Mickey Lolich

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Mickey Lolich
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{{Use mdy dates|date=January 2016}}

|birth_place=Portland, Oregon|debutleague = MLB|debutdate=May 12|debutyear=1963|debutteam=Detroit Tigers|finalleague = MLB|finaldate=September 23|finalyear=1979|finalteam=San Diego Padres|statleague = MLBWin–loss record (pitching)>Win–loss record|stat1value=217–191|stat2label=Earned run average|stat2value=3.44|stat3label=Strikeouts|stat3value=2,832|teams= }}Michael Stephen Lolich (born September 12, 1940) is an American former professional baseball player.WEB,weblink Mickey Lolich statistics, Sports Reference LLC, Baseball-Referenc.come, November 9, 2019, He played in Major League Baseball as a pitcher from 1962 until 1979, most notably for the Detroit Tigers. A three-time All-Star, Lolich is most notable for his performance in the 1968 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals when he earned three complete-game victories, including a win over Bob Gibson in the climactic Game 7.WEB,weblink The Baseball Biography Project: Mickey Lolich, Holmes, Dan, Society for American Baseball Research, December 29, 2011, NEWS,weblink Mickey Lolich's epic World Series wins still turn heads, 50 years later, Detroit Free Press, 8 November 2019, At the time of his retirement in 1979, Lolich held the Major League Baseball record for career strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher.NEWS,weblink It’s time Lolich gets his name called for the Hall, Kemp, Bill,, 9 November 2019,

Early years

Lolich was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1940. He is of Croatian descent.weblink" title="">Croatian Chronicle Network 35 Pacific Northwest Croatian Athletes Lolich was born right-handed and began to throw left-handed after a childhood accident. At age two, he rode his tricycle into a parked motorcycle which fell on him. The accident broke his left collar bone requiring him to wear a cast for four months. Post-injury efforts to strengthen the left arm helped Lolich develop into throwing left handed.NEWS, Lolich Is Thinking Pitcher -- Sideways, The Indianapolis News (AP story), April 25, 1964, 12, NEWS, Lolich a Lollapaluza, Detroit Free Press, Joe Falls, April 9, 1964, 2D,weblink, (The Joe Falls account indicates the left shoulder was broken and attributed the strength of the left arm to post-injury efforts to strengthen the arm.) Known as an eccentric, a sports writer in 1964 wrote: "He now eats, writes and bats right-handed, pitches left-handed and thinks sideways."As a teenager, he excelled playing in American Legion Baseball and in the Babe Ruth League, setting Oregon state records for strikeouts. He attended Lincoln High School in Portland and posted a record of 19 wins against 5 losses for the school team in 1958.

Professional baseball

Knoxville and Durham

Lolich was signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent at age 17 on June 30, 1958.NEWS, Lolich Becomes Tiger Property, Albany Democrat-Herald, July 1, 1958, 9,weblink, He began his professional career playing the 1959, 1960, and 1961 seasons with the Knoxville Smokies of the South Atlantic League and Durham Bulls of the Carolina League. In his first three seasons, he compiled a 17-29 record in 82 games.

Denver and Portland

Lolich was assigned to the Triple-A Denver Bears at the start of the 1962 season and went 0-4 with a 16.50 ERA in nine games. After the poor start, Detroit ordered him back to Knoxville. Lolich refused to report to Knoxville and was placed under indefinite suspension. He returned home to Oregon and struck out all 12 batters he faced in a four-inning outing in semi-pro ball with the Archer Blower team in Portland.NEWS, Lolich Placed On Suspension, Eugene Register-Guard, June 1, 1962, 2B,weblink, In early June, Lolich was acquired by the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League in a deal with the Tigers.NEWS, Bevos Get Lolich, Corvallis Gazette-Times, June 5, 1962, 8,weblink, Lolich turned his career around, compiling a 10-9 record and 3.95 ERA with 138 strikeouts in 23 games with the Beavers. The key to Lolich's turnaround was control. He had developed a reputation as "a flamethrowing wildman" in the minors but developed his control while playing for Portland.NEWS, Tigers Pause Before Pouncing On KC, 4-3, The Herald-Press, Jerry Green, July 6, 1963, 9,weblink,

