Warren Spahn 1952 #033
by William Szczepanek
The 1952 card of Warren Spahn is the first card of Spahn from the full sets that Topps issued beginning in 1952. His rookie year was 1942 and '43, '44 and '45 were spent in the military. Spahn was the most decorated ballplayer in WWII earning a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, a battlefield commission and a Presidential Citation, receiving head wounds and abdominal wounds from gun fire during the Battle of the Bulge. He also was involved in the battle of Remagen. Even being out for three years in the military Spahn is still the winningest left handed pitcher in Major League history with 363 victories though 1965 over 21 seasons. Spahn credits the discipline from his military experience as the primary reason for his success in baseball.
His breakout year was 1947 when he went 21-10 and led the league in shutouts with 7. He is ranked 6th all time in shutouts, but first for any pitcher who pitched after 1930. He posted 13 20-win seasons.
In 1953 he tore a ligament in his knee, but didn't tell anyone for fear of being released. He pitched the season going 23 - 7 with an ERA of 2.11. He had surgery after the season was over.
Spahn claimed the Cy Young Award in 1957 as he led the Braves to a World Series Championship. Spahn was a workhorse, leading the league in complete games in a season 9 times. His 382 complete games ranks Spahn 21st in the Majors for a career, but he is again first of anyone who pitched after 1930. At age 40 Spahn won 21 games. At age 41 he won 18 games, and at age 42 he topped it off with a 23-win season.
Spahn's classic high-leg delivery was synchronized and smooth. Every pitch looked the same and the ball was hidden from view until it left his hand. His curve and excellent change-up complemented his fastball. I know the mechanics of modern day pitchers has been refined to a science and pitching coaches deplore wasted motion, but I still wonder why more pitchers don't feel that a motion like Spahn's, that brought him so much success for so long, wouldn't be something to emulate.
A lifetime .194 batter Spahn hit 35 home runs to help his cause, the most by a NL pitcher. He also hit .333 in 1958 season leading the Braves to their second pennant in a row.
Warren and his teammate Lew Burdette loved practical jokes. In 1959 Burdette borrowed Spahn's glove and posed as a lefty for his baseball card. Spahn did the same, posing with Burdette's glove, but Cy Berger of Topps caught him in the act and thwarted his effort. It was too late for Burdette's card since it was already in production.
Spahn pitched for many years without getting a no-hitter, but on September 16, 1960 at age 39 he shut down the Phillies to get his first no-hitter with a little help from shortstop Johnny Logan, who made a fine play charging a ball that Spahn knocked down to get the final out.
With temperatures in the 30's and snow flurries in the air in Milwaukee, on April 28, 1961 Spahn at age 40 pitched his second no-hitter. This one was against the Giants and Sam Jones, who pitched a 5-hitter and gave up only one run. The Braves scored in the first inning on a hit by Henry Aaron. The no-hitter was particularly impressive coming against the likes of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Felipe Alou, and Orlando Cepeda.
"Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing." ─ Warren Spahn
"I don’t think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame. He’ll never stop pitching." ─ Stan Musial
Spahn was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 with 83.2% of the vote.
Check out more on Spahnny at the Baseball Card Showcase.
You can check out Spahn's statistics at Baseball Reference.com.