February 17, 2011
by William Szczepanek
I have had this card of Karl Spooner since I was eight years old and based only on the look of it I have always felt that Spooner should be a star. He also had a cool name. He also might have been one of the all time greats, but...
On September 22, 1954, Karl Spooner made his Major League debut shutting out the New York Giants who would ultimately become the World Series Winners that year. The 23 year old left-hander with a blazing fastball struck out 15 Giants to set the strikeout record for a major league pitching debut. J.R. Richard equaled a few years later. Another notable accomplishment was that he struck out the first 6 batters he faced as a major leaguer, a record at the time.
In his next start, Spooner shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out 12, to set the record of 27 strikeouts by a pitcher in his first two games. He gave up only 7 hits in the two complete game shutouts.
Roy Campanella proclaimed him the greatest young pitcher he had ever seen.
Early in 1954 Spooner hurt his knee playing pepper. The sore knee forced him to change his pitching motion, which led to better control. After his glorious start in 1954, he had knee surgery. Following surgery, he pitched well in 1955 as both a starter and reliever. He finished the season with an 8- 6 record and 3.65 ERA. He would start game six of the World Series, since Don Newcombe, the Dodger ace, was hurt. Spooner would give up 5 runs in the first inning, the Yankees would win the game. Johnny Podres would win the World Championship for the Dodgers in game seven, but Karl Spooner would never pitch again. He acquired a severe arm injury in spring training in 1956 and his career was over.
Two other pitchers have bested Spooner for most strikeouts to start a game in their first appearance. Sammy Stewart did it in 1978 and Steven Strasburg did it in 2010. Stewart had a very good ten year career. Hopefully, Strasburg is not headed in the same direction as Spooner.
You can check out Spooner's stats at Baseball-Reference.com.