Here’s the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular Wednesday and Saturday contributor here.
In 1952, when Philadelphia A’s pitcher Bobby Shantz won the American League Most Valuable Player award, I was a nine-year-old kid growing up in Dodgerless Los Angeles and rooting for the Hollywood Stars.
I remember wondering how it was possible that Shantz, not much bigger than me at 5’6” and 135 pounds, could be mowing down Ted Williams and Yogi Berra in the big leagues when I was still throwing pop flies to myself in my backyard.
No one could deny that in 1952 Shantz hit his peak. Posting a 24-7 win-loss record for a fifth-place team, Shantz garnered the MVP award in a landslide by easily outdistancing New York Yankee stars Allie Reynolds, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra.
Shantz led the American League in wins, winning percentage (.774), fewest walks per game (2.03), finished second with 27 complete games, third with a 2.48 ERA and 152 strikeouts, tied for third with five shutouts, fourth with 255 innings pitched and fifth in fewest hits per game (7.39).
In his first major league appearance on May 1, 1949, Shantz pitched two-thirds of an inning of scoreless relief against the Washington Senators.
As inconspicuous as his debut was, Shantz showed what he was all about five days later. On May 6 Shantz notched his first big league win when at Briggs Stadium, Detroit, he entered the game in the fourth inning in relief of Carl Scheib. For the next ten innings, Shantz held the Tigers to two hits and one earned run while striking out seven.
A’s manager Connie Mack, a former catcher, kept Shantz from using his most effective pitch (the knucleball) and was predisposed to more physically intimidating hurlers like Joe Coleman, Lou Brissie and Dick Fowler. But when Mack retired after the 1950 season, new pilot Jimmy Dykes gave Shantz more rest and let him use off speed pitches. The result: in 1951, an 18-10 record for a 70-84 Athletics team.
In 1957 the Athletics, now located in Kansas City, traded Shantz along with Art Ditmar, Jack McMahan, Wayne Belardi and two players to be named later to the Yankees in exchange for Irv Noren, Milt Graff, Mickey McDermott, Tom Morgan, Rip Coleman, Billy Hunter and a player to be named later.
Used mostly as a spot starter with Whitey Ford, Don Larsen, Tom Sturdivant and Bob Turley, Shantz went 11-5 and led the major leagues in ERA with a 2.45 mark.
Lost in the annals of time is Shantz’s disappointing role for the Yankees in the famous 1960 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Shantz pitched two-thirds of an inning (scoreless) in both the second and fourth games. In the second, he earned a save for Turley.
In the seventh game, the wheels came off. Shantz entered the game in the third inning and held the Pirates scoreless for four innings. But in the bottom of the eighth, Shantz gave up singles to Gino Cimoli, Bill Virdon and Dick Groat before coming out in favor of Jim Coates.
All three eventually scored and the earned runs were charged to Shantz. The Pirates tallied twice more before eventually winning the game, 10-9, and the series, 4-3.
Manager Casey Stengel decision to leave Shantz in may have cost him his job. During the regular season, Shantz never pitched more than four innings. Why Stengel left Shantz in for the fifth is a baseball mystery.
The following year Shantz landed with the Pirates and subsequently pitched for the Houston Colt .45s, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies.
Over his career Shantz, a three time All Star, sparkled in the 1952 contest when in the fifth inning he struck out Whitey Lockman, Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial. Had the game not been called because of rain, Shantz might have broken Carl Hubbell’s record of five in a row.
He also won eight Gold Gloves including the first four years (1957-1960) it was awarded.
In a baseball oddity, Shantz and his brother catcher Billy were teammates on the Philadelphia A’s (1954), Kansas City (1955) and the Yankees (1960). However, they were only battery mates in Kansas City.
In 2010, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame elected Shantz. The Pottstown native now lives in Ambler, PA.
Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
15 Replies to “Bobby Shantz: 1952 AL MVP and…1960 World Series Goat?”
In the 12th paragraph of the article on Shantz, “…held the Yankees scoreless….”
should read “…held the Pirates scoreless….”.
The decision by Stengel to start Ditmar in the WS instead of Ford continues to puzzle me. Was Whitey
injured late in the season? If not, that decision cost the Yankees the Series in my opinion.
In answer to Mike’s question; Ford had some arm problems and finished with just twelve wins and the poorest win/loss percentage of his career. Casey had planned to start Ditmar and Turley in Pittsburg and save Whitey for the Stadium to counter the left handed hitters in their lineup.
By the way. We shouldn’t forget that little Bobby wasn’t only a crafty pitcher, and a great fielder, but he could also swung a decent bat.