Detroit Tigers

1963 to 1967 seasons

Buoyed by a strong performance with Portland, Lolich was reclaimed by the Tigers in 1963. He irked Detroit's management by reporting late to spring training, saying he had remained in Portland to take an examination to become a mailman during the off-season. He was cut by the Tigers on April 3 and optioned to the Syracuse Chiefs, then recalled to Detroit on May 9 after compiling a 2.45 ERA in 22 innings at Syracuse. He made his major league debut on May 12 and secured his first win on May 28, allowing one run in nine innings against the Los Angeles Angels. He was plagued by lack of run support during his rookie campaign, losing a 2-1 decision on July 29, allowing only one hit through 8-1/3 innings before giving up a home run in the ninth inning. He finished the 1963 season with a 5-9 record, 3.55 ERA, and 103 strikeouts in 144-1/3 innings pitched. Lolich blossomed in 1964 with an 18-9 record and 3.41 ERA in 232 innings pitched. He pitched his first shutout, a three-hitter against the Minnesota Twins, on April 24th.NEWS, Lolich Handcuffs Twins 5-0 on 3 Hits, Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 25, 1964, 11,weblink, On September 9, he pitched his sixth shutout of the season and struck out 12 Yankees. For the season, Lolich ranked fourth in the American League with six shutouts and fifth with 192 strikeouts.NEWS, 1964 AL Pitching Leaders, Sports Reference LLC,, November 9, 2019,weblink In November 1964, Lolich married Joyce Fleenor, a former airline stewardess from Los Angeles. At spring training in 1965, Lolich told reporter Joe Falls that marriage had a calming influence on him: "She's done so much for me, to settle me down, that I can hardly put it into words. She's made me a very happy guy."NEWS, Mickey Lolich: "I'm Trying To Be A Personality", Detroit Free Press, Joe Falls, February 7, 1965, Detroit Sunday Magazine, p. 12,weblink, In 1965, he compiled a 15-9 record with a 3.44 ERA. His 226 strikeouts ranked second in the American League behind Sam McDowell.WEB,weblink 1965 American League Pitching Leaders, Sports Reference LLC,, November 7, 2019, Always known as a weak hitter, Lolich hit .058 and struck out 37 times 86 at bats during the 1965 season.After two strong seasons, Lolich regressed in 1966. His ERA jumped by more than a point to 4.77, and he compiled a 14-14 record in 40 games. After the season, Lolich rejected claims that his weight was the problem. He noted that he weighed 200 pounds when he won 18 games in 1964 and weighed only two pounds more in 1966. Lolich instead opined: "The big problem for me was loss of concentration. I blew a lot of leads this year."NEWS, Lolich Speaks Here, The Holland Evening Sentinel, December 9, 1966, 2,weblink, In 1967, the Tigers hired former major league pitcher Johnny Sain as their pitching coach.BOOK,weblink Jim Northrup Recalls His Playing Days With Tigers, Sargent, Jim, February 2004, Baseball Digest, December 24, 2011, Sain helped develop Lolich's pitching skills and taught him psychological aspects of pitching. The 1967 season was a memorable one for the tight four-way pennant race among the Tigers, the Boston Red Sox, the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox.WEB,weblink 1967: The Impossible Dream,, December 25, 2011, dead,weblink" title="">weblink April 26, 2012, mdy-all, The Tigers were in contention until the final day of the 1967 season, finishing one game behind the Red Sox.WEB,weblink 1967 American League Team Statistics and Standings,, December 22, 2011, Lolich finished the season with a 14-13 record, but led the league with six shutouts.WEB,weblink 1967 American League Pitching Leaders,, December 25, 2011, In late July 1967, Lolich was called to active duty with the Michigan Air National Guard in response to ongoing 1967 Detroit riot. Lolich spent twelve days on active duty and was promoted to Airman First Class.NEWS, Lolich Nervous As Soldier, Corvallis Gazette-Times, July 29, 1967, 9,weblink, NEWS, Sports Chatter, The Windsor Star, Ken Fathers, August 12 1967, 2B,, Upon returning to the team, he received death threats, allegedly from the Black Panthers, for his role in quelling the riot. In response, the Federal Bureau of Investigation placed a team of snipers on the roof of Tiger Stadium during his following two starts.NEWS, Dow, Bill, Detroit '67: As violence unfolded, Tigers played two at home vs. Yankees,weblink 6 June 2018, Detroit Free Press, July 23, 2017, en,

