting a 17-11 record and 3.60 ERA. He completed 17 of his starts and made his first All-Star team.

-After struggling in 1959, he rebounded with a 1960 season that was uncanny in its similarity to his 1958 effort: again he was 17-11 with a 3.60 ERA, though he completed only 11 games that time.

-Won 16 games in 1961 for the National League Champion Reds with a 3.79 ERA. He pitched in both All-Star Games that summer, allowing one run in four innings and striking out three.

-Took a hard luck loss in the 1961 World Series, going the distance in a 3-2 Yankees victory in Game Three. He allowed single runs in each of the last three innings, including a Roger Maris home run to lead off the ninth that proved to be the difference. Also allowed two unearned runs in two innings of relief in the deciding Game Five.

-Had a monster year in 1962, achieving career highs in every category, including wins (23-5, an NL-best .821 percentage), ERA (2.81), complete games (18), strikeouts (141), and WHIP (1.12). Became a three-time All Star and a third-place finisher in Cy Young balloting behind landslide winner Don Drysdale (25-9, 2.83, 232 K).

-Pitched well in the following two seasons (3.25 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) but without the results (17-19), then was traded to St. Louis and slumped to a 5.79 ERA in 1965. Finished his career back in Pittsburgh the next year, allowing only three runs in 19 and two-thirds innings before being released. In parts of thirteen seasons, Purkey went 129-115 with a 3.79 ERA and 92 complete games.

-In life after baseball, Bob worked as a sportscaster for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and went on to run his own insurance company for three decades. He passed away in March 2008 at age 78 after suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.
#214 Bob Purkey (back)


  1. He had a good solid career. It took him quite a while to develop. That 1962 season looked particularly good.

  2. Matt - Knuckleballers tend to age like a fine wine.

  3. I was fortunate enough to get Bob Purkey's autograph a few years ago, through a chance meeting with his brother, Don. Don told some nice stories about getting to take big-league outfield practice as a teenager, thanks to big brother Bob.

  4. I really like Bob's expression on this one. Purkey indeed! Here are some more: