| Pitcher | Atlanta
The winningest left-hander in the game's history, with 363 victories, he was a 20-game winner 13 times, six years in a row. Spahn led the National League in wins 8 times and in complete games on 9 occasions - he still holds the National League lifetime mark for innings pitched over his 21-year career, during which he hurled two no-hitters and was the 1957 Cy Young Award winner.
Although he never had a period of dominance quite like Sandy Koufax or Lefty Grove, who racked up multiple Cy Young-caliber seasons in succession, he was constantly among the league leaders in ERA as well as wins, and came away with 3 ERA titles over his career. A key member of the 1957 world champion Braves team (along with Lew Burdette, Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews and Joe Adcock), he pitched well past his fortieth birthday - in fact, he holds the single season record for most wins after that age: 23, part of a 23-7 record with a 2.60 ERA in 1963.
Spahn's emergence in 1946 coincided with the Braves' resurgence - a third-place finish in 1947 and a NL pennant in 1948 - and in 1948 he was immortalized in baseball lore by the jingle "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain," a reference to the Braves' lack of pitching depth. Oddly enough, 1948 was actually Spahn's worst season until 1964. He was only 15-12 with a relatively high 3.71 ERA. He managed to win key assignments, including a 14-inning 2-1 win over the Dodgers that put the Braves in first place for good, and his 5-2/3 innings of one-hit relief won Game Five of the WS, which the Braves lost to Cleveland in six games.
From 1949 to 1963, he was clearly the best lefty in the game. He won 21 games in both 1949 and 1950, and 22 in 1951, but fell off to 14-19 (with a still-excellent 2.98 ERA) in 1952 as the Braves finished 32 games out in their last year in Boston. A June 15 loss to the Cubs that year typified Spahn's frustration. He fanned 18 batters in 15 innings and hit a solo home run, but lost, 2-1. Spahn turned down a contract that would have paid him 10 cents a head based on home attendance in 1953, and the decision proved costly when the Braves moved to Milwaukee and attendance skyrocketed.
Spahn led the NL in ERA in 1953, and failed to win 20 games only once between 1953 and 1961, as he began to master changing speeds and location to keep hitters off balance. In 1957, at the age of 36, Spahn led the Braves to the pennant with a 21-11, 2.69 record, and began a string of five consecutive seasons leading the NL in wins. In the WS, he won Game Four in relief as the Braves beat the Yankees in seven games. He also won the Cy Young Award. Spahn improved to 22-11 in 1958, and won two more games in the WS rematch with the Yankees, in which New York prevailed. The Braves lost a playoff against the Dodgers in 1959, and would never again reach the WS during Spahn's tenure.
"A pitcher needs two pitches, one they're looking for and one to cross them up."
- Warren Spahn
"Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing."
- Warren Spahn
"What is life, after all, but a challenge? And what better challenge can there be
than the one between the pitcher and the hitter."
- Warren Spahn
"He makes my job easy. Every pitch he throws has an idea behind it."
- Whitlow Wyatt, Spahn's pitching coach
"I don't think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame. He'll never stop pitching."
- Stan Musial
Picture from National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.
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