(born April 23, 1921, Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.—died Nov. 24, 2003, Broken Arrow, Okla.) U.S. baseball pitcher. Spahn spent most of his career with the Boston (later Milwaukee) Braves (1942, 1946–64). He amassed 2,583 career strikeouts, giving him the third highest total in baseball history when he retired. His feat of winning 20 or more games in each of 13 seasons was also a record, as was his striking out at least 100 batters each year for 17 consecutive seasons (1947–63). His total of 363 wins established a record for left-handers. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.
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Spahn was regarded as a "thinking man's" pitcher who liked to outwit batters. He once described his approach on the mound: "Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing."
Spahn won more games (363) than any other left-handed pitcher in history, and more than any other pitcher who played his entire career in the post-1920 live-ball era. He is acknowledged as one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball history. The Warren Spahn Award, given to the major leagues' best left-handed pitcher, is named after him.
Spahn acquired the nickname "Hooks", not so much because of his pitching, but due to the prominent shape of his nose. He had once been hit in the face by a thrown ball that he was not expecting, and his broken nose settled into a hook-like shape. In Spahn's final season, during his stint with the Mets, Yogi Berra came out of retirement briefly and caught 4 games, one of them with Spahn pitching. Yogi later told reporters, "I don't think we're the oldest battery, but we're certainly the ugliest."
Spahn was known for a very high leg kick in his delivery, surpassed perhaps only by eventual Giants teammate Juan Marichal. Photo sequences show that this high kick served a specific purpose. As a left-hander, Spahn was able not only to watch any runner on first base, but also to not telegraph whether he was delivering to the plate or to first base, thereby forcing the runner to stay close to the bag. Spahn adapted over the years. As his fastball waned, Spahn relied more on changing speeds and location, with the help of a devastating screwball. He led the NL in wins from age 36 through 40.
Spahn was also a good hitter for a pitcher, hitting at least one home run in 17 straight seasons, and finishing with an NL career record for pitchers, with 35 home runs. Wes Ferrell, who spent most of his time in the American League, holds the overall record for pitchers, with 37.
Spahn returned to the major leagues in 1946 at the age of 25, having missed 3 full seasons. Had he played, it is possible that Spahn would have finished his career behind only Cy Young in all-time wins. Spahn was less speculative and more philosophical:
In 1951, Spahn allowed the first career hit to Willie Mays, a home run. Mays had begun his career 0-for-12, and Spahn joked, "I'll never forgive myself. We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I'd only struck him out."
The poem was inspired by the performance of Spahn and Sain during the Braves' 1948 pennant drive. The team swept a Labor Day doubleheader, with Spahn throwing a complete 14-inning win in the opener, and Sain pitching a shutout in the second game. Following two off days, it did rain. Spahn won the next day, and Sain won the day after that. Three days later, Spahn won again. Sain won the next day. After one more off day, the two pitchers were brought back, and won another doubleheader. The two pitchers had gone 8-0 in twelve days' time.
Spahn maintained that "A pitcher needs two pitches - one they're looking for, and one to cross 'em up." He was thus able to maintain his position as one of the game's top pitchers until his 19th season in the sport. This was exemplified by his start on July 2, 1963. Facing the San Francisco Giants, the 42-year-old Spahn became locked into a storied pitchers' duel with 25-year-old Juan Marichal. The score was still 0-0 after more than four hours when Willie Mays hit a game-winning solo home run off Spahn with one out in the bottom of the 16th inning. Marichal's manager, Alvin Dark, visited the mound in the 9th, 10th, 11th, 13th, and 14th innings, and was talked out of removing Marichal each time. During the 14th-inning visit, Marichal told Dark, "Do you see that man pitching for the other side? Do you know that man is 42 years old? I'm only 25. If that man is on the mound, nobody is going to take me out of here. Marichal ended up throwing 227 pitches in the complete game 1-0 win, while Spahn threw 201 in the loss, allowing nine hits and one walk. Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell, who was in attendance that night, said of Spahn, "He ought to will his body to medical science."
Spahn threw his first no-hitter in 1960, when he was 39. He pitched his second no-hitter the following year. By the last two seasons of his career, Spahn was the oldest active player in baseball. He lost this distinction for a single day: September 25, 1965, when 58-year-old Satchel Paige pitched three innings.
A few months before his death, Spahn attended the unveiling of a statue outside Atlanta's Turner Field. The statue depicts Spahn in the middle of one of his leg kicks. This statue was created by Oklahoma artist Shan Gray, who also sculpted the statue of Warren Spahn that stands in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, the Mickey Mantle Statue Outside of the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, and the four Statues at Heisman Park (Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, and Jason White) at the University of Oklahoma.