Tuesday, April 19, 2011

#34 Cal Koonce

#34 Cal Koonce
Not only can you make out the #34 on the back of Cal Koonce's jersey, but that's also the card number! I might be the only one who thinks that's neat, but it's my blog, so nyah.

Fun facts about Cal Koonce:

-Cal was born in Fayetteville, NC and attended nearby Campbell College (later to become a university). He signed with the Cubs in 1961.

-He was just 21 when he made Chicago's Opening Day roster in 1962. He allowed only one run in a complete game victory in his first start on April 22 vs. the Cardinals. The rookie pitched around nine St. Louis hits and four walks, with a bases-loaded walk to Stan Musial spoiling the shutout with two outs in the ninth inning.

-Koonce finished second on the staff in wins, going 10-10 with a 3.97 ERA despite 84 strikeouts and 86 walks.

-His next full big league season was 1965, when he started 23 games and relieved in 15 others for the Cubs. His record was 7-9 with a 3.69 ERA and a career-high 88 strikeouts.

-Beginning with the 1966 campaign, Cal was used primarily in relief. After being acquired by the Mets in mid-1967, he pitched his best ball, putting up a 2.80 ERA in 45 innings for the remainder of that season. The following year, he went 6-4 with a 2.42 ERA and his 11 saves were two less than Ron Taylor's team-leading total.

-Despite spending the entire 1969 season with the Mets, he had a down year, with a 4.99 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. New York did not call upon him once in the postseason en route to their first World Series win.

-Cal was dealt to Boston during the 1970 campaign, and retired after the Red Sox released him in August 1971. In parts of 10 seasons he was 47-49 with a 3.78 ERA and 24 saves.

-His younger brother Don was a minor league relief pitcher in the Mets, Braves, and Tigers organizations (1968-1974). Despite a 2.63 career ERA and a good deal of success at AAA, he never did reach the majors.

-He was inducted into the Campbell Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. Other honorees include Gaylord and Jim Perry, as well as Koonce's other brother Charles.

-Cal returned to Campbell University as head baseball coach from 1980-1986. He went on to become the first general manager of the South Atlantic League's Fayetteville Generals, who were a single-A affiliate of the Tigers from 1987-1996. Cal spent the last few years of his life battling lymphoma before succumbing to the disease in 1993 at age 52.
#34 Cal Koonce (back)