Don Newcombe became one of the most decorated hurlers of all-time
Throughout Black History Month in February, the Hall of Fame celebrates the lives of African Americans who made historic contributions to the National Pastime.
For fifty-five years, he was in a class all his own. He was the first Major League player to earn all three of baseball's major awards – Rookie ofthe Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award – all with one team – voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Earning these achievements takes talent, and Don Newcombe had it.
The right-handed Newcombe made his big league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in May of 1949. Teammates Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella were already there, helping pave the way for African Americans like Newcombe who followed their path into organized baseball. In his first year, Newcombe became one of the Dodgers' most consistent power pitchers with a fierce fastball. He posted 17 victories, five shutouts, a 3.17 ERA and 149 strikeouts and helped his team win the league pennant. In a landslide decision, he was chosen 1949 NL Rookie of the Year, capturing 105 out of 116 votes. It was the first year the BBWAA selected a rookie of the year in each league.
Then, in 1956, he was honored with two more awards for his peak season. His 27-7 record, 3.06 ERA, 18 complete games, five shutouts and 139 strikeouts on the mound earned him the NL Most Valuable Player Award. He garnered eight first-place votes and was the only player named on every ballot. Just over a week later, Newcombe became the recipient of the very first Cy Young Award, with 10 out of 16 votes. It was given at the time to the best pitcher in the combined major leagues.
"I'm pretty proud of that," Newcombe saidabout his three awards in an interview later in life. "In fact, I'm very proud of it."
It would take fifty-five years before another pitcher matched Newcombe. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander earned the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2006 and the MVP and Cy Young Awards in 2011.
Newcombe is represented in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's Era of Change timeline by a series of four acrylic photo plaques showing his impressive pitching windup and in the Collections archive, which holds a 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers team signed baseball with his signature.
Celebrate Black History Month withthe Museum's Pastime's Pride features. Subjects include Buck O'Neil, Elston Howard, Rachel Robinson, the Evolution of Night Baseball, Welday Walker, Herb Washington, Connie Morgan, Bill White, Sam Lacy, Octavius Catto, Willie Horton, Bob Watson, Pumpsie Green, Charlie Grant, William Matthews, Don Newcombe, Vic Power, Emmett Ashford and Hank Thompson.
Tina Zayat is a fulfillment and shipping associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum