Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sal "The Barber" Maglie & The Cleveland Indians

Sal Maglie won 119 games in his big league career and spent the majority of his career with the New Yrok Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.  He also spent parts of seasons with the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, and  had a very brief stint with the Cleveland Indians in between his time between the NY Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.  Maglie seemed to find himself involved in some of the most memorable games in major league history none bigger than the opposing pitcher in Don Larsen's perfect game.  Much of the detail for this story was from the book PERFECT by Lew Paper, a book I give high praise to.

October 3, 1951 - Worked the first eight innings of the playoff game between the NY Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Left the game after 8 innings trailing 4-1 and watched from the clubhouse as Bobby Thompson hit the "shot heard round the world" sending the NY Giants to the World Series. 

September 29, 1954 Was the game one starter for the NY Giants against the 111 win Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series.   He was replaced after 7 innings with the game tied at 2 with two men on base and Vic Wertz due up.  He watched from the dugout as Vic Wertz drove a ball deep into the right field at the Polo Grounds and Will Mays make "the catch"..  

October 8, 1956 Was the starting pitcher for the NY Giants in Game Five versus the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.  He took the loss and watched from the dugout as Don Larsen struck out  Dale Mitchell to complete the only perfect game in post-season history.

If you are like me and like stories of guys that overachieve and take interesting routes to success, then Maglie is your type of player.  He was a very popular basketball player in the Niagra Falls area but his true love was baseball and ge turned down a scholarship in basketball to Niagra University in order to draw a paycheck to help his family and spent weekends playing semi-pro baseball.  

In 1937 he tried out for the Rochester Red Wins and was only permitted to throw three pitches before the coaches yelled "next".  The following year, the Buffalo Bisons attempted to capitalize on his popularity as a local basketball star and allowed him to pitch.   He was seldom allowed to pitch in Buffalo and requested to be transferred to the PONY league where he pitched in 1940.  In 1941, he was selected by the Elmira Pioneers (Class A) where he won 20 games and in 1942 he was drafted by the New York Giants.  He spent the 1942 season at Jersey City, the highest level of minor league ball,  and went 9-6.  

Maglie was unable to serve in the military due to a sinus conditions so the opportunity for him to make it to the majors was almost a certainty.  Unable to play baseball in good conscience, Maglie put himself on the voluntary retirement list and got a job at a pipe fitting defense plant back in Niagra Falls to assist in the War Effort.  He would continue to play baseball in Canada on the weekends.  When the war finally seemed to be winding down, Maglie returned to Jersey City.  

On August 9, 1945, Maglie was called up to the NY Giants and pitched well the remainder of the season and in order to be ready for the 1946 season, he agreed to play winter ball in Cuba for his then pitching coach Dulf Luque.  Luque taught Maglie, who was a very intense individual anyways, the theory that opposing hitters should never feel comfortable in the batters box.  Maglie was very successful over the winter in Cuba and came to spring training in 1947 with a contract with the Giants and a feeling that he'd be in the rotation.  But NY Giants Mel Ott had other plans and wasn't allowing Maglie to pitch.  

Maglie was frustrated and reached out to a scout for the newly formed Mexican League who had approached him while playing in Cuba.  Maglie, despite Commissioner Henry Chadwicks edict that any player who left to play in Mexico was banned from MLB for 5 years, left the Giants for Mexico.    He would play for Puebla, a team whose home stadium had a train track running through the outfield and was located 7000 ft above sea level.  It was his time in the Mexican League, especially playing at the different altitudes, that Maglie perfected his curve ball.   By 1947, the Mexican League folded and Maglie along with the rest of the "Mexican Outlaws" returned to the states, unable to play in the majors.  After playing the 1949 season in Canada, Maglie was informed that Commissioner Chadwick was going to drop the 5 year ban on players after threatened legal action by a group of the "outlaws". 

In 1950, at age 33, Maglie returned to the NY Giants with a very aggressive pitching attitude and a curveball perfected in the mountains of Mexico and posted a 18-4 record and garnered the nickname "the barber" because of his ability to shave the oppositions hair and the corners of the plate.  Maglie pitched for the NY Giants from 1950 through the 1955 season compiling a record of 95-42 with a 3.13 ERA.  

In 1955, Maglie was off to a good start with a 9-5 record but at age 38 the Giants were worried that he wouldn't be able to maintain his performance throughout the year.  After a start on July 30th, Giants Manager Leo Durocher informed Maglie that he was traded to the Cleveland Indians.  

Maglie would never fit in with the Indians.  They already had a pitching staff that included Early Wynn, Mike Garcia, Bob Lemon, and Herb Score, so Maglie found himself pitching out of the bullpen for the majority of the 1955 season (2 starts/8 relief appearances).

Maglie began the 1956 season with the Indians but after just 2 starts was sold to his most hated personal rival Brooklyn Dodgers (whose players who hated Maglie).  The story goes that after Maglie pitched an exhibition game against the Dodgers, Indians GM Hank Greenberg called Dodgers GM Buzz Bavasi and asked if Bavasi was interested in Maglie.  Bavasi checked with manager Walter Alston and team captain Pee Wee Reese who both agreed with the deal.  Bavasi asked Greenberg what he wanted for Maglie and Greenberg asked for $100,000.  Bavasi countered with $100!  Greenberg accepted the deal but with the assurance that the press release could say any amount, which ended up being $14,000.

Maglie proved to be a very good pickup for the Dodgers as he posted a 13-5 record with a 2.75 ERA during the remainder of the 1956 season.  He spent one more half season with the Dodgers before moving on to the New York Yankees and finished his career with the St.Louis Cardinals in 1958.

No comments:

Post a Comment