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Sports Then and Now

Luis “El Tiante” Tiant

Posted on April 06, 2021 by Dean Hybl
Luis Tiant

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the ace of the Boston Red Sox staff when they reached the 1975 World Series and is considered by many to be someone worthy of induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Luis Tiant, known as “El Tiante”, spent 19 years in the majors between 1964 and 1982.

Though he was 75-64 with a 2.84 ERA in six seasons with the Cleveland Indians and then helped the Minnesota Twins reach the playoffs in 1970, it appeared that Tiant’s career might be over following the 1970 season.

He was released by the Twins and then was signed and released after only one month by the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves misjudgment proved to be a lucky break for the Boston Red Sox.

It didn’t look that way immediately as Tiant went 1-7 with a 4.85 ERA in his first season with the Red Sox.

However, in 1972 he turned things around and returned to the form that had helped him win 21 games with a 1.60 ERA for the Indians in 1968.

He led the league with a 1.91 ERA in 1972 while posting a 15-6 record.

Tiant won 20 games in 1973 and then 22 games in 1974 as he finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.

In 1975, he didn’t have quite as strong a regular season with an 18-14 record and 4.02 ERA, but he was a key component of the success that led the Red Sox into the World Series for the first time since 1967.

Against the three-time defending World Champion Oakland A’s in the League Championship Series, Tiant allowed only three hits and an unearned run to win his only start.

With his unorthodox delivery that had his back facing home plate, Tiant became a national celebrity during the 1975 World Series.

Originally from Cuba, his parents had never seen him pitch at the major league level. They received a special VISA to travel to Boston for the opening of the World Series and Tiant did not disappoint.

He confused Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” in pitching a 6-0 shutout. In game four he wasn’t quite as dominant, but recorded his second straight complete game victory.

Tiant left game six trailing in the eighth inning, but was bailed out by Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk as Boston went on to win the game.

The following season, Tiant went 21-12 with a 3.06 ERA and made his third trip to the All-Star Game.

He pitched two more seasons for the Red Sox and over his eight-year tenure registered a 122-81 record with a 3.22 ERA.

Tiant concluded his career in 1982 with the California Angels.

With a career record of 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA and four 20+ victory seasons, many believe Tiant is deserving of induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, after receiving support from 31% of the voters during his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, Tiant never again exceeded 18% (well shy of the needed 75%) before his window ended in 2002. Tiant is now eligible for selection by the senior’s committee, but has yet to gain enough support to earn a spot in Cooperstown.

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