Countdown To Pitchers And Catchers: #24 Early Wynn
Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the career of Early Wynn.
By Vince Guerrieri
On Dec. 10, 1948, the World Champion Cleveland Indians completed a trade with the Washington Senators. They got Mickey Vernon, a former all-star and batting champion. He would play for two seasons for the Indians before going back to Washington (First in War, First in Peace and Last in the American League).
They also got a pitcher with a record of 72-89. His name was Early Wynn. Under the tutelage of Indians pitching coach Mel Harder, Wynn would go on to become one of the most feared pitchers in the American League in the 1950s, and was part of the Tribe’s premier starting rotation in that time.
He was noted as a knockdown artist. A generation before “Major League,” Wynn was regarded as the pitcher who would knock down a family member if they crowded the plate. Indeed, he did give his son a little chin music during a batting practice session once, and then said, “I’ve got the right to knock down anyone holding a bat.”
Five times, Wynn led the Indians in innings pitched, and five times, he led the team in strikeouts. In 1957, he was shipped to the White Sox with Al Smith for Fred Hatfield and Minnie Minoso, a fan favorite at Comiskey. But the White Sox faithful warmed to Wynn, who won the Cy Young Award in 1959 going 22-10. He led the majors in wins that year as well as innings pitched, as the Pale House made their first World Series appearance in 40 years.
In 1962, he was released by the White Sox with a total of 299 wins. He was able to latch on to the Indians one last time, and got his 300th and final major league win in 1963.
“Somebody will have to tear the uniform off me,” Wynn said. “And that guy better bring help.”
The next year, he became a pitching coach for the Indians, a role he served in through 1966.
Wynn was inducted into the Baseball and Indians halls of fame in 1972.