Monday, July 11, 2011

#145 Luis Tiant

#145 Luis Tiant
El Tiante! As you can see here, Luis has always been 50 years old. He was born with a stogie in his teeth.

Fun facts about Luis Tiant:

-Luis was born in Marianao, Cuba. He pitched in Mexico in his late teens and early twenties before signing with the Indians in 1962.

-His father, Luis Sr., was a star pitcher in the Negro Leagues and in his native Cuba in the 1930s and 1940s. Due to the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and Fidel Castro, the elder Tiant did not get to attend any of his son's pro games until the 1975 World Series.

-Luis debuted with Cleveland in grand fashion, striking out 11 Yankees in a 4-hit shutout on July 19, 1964. He would finish the season 10-4 with a 2.83 ERA and a WHIP of 1.11.

-In 1968, "The Year of the Pitcher", Tiant stood among the best. He went 21-9 with league-best marks of 9 shutouts (including 4 in a row, April 28-May 12), a 1.60 ERA, and 5.3 hits allowed per 9 innings. He made the first of three career trips to the All-Star Game and finished fifth in MVP voting.

-It was a far fall from 1968 to 1969, when he went 9-20 with a much higher 3.71 ERA. Amid concerns that he was pitching hurt, the Cuban fireballer was traded to the Twins. He missed a big chunk of the 1970 campaign, and was released by Minnesota the following spring.

-Catching on with the Red Sox during the 1971 season, Luis won just 1 of his 8 decisions in the majors. He then reinvented himself as a junkballer, relying on a variety of deception-based arm slots and an elaborate, back-to-the-plate windup to frustrate hitters. Working as a swingman for the 1972 Boston club, he went 15-6 with a league-low 1.91 ERA and got top-ten vote totals for both the Cy Young and the MVP.

-The tricky righthander had a notable stretch from 1973-1976, winning 20 games 3 times (81-52 overall) with a 3.31 ERA. He captured his third shutout crown in 1974, when he had 7 whitewashes among his career-best 22 wins.

-After going the distance in three of his four September 1975 starts, Luis had a memorable postseason. He allowed three hits and a single unearned run in a Game One ALCS victory over Oakland, then won two of his three starts against the Reds in the World Series. His five-hit shutout delivered a Game One victory for the Red Sox, and he gutted out a 5-4 complete game win in Game Four. Rain caused a postponement of Game Six, allowing him to take the ball again on five days' rest. He allowed six runs in seven innings, but an eighth-inning rally by Boston took him off the hook, setting the stage for Carlton Fisk's extra-inning heroics in one of the most talked-about games in history.

-He closed out his career with a two-year stint with the Yankees, followed by single seasons as a Pirate and an Angel. He retired in 1982 with a 19-year mark of 229-172, 49 shutouts, 15 saves, and a 3.30 ERA. He has the most major league wins of any Cuban-born pitcher.

-Tiant remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for the full 15 years before exhausting his eligibility. He drew 31% of the vote in 1988, his first year eligible, but his next-highest percentage was 18 in 2002, his last year. He played pro ball in Mexico in 1983-1984 and with the Gold Coast Suns and St. Lucie Legends of the Senior Professional Baseball League in 1989. He has worked for the Red Sox as a pitching advisor, and coached the Savannah College of Art and Design's baseball team from 1998-2001. He was inducted to the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2002.
#145 Luis Tiant (back)


  1. I happened to run into Luis Tiant in a local supermarket a few years ago, on a snowy night outside Boston. Just he and I, standing by the frozen foods. Shook hands and wished him well. Very nice man. A '65 Topps moment...

  2. Max - Yes it is. Mayhaps it was used to line a cigar box.

    Doug - Great story! Always kind of a surprise to see a famous figure in such an ordinary setting.