Countdown To Pitchers And Catchers: #20 Ray Narleski

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 Ray Narleski.

By Mike Brandyberry

Before the Bullpen Mafia, the creation of the closer or the set up man, there was Ray Narleski and Don Mossi. The two made up the toughest bullpen in baseball, before bullpens were supposed to be tough.

Narleski was the right-handed relief pitcher in the Indians bullpen to be Mossi’s left handed counterpart. The two were always overshadowed by The Big Four, starting pitchers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia. However, the two relief pitchers helped The Big Four thrive during the 1950s.

Narleski broke into the big leagues in 1954, when the Tribe was the best team in baseball. Behind The Big Four the Indians won a Major League record 111 games that season. Narleski pitched 42 games, throwing 89 innings, finishing 19 games and saving 13 contests.  He finished with a 2.22 ERA that season.

The right-hander became one half of the toughest bullpen in baseball. Combined with Mossi, Narleski dominated through the late 1950s. In 1955, Narleski was 9-1, pitching a league leading 60 games and saving 19. He was finished sixth in the AL MVP voting, something unheard of for a relief pitcher at the time. He was an All-Star with the Tribe in 1956 and 1958.

After the 1958 season Narleski and Mossi were traded together to the Detroit Tigers for young second baseman named, Billy Martin. Narleski would have his worst season as a professional in 1959, blaming arm and shoulder issues, and would retire after the season. He was named one of the Indians 100 Greatest in 2000, retiring with a 43-33 career record, 3.60 ERA and 58 saves in six seasons.

Photo: Topps Baseball Cards

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