He lost four prime years of his career to the military service and he spent a couple of additional years in the minors at the end of his career, but in between he posted some of the most impressive numbers in the history of baseball. Warren Spahn, the winningest lefty to ever pitch in the majors, died Monday, November 24 at the age of 82, secure in the knowledge that his legend would live forever.
Spahn, Sain and two days of rain.
From 1942 to 1964 Spahn took to the mound for the Braves, first in Boston and then in Milwaukee. With time out for WWII he ended up with 20 seasons in the majors and won 363 games, the sixth largest total in history and the most ever by a southpaw. When he and Johnny Sain pitched the Boston Braves to the 1948 pennant it prompted a famous baseball poem by Gerald Hern of the Boston Post:
First we'll use Spahn and then we'll use Sain,
Then an off day, followed by rain.
Back will come Spahn, followed by Sain,
And followed, we hope, by two days of rain.
Over the years many shorter versions of the poem evolved, including:
And two days of rain.
And pray for rain.
Spahn vs. Marichal equals marathon.
On July 2, 1963 Spahn hooked up with Juan Marichal of San Francisco in what many consider the greatest pitching duel of all time. For 15 innings the duo shut down the opposition. When manager Alvin Dark tried to take Marichal out of the game the Giants' hurler refused, saying, "A 42-year-old man is still pitching. I can't come out!"
Finally, with one out in the bottom of the 16th inning Willie Mays caught up with a Spahn delivery and sent it over the wall for a marathon 1-0 victory for the Giants. No relief pitchers were needed -- or even allowed -- on that day.
First no-hitter at 39, second at 40!
Warren Spahn simply got better with age. He didn't win his first game until he was 25 and he didn't pitch his first no-hitter until he was 39. At age 40 he twirled another one!
Spahn led the league in strikeouts for four consecutive years. Twice he had the best ERA in the National League and eight times he posted the most victories. He pitched 63 shutouts, the most by any NL lefty.
Warren Spahn was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.