1968 World Series championship

In 1968, the Tigers quickly rose to first place, winning nine straight after losing the season opener to Boston.WEB,weblink 1968 Detroit Tigers Schedule, Box Scores and Splits,, December 23, 2011, Lolich was overshadowed by teammate Denny McLain's 31-win season, and was sent to the bullpen in August due to a late-season slump. He made six appearances as a relief pitcher before returning to the starting rotation. He posted a 17-9 record with 197 strikeouts, as the Tigers won the American League pennant by 12 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles.WEB,weblink 1968 American League Team Statistics and Standings,, December 25, 2011, After Bob Gibson had defeated McLain in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series in St. Louis, Lolich helped the Tigers recover by allowing only one run to win Game 2 by a score of 8-1.WEB,weblink 1968 World Series,, December 25, 2011, He also helped his own cause by hitting the first and only home run of his 16-year career. But the Tigers lost the next two games at home to fall behind the Cardinals 3-1 and were facing elimination when Lolich returned to pitch in Game 5, just four days after pitching a complete game. Despite an unsettled start, when he surrendered a two-run home run to Orlando Cepeda in a three-run first inning, Lolich remained calm and proceeded to pitch eight scoreless innings as the Tigers scored two runs in the fourth and took the lead in the seventh on Al Kaline's bases loaded two-run single.WEB,weblink 1968 World Series Game 5 box score,, December 29, 2011, They added another run for a 5-3 win, staving off elimination. Back in St. Louis, the Tigers then won Game 6 behind McLain's solid pitching and a grand slam home run from Jim Northrup in a Series-record-tying ten-run third inning rally to force a crucial Game 7.WEB,weblink 1968 World Series Game 6 box score,, December 22, 2011, With just two days of rest, and having pitched two complete games in the past seven days, Lolich faced Gibson in Game 7, both having won their previous two starts. They each pitched six scoreless innings, Lolich picking off baserunners Lou Brock and Curt Flood to end a Cardinal threat in the bottom of the sixth, before the Tigers broke through with three runs in the top of the seventh starting with a two-out, two-run triple to deep center by Northrup just over Flood's head for an eventual 4-1 Tiger win and a 4-3 Series triumph.WEB,weblink 1968 World Series Game 7 box score,, December 29, 2011, Detroit became only the third team in World Series history to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win in seven games. Having completed game 7, Lolich became the 12th pitcher to win three games in a World Series, and the last with three complete games in a single Series. He was the last pitcher with three victories in the same World Series until Randy Johnson won 3 games in the 2001 World Series. He is the only left handed pitcher with three complete-game wins in the same World Series in baseball history. No other pitcher has thrown three-complete game World Series victories in the same series since. Lolich's performance earned him the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.WEB,weblink 1968 World Series,, December 25, 2011,

1969 to 1975 seasons

In 1969 Lolich won 19 games and earned his first All-Star selection. He struck out 16 batters in a game twice in 1969, his career high. In 1971 he led the American league with 25 wins, an impressive 29 complete games and 308 strikeouts, all career-highs. His 308 strikeouts is also a Tigers' team record.WEB,weblink'R'&elem=%5Bobject+Object%5D&tab_level=child&click_text=Sortable+Player+pitching&league_code='MLB'&page=1&ts=1572623732889, Detroit Tigers team records,, November 1, 2019, Lolich became known for his endurance and his ability to pitch complete games. He reached the 300-innings pitched mark every season between 1971 and 1974. He finished second to Vida Blue in the 1971 Cy Young Award voting.WEB,weblink 1971 Awards Voting,, November 1, 2019, Lolich won 22 games and posted a career-best 2.50 ERA in 1972 to help the Tigers win the American League Eastern Division championship. He pitched impressively in the 1972 American League Championship Series against the Oakland Athletics, posting a 1.42 ERA in two starts. In Game 1, he pitched 10 innings allowing only 1 run before losing the game in the bottom of the 11th inning on an unearned run. He pitched nine innings in Game 4, again allowing only 1 run, but the win went to reliever John Hiller as the Tigers rallied in the 10th inning. The Tigers eventually lost the series to Oakland in five games. He finished third in the 1972 Cy Young Award voting behind Gaylord Perry and Wilbur Wood.WEB,weblink 1972 Awards Voting,, November 1, 2019, File:Mickey Lolich 1975.jpg|thumb|Lolich as a member of the Detroit TigersDetroit TigersLolich won 16 games in both 1973 and 1974 however, the Tigers dropped to last place in the American League Eastern Division. In 1975, Lolich eclipsed Warren Spahn’s Major League Baseball record of 2,583 career strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher. Although Lolich pitched effectively in 1975, the Tigers' poor performance continued as they failed to provide him with much offensive support. He received only 14 runs of support during a 14 game stretch in which his win-loss record was 1-13, even though he managed to post a respectable 3.88 earned run average in that period. After the season, Lolich was traded to the New York Mets with outfielder Billy Baldwin in exchange for star outfielder Rusty Staub and pitcher Bill Laxton.