Bobby Shantz wasn’t the goat of the 1960 World Series by any definition. If Bill Virdon’s 8th inning double-play grounder hadn’t hit a pebble and bounced up to strike Tony Kubek in the throat, Shantz might be remembered as the hero of the Series. Jim Coates, who relieved Shantz, served up the 3-run homer to put the Pirates ahead 9-7 at the end of the eight.
“He also won eight Gold Gloves including the first four years (1957-1960) it was awarded.” He also won them the second four years (1961-1964) it was awarded. Or, more relevantly, he won it all eight years he played that it was awarded.
Believe it or not, Bobby is my neighbor. He lives right across the street from me and we talk on a regular basis. He still rakes his own leaves and walks his dog and chops his firewood. He is a great man. Does anyone know what number he was for the Phil’s? I’d feel ashamed to ask him myself.
Thanks for commenting. Shantz’s number on the Phillies in 1964 was 35. Here is their roster from that season.
Thanks Joe. It always enjoyable to talk about Shantz. Bobby is one of the finest men I’ve ever met. I believe that he would’ve won the final game of the 1960 Series, had it not been for that bad hop to Tony Kubek on a routine double play ground ball. Manager Stengel’s poor choice of pitchers lost the Series for the Yankees. One could argue Casey left Bobby in too long. Bobby might’ve had difficulty pitching to Rocky Nelson, but would’ve certainly covered first base on Clemente’s dribbler.
I met Bobby and his wife Shirley at the Mall last month and they were most gracious. I’m writing Bobby’s biography for the SABR BioProject. I was too shy to ask about their children. I only know their names and ages. If anyone can help me with basic facts, like what they do for a living, I’d appreciate it.
I graduated from Pottstown High School with Bobby in 1943. There are not too many left from this class. I played some sandlot ball with Bobby until he went into the service. While in the service he corresponded with me and sent me photos from Manila.After his hitch in the service he continued to write while pitching for Lincoln, Nebraska in the Western League. When Bobby joined the Pirates in 1961 our friendship continued. I saw some Pirate games thru Bobby and had the best seat in the house. A great sportsman! Gog bless you, Bobby
just watched the game #7 of 1960 world series
1-Correct- inningwould have over without runs scored without the pebble
2-Coates might have been late covering the bag but even if there on time- Clemente would have easily bet it out- Coates has been criticized incorrectly all these years
3-Why wasn’t the great reliever Luis Arroyo not used in the game? true- his great year was 1961- but in 1960 he was 5-1 and demonstated his great screw ball
I’ve know Bobby for several years now. He and my father used to play sandlot ball back in the day. They still keep in touch. And like someone said before, he is very humble. You couldnt meet a nicer guy. He agreed to come to a baseball banquet for my son Jimmy,land was the hit of the night. Although he doesn’t like to publicly speak, he did meet many of the folks after the banquet on a one on one basis, signing autographs. Even though my Dad couldn’t go that night because he broke his shoulder, Bobby was still gracious enough to still go with me and my two sons. Definitely a “class act”
Bobby Shantz was a boyhood idol not only for his talent, determination and dedication, but he was always great with his fans. I was lucky my coousin Vic Wright was the Philadelphia A’s visiting team batboy in the early 1950s, and intrduced me to Bobby Shantz. In 1963, I had the honor of being a Bank officer at the location where Bob was a customer. Since then, I see him occasionally around the area, and know his daughter in law. When I run into Bob, he always says hello, and never forgets me. Great ballplayer, husband, father, friend and an all around terrific human being.
Bobby…will never forget a night game in the Bronx…I was 9 yrs old…you talked to me from the bullpen most of the night! You were the first pinstripe to acknowledge this young aspiring ballplayer! You promised me you would be put in the game by the old profeesor..and sure enough you did pitch…I’ll never forget how proud I was when you turned and waved as you left the bullpen…glad you are still around…btw…I graduated from Cardinal Dougherty in ’68 and to this day I tell people about #57!!!
My cousin and i were hoping you were al “poncho’De Jesus who we knew from the dances and you and Bobby went to California together.He tried to get in touch with you for a while . Poncho you can reach me at email@example.com. Jay Faist
Bobby Shantz was my fathers close friend. Iremember my dad took me out onto the field at Connie Mack Stadium one night to meet him. I think i was 7 or 8 at the time.Just a real nice man and a great guy.He is also still around .I hope he lives to 100.Thank you Bobby.
I grew up in Pottstown and in the late 1950’s early 1960’s was playing “Knee-Hi” baseball. In 1960 Bobby was the guest speaker at our year end dinner and every kid got an autographed baseball from him. That baseball has traveled a bit and now has about ten signatures, with most from HOF players I’ve been fortunate to meet, but Bobby’s signature holds the most affection. My
Mother was at Pottstown High School during Bobby‘a time and thought very highly of him.