On Monday, former Reds pitcher Pedro Borbon died after a long battle with cancer, Our thoughts go out to his family during this time of loss. We’d also like to take this moment to celebrate his life, for Borbon was a pertinent piece of the Big Red Machine. His career as a Red was memorable, from the beginning to the end, starting with a trade made on November 25th 1969 when the Reds traded the highly-talented and yet clearly enigmatic Alex Johnson to the Angels along with Chico Ruiz.

In return, they received veteran Jim McGlothlin, throw-in Vern Geishert, and a young Dominican pitcher named Pedro Borbon, who was one week shy of his 23rd birthday.

In 1970, Alex Johnson won the batting title in the American League. Jim McGlothlin went 14-10 with a 3.59 era and Pedro Borbon pitched 17.1 innings, but it started out with a bang.

On May 26th of the 1970 season Borbon made his Cincinnati Reds debut against the San Diego Padres. In this appearance, he plunked Padre slugger Nate Colbert and was drilled himself hit while he batted the following inning. This retaliation caused a small rift between Pedro and the Padres catcher, and the 23 year old was pulled away by Pete Rose from the scuffle before it could escalate. This was the Reds fans introduction to Pedro Borbon, and one thing was certain: he was ready to take on the world. Unfortunately for Borbon, he wasn’t prepared to take on the National League, and it would be two more years before he burst on the scene for good. When he did he became a Reds legend.

First: What did he throw?

In the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, it states that Borbon was known for his “live” Fastball, but no other pitches or deliveries are mentioned. Not that he didn’t have any other pitches, adds Neyer, they just don’t seem to get mentioned.

Second: What was his role?

During the era of smaller pitching staffs, relievers were expected to (and did) pitch more than an inning, often arriving in a danger situation in one inning and book ending that with another inning or two. Some even emergency-started now and then. In short, they tended to be what the game called Firemen, for they were generally called on when a fire needed to be snuffed. One of the reasons that Sparky Anderson was called Captain Hook was his tendency to yank a pitcher in any inning and in any situation. Often the man getting the call was Pedro Borbon and in the years between 1972-1978 he was one of the premier relief pitchers in the game, compiling unreal inning totals, numerous games finished, double digit saves and multiple inning appearances. In short, he was a bullpen stud.

Third: What and How did he do?

Leads the Reds in batters faced for a reliever by 1036 batters.

The Reds have had 9 pitchers who have had over 120 innings pitched, 60 games appeared in and less than 2 starts. Borbon has 6 of them.

The amazing thing about this was that Borbon achieved this feat in six straight seasons, which is a baseball record.

Borbon would regularly pitch multiple innings in back to back games and was known for having one of the strongest arms on the staff. He once hit the fence in CF at Fenway with a throw from home plate.

He leads the Reds in appearances as a pitcher.

PLUS…. he finished 47.6% of the games entered!

After the sixth season of 120 plus innings, Borbon scaled back and only tossed 99.1.

The next season he threw 44 innings as a Red and was traded to the Giants where he topped 90 for the 8th straight season. This too is another record.

Fourth: How did it end?

Well let’s start with 1980; Borbon pitched 19 innings and retired. Facing 4326 batters can do that to a guy

Lore has it that when the Reds traded Pedro Borbon for the infamous Hector Cruz that Borbon had placed a curse on the Reds that they would never win a World Series again. Cincinnati’s loss in three games in the division playoffs later that season gave credence to that tale and by the end of several disappointing seasons in the 80’s, the memory of winning seemed quite faded. My brother and his roommates were the typical college students in late 80’s, living on the bare minimum during the summer months, and they bonded pretty heavy with the Reds for evening entertainment. As the 1990 season was underway, they decided to break the “Borbon Curse” Their theory was that a “reverse curse” must be applied to take on the original one. Their solution was they would break the curse by carrying this card in their wallets all year in deference to the great reliever.

By the end of the World Series they were convinced their metaphysical experiment had worked.

In the end, it was just a rumor and a tale, as Pedro himself confirmed in 2002 that no such curse had ever occurred. In 2010 he was inducted in the Reds Hall of Fame where a number of his records will likely stand for awhile.