Mets and Padres

Lolich posted an 8-13 record with a respectable 3.22 ERA for the Mets in 1976 however, he had disagreements with the Mets pitching coach as well as the Mets trainer and retired after the season. He opened a doughnut shop in suburban Detroit and sat out the 1977 season. He returned to baseball in 1978, signing with the San Diego Padres as a free agent.He played mostly as a relief pitcher for the Padres in 1978, going 2–1 with a 1.56 ERA in 20 games. The following season, Lolich added a knuckleball to his pitching. Lolich had an inconsistent season in 1979 and decided to retire. He pitched in his final major league game on September 23, 1979 at the age of 39.

Career statistics

In a sixteen-year major league career, Lolich played in 586 games, accumulating a 217-191 win-loss record along with a 3.44 earned run average. He struck out 200 or more batters in a season seven times in his career. His 2,832 career strikeouts were the most by a left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball history until he was surpassed by Steve Carlton in 1981 and, he held the American League record for strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher until being surpassed by CC Sabathia in 2017. His 2,832 strikeouts ranks 20th all-time and fourth among left-handed pitchers behind Randy Johnson, Carlton and Sabathia.WEB,weblink Career Leaders & Records for Strikeouts, Baseball-Reference, November 8, 2019, Lolich threw 41 shutouts and 195 complete games during his career, completing nearly 40 percent of his starts. He holds Detroit Tigers team records in strikeouts (2,679), shutouts (39), games started (459) and home runs allowed (329).

Life after baseball

In 1979, Lolich invested in a doughnut shop in Rochester, Michigan, with the understanding that his partner would run the business. Following disagreements, Lolich bought out his partner and began running the business. After losing his lease, he moved the doughnut business to Lake Orion in 1983.NEWS, Are Those Good Days Now Gone Forever?, Los Angeles Times, Gordon Edes, October 15, 1984, III-14, III-20,weblink, In the late 1990s, Lolich sold the doughnut shop and retired.NEWS, Bernreuter, Hugh, Durable lefty and Detroit Tigers hero Mickey Lolich to visit Dow Diamond Thursday,, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Booth Newspapers, June 15, 2010,weblink November 10, 2019, He remained active in charity work and served as a coach at the Detroit Tigers' baseball fantasy camp in Lakeland, Florida. Because of his humble "everyman" qualities, many long-time Tiger fans celebrate him as one of the most popular sports figures in a working man's city. As The Detroit News put it, "He didn't act like a big shot superstar, he was one of us." | Michigan History {{webarchive|url= |date=July 9, 2012 }}In 2003, Lolich was one of 26 players chosen for the final ballot by the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee but garnered only 13 votes, far below the 75% required for election. A frequent claim of his is that never having won the Cy Young Award was a factor in his lack of success in Hall of Fame balloting (as of 2012).

Lolich's other records and accomplishments

  • His 2,679 strikeouts is the second-most in AL history by a left-hander.
  • His 2,832 career strikeouts in both leagues ranked in the top 10 in major league history when he retired in 1979.
  • His 1,538 batters faced in 1971 was the most in the majors since George Uhle faced 1,548 in 1923. Only two other pitchers have faced at least 1,500 hitters since 1923, Wilbur Wood with 1,531 in 1973 and Bob Feller with 1,512 in 1946.
  • His 376 innings pitched in 1971 is the second highest in the majors since 1917. Wilbur Wood holds the modern record with 376 2/3 just a year later, 1972. Only four have pitched 350 or more innings in a season since 1929: Wilbur Wood (1972 & 1973), Lolich (1971), Bob Feller (1946) and Tiger forerunner Dizzy Trout (1944).
  • His 29 complete games in 1971 was the highest in the AL since Bob Feller's 36 in 1946.
  • In the 1965-74 decade, he struck out more (2,245) than any other major league pitcher. Bob Gibson was second with 2,117 during the same period.
  • In the same decade, he was second in major league innings pitched (2,744 2/3) to Gaylord Perry's 2,978.
  • In the same decade, he had more wins (172) than any other AL pitcher. Gaylord Perry led the majors with 182.
  • In the same decade, he threw more complete games (155) than any other AL hurler. Gaylord Perry led the majors with 205.
  • He is the only left-hander with three complete World Series games in the same Series.

See also



External links

{{Baseballstats|br=l/lolicmi01|cube=14431|brm=lolich001mic}} {{1968 Detroit Tigers}}{{Detroit Tigers Opening Day starting pitchers}}{{World Series MVPs}}{{Babe Ruth Award}}{{AL wins champions}}{{AL strikeout champions}}

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