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Sports Then and Now

Early Wynn: 300 Game Winner

Posted on August 01, 2020 by Dean Hybl
Early Wynn

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month pitched in four decades, was a veteran of World War II and is one of only two pitchers to finish with exactly 300 career victories.

Hall of Famer Early Wynn began his career as a 19-year old in 1939 by pitching three games for the Washington Senators. After spending the 1940 season in the minors, he went 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in a brief stint in the majors in 1941.

He was in the majors to stay in 1942 and posted a 10-16 record. In 1943 he started to show the form for which he would become well known later in his career as he registered an 18-12 record with a 2.91 ERA.

In 1944 the Senators won only 64 games, so despite a respectable 3.38 ERA Wynn posted only eight wins while leading the league with 17 losses.

After missing the 1945 season while serving in the military, Wynn returned during the 1946 campaign and posted an 8-5 record with a 3.11 ERA.

The next season, Wynn made his first All-Star appearance while posted a 17-15 record with a 3.64 ERA. After another disappointing season for the Senators in 1948 where they won only 56 games and Wynn struggled with a 5.82 ERA, he was traded along with Mickey Vernon to the Cleveland Indians in a five-player trade.

The move proved to be exactly what Wynn needed. After posting a 72-87 record with a 3.94 ERA in Washington, Wynn would emerge as a consistent ace over the next decade.

Following an 11-7 record in 1949, Wynn won the American League ERA title while winning 18 games in 1950.

He reached 20 victories for the first time in 1951 and then in 1952 posted a 23-12 record with a 2.90 ERA while finishing fifth in the AL MVP voting.

After winning 17 games in 1953, Wynn was dominant in 1954 as he registered a 23-11 record with a 2.73 ERA to help the Indians win the American League pennant with a 111-43 record. Despite posting the second most regular season wins (and most in AL history) during the 154-game season, the Indians were swept by the New York Giants in the World Series.

Wynn made the first of six straight All-Star appearances in 1955 while winning 17 games. He went 20-9 with a 2.72 ERA in 1956 before struggling with a 14-17 record in 1957.

Following the 1957 season, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox–along with outfielder Al Smith–in a trade that sent Minnie Minoso to Cleveland.

After posting a 14-16 record during his first season in Chicago, the 39-year-old Wynn found the Fountain of Youth in 1959.

He led the American League in innings for the third time in his career and registered a 22-10 record with a 3.17 ERA to help the White Sox win the American League pennant.

Wynn earned the Cy Young Award and was named The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year.

It was much more common for pitchers to be considered for the MVP Award during that era and in 1959 Wynn finished third. It was one of seven times he received MVP votes, including three top-six finishes.

In the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wynn started three games, but the wear of a long season showed, as he did not make it out of the fourth inning in his final two starts.

As he closed in on 300 career wins, Wynn struggled to maintain the durability that was his trademark throughout his career.

He started 36 games in 1960 and posted a 13-12 season. The following season he made only 17 appearances, but posted an 8-2 record.

Needing eight wins to reach 300, Wynn toiled through the 1962 season no longer able to hide the fact that he was 42-years old.

A win over Kansas City on August 10 gave him a 6-8 record, but Wynn lost seven of his final eight starts to end the season with 299 victories.

He desperately hoped to get number 300 in his next to final start against the New York Yankees. He held the Yankees to one run through nine innings, but unfortunately was matched pitch-for-pitch by Bill Stafford.

In the 10th inning, Wynn gave up four runs, including a two-run home run to Elston Howard, as New York won 5-1.

Released by the White Sox following the season, Wynn returned to Cleveland, where he had posted four 20+ win seasons and claimed 163 victories in nine seasons between 1949 and 1957.

On July 13, 1963 he earned his only win of the season in a 7-4 victory over Kansas City. He joined Lefty Grove as the only pitchers to retire with exactly 300 wins.

He completed his career with a 300-244 career record and 3.54 ERA. Known for his pitching durability, Wynn posted 289 complete games in 611 career starts (47%). He twice led the AL in strikeouts and finished his career with 2,334.

Wynn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 and passed away in 1999 at the age of 79.

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