June 21, 1959–On this day, pitcher Don Newcombe has one of the most impressive all around games in Cincinnati baseball history, as he goes 4-4 with two walks, scoring three runs, driving in four, while hurling a complete game in defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 17-3.
Newcombe was the National League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner for the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers were National League champions, and Newcombe finished the season 27-7 with a 3.06 ERA, 18 complete games, with 16 rbi as a pitcher. In 1955, Newcombe was 20-5 with a 3.20 ERA while batting .359 with 7 home runs and 23 rbi. In Newcombe’s first six year major league seasons, he won the MVP, the CY Young, Rookie of the Year, was named to four all-star teams, and finished in the top eight in MVP voting three different times (five times in the top 22). He shut out the Reds in his very first major league start. He did all this despite missing two seasons due to military service after this third major league season.
Newcombe got off to an 0-6 start with the Dodgers in 1958. In 34 innings, he had allowed 53 hits and 11 home runs with a 7.68 earned run average when the Reds traded first baseman Steve Bilko and pitchers Johnny Klippstein, Art Fowler, and Charlie Rabe for him. Klippstein and Fowler were former starting pitchers now in the relief phase of their careers; Rabe was a career minor leaguer, and Bilko had spent parts of ten years in the majors, but was recently coming off three terrific power filled minor league seasons. Bilko had slugged 37, 55, and 56 home runs for Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League and was a natural for the newly arrived Los Angeles Dodgers to acquire. Newcombe has since said that his career downfall was due to alcoholism. The trade was pretty much a change of scenery for lots of players with the teams hoping to find more lightning in the players’ bottles.
The Redlegs got the best single season of this deal. Klippstein and Fowler pitched several more years as good relievers, but Newcombe had one last big season left in his arm. Newcombe went 7-7 with a 3.85 ERA in the second half of 1958, and had a big 1959 for the Redlegs, going 13-8 with a 3.16 ERA and 17 complete games. He also batted .305 with three homers and 21 rbi, with the Redlegs using him as a pinch hitter in 19 games (he went 6-17 with three rbi).
But, his best day came on June 21st of 1959. 1959 was a down year for the Redlegs. They finished the year in fifth and never really contended all season. Newcombe was paired against his old teammate, Johnny Podres for the Dodgers. The Redlegs scored in the first, and then again in the second as Newcombe singled home catcher Dutch Dotterer who had singled and advanced to second base on a wild pitch.
The Redlegs added four more in the fourth to stretch their lead to 6-0 with the big hits being a Dotterer home run and a Newcome single that scored Eddie Kasko. Additional runs scored on a wild pitch by Klippstein and a balk by Fowler, both now pitching for the Dodgers after the Newcombe trade.
The Dodgers struck for two in the bottom of the fourth, but the Redlegs added five runs in the top of the fifth. Jim Pendleton led off the inning with a homer, Newcombe singled in Dotterer, and Gus Bell hit a pinch hit three run homer to make the score 11-2.
The Redlegs scored two more in each of the seventh and eighth innings, with Newcombe scoring in each inning after reaching base each time on walks. Newcombe finished the scoring in the ninth with a two-run single, scoring Dotterer and Kasko with the Redlegs winning, 17-3.
The bottom third of the Redlegs lineup (Dotterer, Kasko, and Newcombe) combined to go 9-15 with with three walks, nine runs scored, one home run and a double, and five rbi. Newcombe went the distance on the mound, going nine innings, scattering 10 hits and walking two. In addition, Newcombe picked off Dodger speedster Maury Wills, converted a ground ball into an out, and covered first to record an out on another ground ball. It was a grand day for Don Newcombe and the Cincinnati Redlegs.
Newcombe has spent his post-baseball playing days working for the Dodgers’ front office and helping those in need. From wikipedia.org:
I’m standing here with the man (Newcombe) who saved my life. He was a channel for God’s love for me because he chased me all over Los Angeles trying to help me and I just couldn’t understand that Ã¢â‚¬â€ but he persevered Ã¢â‚¬â€ he wouldn’t give in and my life is wonderful today because of Don Newcombe.
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Maury Wills, former Dodger great, on Newcombe’s role in helping Wills regain sobriety after Wills’ substance abuse problems in the 1980s.
What I have done after my baseball career and being able to help people with their lives and getting their lives back on track and they become human beings again Ã¢â‚¬â€ means more to me than all the things I did in baseball. Ã¢â‚¬â€ Don Newcombe