Dennis Eckersley becomes the second pitcher to record a 50-save season
Dennis Eckersley’s 24-year pitching career is divided into two separate and unique parts.
In the first half of his career, Eckersley was primarily a starter. For the final 12 years of his career, however, he was one of the game’s most dominant closers. Together, Eckersley’s success as both a starter and closer led him to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On Sept. 21, 1992, The Eck became the second pitcher to record a 50-save season.
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That day, Eckersley’s Oakland Athletics were defeating the Chicago White Sox 6-5, when Eckersley entered the game in the bottom of the ninth to face the White Sox 3-4-5 batters. He retired the side in order, getting Frank Thomas to pop out, Shawn Jeter to strike out and Robin Ventura to ground out. The Athletics got the win while Eckersley recorded his 50th save of the season.
Eckersley became the second pitcher ever to record 50 saves in a season, following Bobby Thigpen’s then-record 57-save campaign of 1990.
Eckersley would end the 1992 season with 51 saves. He was that year’s recipient of the American League Cy Young Award, receiving 19 of 28 Baseball Writers’ Association of America first place votes.
Eckersley was also selected as the 1992 American League Most Valuable Player.
“I couldn’t imagine winning this award without a team like I had last year,” Eckersley said of the 1992 Oakland Athletics after winning the Cy Young Award. “If we have terrible defense or if we stunk period, I’m not going to get that many chances. I’m lucky to be on a great team.”
“There’s a lot of deserving guys out there that have the everyday numbers,” Eckersley said after receiving MVP honors. “Everything fell into place. These things come around once in a lifetime.”
With more than 50 saves in 1992, Eckersley became the first of what would be two pitchers to have both a 50-save season and a 20-win season in the same career. In 2002, John Smoltz would record his 50th save and join Eckersley in this unique category.
Eckersley also remains the only pitcher in baseball to have pitched 100 complete games and recorded at least 100 saves in a career.
Eckersley debuted with the Cleveland Indians April 12, 1975, posting a 13-7 record and a 2.60 earned run average on the season.
As a starter Eckersley won 150 games. He also pitched baseball’s 200th no hitter on May 30, 1977.
Eckersley took on the role of closer in his first season with his hometown Oakland Athletics, 1987. In that role for the rest of his career, Eckersley saved 390 games. From 1988-93, Eckersley struck out 458 betters while walking just 51.
In 2004, in his first year of eligibility, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America elected Eckersley to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I always dreamed of being a major league baseball player, but I never dreamed of being in the Hall of Fame,” Eckersley said in his induction speech. “I could have never envisioned myself standing next to my childhood idols, Juan Marichal and Willie Mays.”
Nicole Pappas was a public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development