Saturday, January 17, 2009

#467 Ray Washburn

Ray Washburn by you.
I haven't really discussed it yet, but there's something charming about the familiar shortening of "Cards" on the 1965 Topps set. This isn't the only year that the nickname appears on Topps cards, but it is the first; they would be the "Cards" from 1965 through 1971. It looks much cleaner on the pennant design than a smashed-up "Cardinals" would have.

A righty from Pasco, Washington, Ray Washburn played collegiately at Whitworth College before signing with St. Louis for a $50,000 bonus in 1960. He made his debut with the club late the next year after winning 16 games at Charleston. In his official rookie year of 1962, he pitched well, going 12-9 with a 4.10 ERA that was actually lower than the league average. Ray got off to an excellent start in 1963, compiling a 3.08 ERA before a torn shoulder muscle ended his season in June. He wouldn't be fully healthy for two more years afterward, missing out on the Cardinals' 1964 World Series triumph and posting a 9-11 record and a 3.62 ERA as a swingman the following year.

Washburn finally put together strong back-to-back seasons in 1966 and 1967, going 11-9 with a 3.76 ERA and 10-7 with a 3.53 ERA. He still had his share of hard luck, missing a month in the latter season with a broken thumb, courtesy of a line drive up the middle by Johnny Roseboro. All is well that ends well, however. Ray finally got a taste of World Series action, making two scoreless relief appearances in the Cards' seven-game victory over the Red Sox. There would be a return trip to the Fall Classic in 1968, thanks in part to the righty's career year: 14-8, 8 complete games, a 2.26 ERA (eighth-best in the N.L.), and a 1.10 WHIP. The cherry on top was a 2-0, no-hit victory over the Giants on September 18. It came just one day after Gaylord Perry no-hit Bob Gibson and the Cardinals, marking the first time in major league history that back-to-back no-hitters were pitched in the same series. In the World Series, Ray beat the Tigers in Game Three but was routed in Game Six, and St. Louis fell in seven.

Ray spent much of the second half of 1969 in the bullpen, and his record was a hard-luck 3-8 when you consider his 3.06 ERA. Nevertheless, the Redbirds set him loose the next year, trading him to Cincinnati for George Culver. Incidentally, Culver had also no-hit the Giants in 1968 - three days before Washburn equaled the feat! Ray had a brutal time of it with the Reds, giving up nearly seven runs per nine innings and over two baserunners per inning. All but three of his 35 games pitched were in relief. He again saw World Series action, but was merely a mop-up man in Cincinnati's Game Five loss, which clinched the Series for the Orioles. It was the last game of his career at age 32; he would be cut by the Angels the following Spring. Final-season struggles notwithstanding, his career record was a solid 72-64 with a 3.53 ERA. He struck out 700 batters in over 1200 innings, and whiffed nearly twice as many as he walked.

Attempting to move on with his life, Ray working at a sporing goods store in Seattle before spending a dozen years coaching at Bellevue Community College, and serving another dozen years as its athletic director before retiring. He still teaches phys ed part-time, and helps out with his daughter and son-in-law's orchards.

Fun fact: Not only did Ray throw the first pitch at Busch Stadium (II) in 1966, but he also pitched in relief in the first game at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium in 1970!
Ray Washburn (back) by you.

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