Wednesday, April 7, 2010

R.I.P. Mike Cuellar, 1937-2010

If you are a baseball fan, you should know the name Mike Cuellar. He shared the Cy Young Award in 1969 with Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers, a year when McClain became the most recent 30 game winner and likely to be the last in baseball history. Cuellar was the first Latin pitcher to win the award. Juan Marichal, the great pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and my personal favorite pitcher of all time, never won the Cy Young.

Cuellar came up to the big leagues in 1959 with the Cincinnati Reds, one of the last Cubans to be signed before the Castro revolution. After bouncing around in the minors and a stint with the Houston Astros, Cuellar became part of the dominant starting rotation for the Baltimore Orioles in the late sixties and early seventies. From 1969 to 1974, he had four seasons with 20 victories or more, and in 1971, the Orioles became only the second team in major league history to have four 20 game winners in their rotation, Cuellar, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Pat Dobson.

Cuellar was noted for pitching out of trouble, trouble that was often his creation. Earl Bleeping Weaver, genius manager of the Baltimore Orioles and exceedingly quotable person, said of his star pitcher: "I gave Mike Cuellar more second chances than I gave my first wife."

Cuellar died on April 2 from stomach cancer. I found this out by stumbling onto the New York Times obituary notices when I intended to go to the Associated Press page. Five days after the fact, AP still doesn't think his death is worth a mention. Wikipedia, God bless all the tidy nerds who keep track of a jillion things, has noted his passing.

Best wishes to the family and friends of Mike Cuellar, from a fan.