THE GREATEST LEFTY OF ALL
Spahn will be immortalized today

Bob Hersom Published: July 2, 2005
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The late Warren Spahn, major league baseball's most successful left-handed pitcher, will be immortalized today in Oklahoma City.

The RedHawks and the Oklahoma Centennial Commission will unveil a heroic sized Spahn statue at 5:30 p.m., in the Deep Right area outside SBC Bricktown Ballpark.

The area will henceforth be known as the Warren Spahn Plaza, honoring the man who moved to Hartshorne in 1950 and died Nov. 24, 2003, in Broken Arrow.

Oklahoma City's Spahn statue, standing eight feet, eight inches, is identical to those previously installed at Turner Field in Atlanta and the Oklahoma Sports Museum in Guthrie.

Spahn won 363 major league games, a record for left-handed pitchers that isn't likely to be broken. The winningest active lefty, Tom Glavine, has 267 wins.

"My dad saw Warren when he was young, said former major league pitcher Tom Sturdivant, 75, "and he said Spahnie was going to be the best pitcher that ever lived. And I think he was."

Sturdivant, for the New York Yankees, and Spahn, for the Milwaukee Braves, were the starting pitchers in Game 4 of the 1957 World Series. Spahn won 7-5 in 10 innings.

But Sturdivant's main memory of Spahn is when he faced the famous lefty as the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting pitcher.

"He hit a home run in the ninth inning to tie the ball game up," Sturdivant said. "He was going around the bases laughing. I was cocky, and that took a little of the cockiness out. He hit it down the right field line, not more than two inches inside the line.

"If he hadn't hit it, it would've hit him in the head. He was a bad ball hitter. And I think I got beat in the 14th. We both went to the 14th."

When's the last time you heard of one pitcher, let alone two, going 14 innings? But that was Spahnie, who completed 382 of his 665 major league starts.

"Nobody hit him very well," said Sturdivant, who pitched in the major leagues from 1955-64. "He completed a bunch of ball games, and the next day he could go out there and pitch another ball game. There weren't very many people who could do that."

Spahn's control was excellent and his "out" pitch was one of the most difficult to throw, the screwball, which came in on left-handed hitters. And Spahn followed a full windup with his famously high leg kick.

"He looked like a karate kicker," Tom Sturdivant Jr. said.

He often looked unhittable, cleverly hiding the ball in his extra large hands and releasing his pitch from all sorts of angles.

"He didn't give you a whole lot of ball to look at," said Cal McLish, 79, a major league pitcher from 1944-64. "You didn't get a good, long look at his pitches. He kind of hid it pretty good with that kick and delivery that he had."

Bobby Morgan, who played in the major leagues from 1950-58, remembered getting a single against Spahn in Brooklyn's old ballpark, Ebbetts Field.


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