June 28 – Happy Birthday Al Downing

I used to get mad at Al Downing every fall. As a nine and ten year-old kid who thought he knew everything about baseball, I blamed Downing for helping convert the Yankees from perennial World Series winners to World Series losers. After all, he lost his only start against the Dodgers in the 1963 4-game sweep disaster and then in 1964, Downing pitched in three of the four games the Yankees lost to the Cardinals that year.

Since then of course, I’ve matured a bit and fully realize that the Yankee’s sudden October misfortune was not Al’s fault. He was actually one of the better pitchers in the American League during the seven full seasons he pitched for New York. During his first five years in pinstripes he was a double digit winner and he led the AL in Ks with 217 during the 1964 season. He was 72-56 during that time and he threw a dozen shutouts. For comparison sake, Andy Pettitte has thrown three shutouts during his 13 plus seasons in pinstripes.

The Yankees traded Downing to the A’s after the 1969 season in return for Danny Cater. He ended up in Los Angeles, pitching for the Dodgers by 1971 and he had his first and only 20-game victory season that included five more shutouts. Downing’s last year with the Dodgers was also his final big league season and he finished his career with 123 victories and 24 shutouts. He will probably be most remembered for giving up Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. He also got a chance to pitch in another World Series game as a Dodger in 1974 against Oakland. Unfortunately, he lost that one too.

Downing was born on this date in 1941, in Trenton, NJ. He shares his June 28th birthday with this former Yankee DH, this one-time NY back-up first baseman and a former teammate and pitcher who was born on the same exact day as Downing.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1961 NYY 0 1 .000 8.00 5 1 3 0 0 0 9.0 7 8 8 0 12 12 2.111
1962 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.000
1963 NYY 13 5 .722 2.56 24 22 2 10 4 0 175.2 114 52 50 7 80 171 1.104
1964 NYY 13 8 .619 3.47 37 35 2 11 1 2 244.0 201 104 94 18 120 217 1.316
1965 NYY 12 14 .462 3.40 35 32 2 8 2 0 212.0 185 92 80 16 105 179 1.368
1966 NYY 10 11 .476 3.56 30 30 0 1 0 0 200.0 178 90 79 23 79 152 1.285
1967 NYY 14 10 .583 2.63 31 28 2 10 4 0 201.2 158 65 59 13 61 171 1.086
1968 NYY 3 3 .500 3.52 15 12 1 1 0 0 61.1 54 24 24 7 20 40 1.207
1969 NYY 7 5 .583 3.38 30 15 5 5 1 0 130.2 117 57 49 12 49 85 1.270
17 Yrs 123 107 .535 3.22 405 317 37 73 24 3 2268.1 1946 938 811 177 933 1639 1.269
NYY (9 yrs) 72 57 .558 3.23 208 175 18 46 12 2 1235.1 1014 492 443 96 526 1028 1.247
LAD (7 yrs) 46 37 .554 3.16 170 120 18 25 12 1 897.2 814 380 315 68 326 532 1.270
OAK (1 yr) 3 3 .500 3.95 10 6 0 1 0 0 41.0 39 19 18 5 22 26 1.488
MIL (1 yr) 2 10 .167 3.34 17 16 1 1 0 0 94.1 79 47 35 8 59 53 1.463
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2013.

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