Friday, January 28, 2011

#598 Al Downing

#598 Al Downing
Although this is the last card in the set, it is not by a long shot the last card that I have to post. However, it is the last card in the oversized donation made to me by Jamie Whyte. It's taken me months to write up all of the cards that he sent, but it was well worth it. Thanks again, Jamie!

Fun facts about Al Downing:

-A native of Trenton, NJ, Al briefly attended Rider University before signing with the Yankees in 1961.

-In his first pro season, he blew away the competition in Class A Binghamton (9-1, 1.84 ERA) to earn a brief trial in the majors at age 20.

-Arrived in the Bronx on a regular basis in 1963, when he went 13-5 with a 2.56 ERA in 24 games (22 starts). Completed 10 starts, tossed four shutouts, and led the American League with 8.8 strikeouts per 9 innings and only 5.8 hits allowed per 9 innings.

-His greatest performance may have been in the first game of a twinbill on August 25, 1963. He retired the first 20 White Sox batters in order before Tony Kubek booted a Dave Nicholson grounder. Jim Lemon followed with a walk before Downing wriggled out of the threat. The no-hit bid ended with a Ron Hansen single to lead off the eighth, but the Pale Hose couldn't mount any real offense. The Yankee pitcher ended the day with a shutout on two hits, one walk, and 13 strikeouts.

-Al had a second straight 13-win season in 1964 and paced the A.L. with 217 strikeouts. Unfortunately, his 120 walks were also the most in the junior circuit.

-Earned his only All-Star berth in 1967, when he went 14-10 with a 2.63 ERA. Injuries the following season pushed him out of the Yankee rotation.

-After posting a 5-13 record with a 3.52 ERA for the Athletics and the dreadful Brewers in 1970, Downing was named National League Comeback Player of the Year in 1971. That year he was the Dodgers' ace with a 20-9 record and a 2.68 ERA along with a league-high 5 shutouts. He finished third behind the great Fergie Jenkins and Tom Seaver in Cy Young voting.

-Most latter-day fans know Al as the answer to the trivia question "Who allowed Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run?". The pitcher once quipped that if anyone ever asked him the time, he would say "quarter after seven" rather than "seven-fifteen".

-Though he was effective for most of his seven years in Los Angeles, his innings count gradually dwindled and he won only 26 games in total after his outstanding 1971 campaign. In parts of 17 seasons, he was 123-107 with a 3.22 ERA (106 ERA+).

-Downing has also worked in broadcasting, primarily with the Dodgers.
#598 Al Downing (back)


  1. Great card! Quite jealous... I love that 7:15 comment from Downing, too...

  2. I know that these days other fancy stats have seem to have overshadowed ERA but look at Downing career numbers. Throw out those first and last cups of coffee and he was only twice at 3.80 or higher.

  3. Downing's career is very interesting. I can't think of many pitcher that win 20 after going 5-13 in 1970 (although his ERA that year was pretty good). Kudos for the Dodgers for giving him a spot in the rotation.

    I didn't have this card but I did have the AL strikeout leader card.

  4. Troll - That's such a good line, I hope he really said it.

    Bob - There's still a lot to be learned from ERA, certainly much more than wins.

    Anon - Yep, he didn't miraculously become a better pitcher in 1971. He just had more support.

  5. I was a kid of 11 or 12 years old when Al pitched for Yankees triple A club in Richmond. I was a park rat who lived near the field and at most games. I had a twin brother and many times Al would give Tommy and I bats an/or balls after games. I remember it well.

    He was a very nice guy.