Friday, September 25, 2009

What Ever Happened To Denny McLain?

Most people who follow baseball would probably say, "That's a dumb question. Just look at his rap sheet."

Indeed, after his baseball career, the life of former Detroit Tigers pitcher, Denny McLain, has been a major train wreck. McLain has served jail time for drug trafficking, embezzlement, racketeering, mail fraud and conspiracy. And I'm talking about major jail time. McLain, in his criminal career, has been involved with some heavy duty underworld criminals.

So why am I asking for his whereabouts?

For starters, I'm not asking the question literally-- I'm asking it figuratively.


This morning I woke up in one of those gloomy nostalgic moods. As I usually do to cure the funk, I paid a visit to my old stomping grounds-- the campus of New York University. So I took a stroll around campus and then I sat on a bench in nearby Washington Square Park and reminisced about the good old days.

Somehow, I struck a conversation with an older couple sitting next to me and it just so happened that the lady attended NYU and was from the graduating class of 1968. They talked about the great times they had in the summer of '68 after her graduation.

It was after they left that McLain came to mind. All of us who love baseball history know what went down in the summer of '68.

So I wasn't thinking about McLain the mobster-- I was thinking about the pitcher, who put up these numbers in 1968:

W-L: 31-6; 1.96 ERA; 28 Complete Games; 336.0 Innings Pitched; 280 Strikeouts

That's the Denny McLain, I'm wondering about. What ever happened to him? Are we ever going to see another 30 game winner?

We can say what we want about McLain-- but he's the only 30 game winner in the modern era. In fact, with the exception of McLain (31 in 1968), Dizzy Dean (30 in 1934) and Lefty Grove (31 in 1931)-- every other 30 game winner was between 1876-1920.

So for McLain to win 30 games in 1968 was truly amazing. Modern pitchers just don't do those kinds of things.

For those who lived to see it, 1968 produced two of the greatest pitching performances in Major League history. Along with McLain's 31 wins-- that was the year Bob Gibson posted his astonishing, 1.12 ERA-- which to me is the most impressive number, of any kind, ever.

In 1993, Sports Illustrated came out with a special classic edition commemorating the 25th anniversary of the incredible pitching performances of McLain and Gibson.

With these two dominant pitchers it was no coincidence that the '68 season ended with the Detroit Tigers beating the St. Louis Cardinals (4-3) in the World Series.

But my question still remains-- will I ever see another Denny McLain?

Photos courtesy of
Stats courtesy of


  1. No, I don't think we'll see 30 wins again. So many great starting pitchers today still have 4-6 starts a year that they don't pitch long enough to get the decision. That was unheard of up until the 90s. I think if Zack Greinke had they type of year he had with the Red Sox or Yankees he would have gotten 25 wins, but 30 probably not.

  2. I agree. I think it's wishful thinking on my part. I would love to see it though. You're right, Greinke had enough quality starts for 25 wins.