Tuesday, December 07, 2010

#480 Joel Horlen

#480 Joel Horlen
Is it just me, or does Joel Horlen look like Orel Hershiser in this photo? A little less nerdy, maybe.

Fun facts about Joel Horlen:

-A native of San Antonio, TX, Joel was a second-team All-American at Oklahoma State University, where he led the Cowboys to the College World Series in 1959 before signing with the White Sox.

-He earned the win in his big league debut (September 4, 1961) with four innings of shutout relief against the Twins. In the game, he wore a jersey with no number on the back, as it was the only spare road top available!

-Staked a claim to Chicago's starting rotation with an 11-7 record and a 3.27 ERA in 1963.

-Horlen took a leap forward in 1964, leading the American League with an 0.93 WHIP and 6.1 hits allowed per 9 innings. His 1.88 ERA trailed only Dean Chance of the Angels, yet he had only a 13-9 record to show for his efforts as the Pale Hose bats produced only 2.84 runs per start for him.

-Low earned run averages and disappointing win-loss records were the theme from 1964-1968. In that five-year span, Joel had a miniscule mark of 2.32 and a WHIP of 1.06 but his record was an underwhelming 67-56.

-His standout season was 1967, when he got a bit more support and started 8-0 en route to a 19-7 record and league-leading marks in ERA (2.06), shutouts (6), and WHIP (0.95). He made his only All-Star team but finished a distant second in Cy Young voting to Jim Lonborg, whose 22-9 record and 246 strikeouts for the pennant-winning Red Sox obscured an inferior 3.16 ERA.

-Also of note that year was Joel's September 10, 1967 no-hitter against the Tigers. Only a third-inning walk of Bill Freehan and a fifth-inning error by Ken Boyer kept him from perfection.

-Though he lost some effectiveness as the 1970s dawned, it is worth noting that the White Sox did not release him until the spring of 1972, two weeks after the players had voted unanimously for a labor strike. Horlen had been the team's representative in the players' union.

-He finished his major league career with a 3.00 ERA in 32 games (26 in relief) for the 1972 World Champion Athletics. He spent a brief stint with Cleveland's AA team in his hometown of San Antonio the following year. In parts of 12 big league seasons, Joel was 116-117 with a 3.11 ERA.

-He's spent years coaching and scouting for the Giants organization, and is an avid golfer. He also briefly returned to the mound at age 52 with the St. Lucie Legends of the Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1989. There is an extensive interview with Horlen at White Sox Interactive.
#480 Joel Horlen (back)


  1. You pointed out the two things that I remember best about Joel Horlen.... he never got much support from those lame hitting White Sox teams and he was a better pitcher than Jim Lonborg in 1967. Hard to fight the hype storm that was the Red Sox that year though.

  2. Now that you mention it... yeah, I see the Hershiser.

    Joel Horlen and his teammate Gary Peters are the best sixties pitchers that hardly anyone remembers, which is a terrible injustice.

  3. Bob - Some sources even referred to Horlen by the nickname "Hard Luck"!

    Steve - I wrote up Gary Peters recently as well, and was surprised by how good his numbers were. Definitely an unsung hero.

  4. IN those days, being a player rep, if you took it seriously, was pretty much a guarantee of no job security unless you were really good. People complain about the players making too much and so forth these days, but the owners had unlimited power and abused the players before free agency.

  5. Marc - Absolutely true. Which makes it an absolute disgrace that Marvin Miller hasn't been enshrined in the Hall of Fame.