Warren Spahn becomes third lefty to reach 300-win mark

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Janey Murray

On Aug. 11, 1961, Warren Spahn’s baseball collection grew to 300.

The Milwaukee Braves left-hander had collected a ball representing each of his major league victories, all labeled with the date, the opposing club and the score of the game.

The newest ball marked a special milestone: Spahn had just recorded his 300th career win, as the Braves defeated the Chicago Cubs 2-1 at County Stadium.

“I have every victory ball,” Spahn told the Associated Press after the game. “But I have to admit that four are not legitimate. I don’t have three because of game-winning homers and I missed another on a last inning hit by [Hank] Aaron.”

Spahn became the 13th pitcher and third left-hander to reach the 300 mark, and the first to accomplish the feat since Lefty Grove in 1941. Eddie Plank was the first left-hander to reach the 300-win mark.

“This was the toughest game I ever, ever pitched,” Spahn told the Capital Times.

The future Hall of Famer hurled a complete game, allowing one run on six hits while walking one and striking out five.

Spahn helped his own cause by driving in Milwaukee’s first run via a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth. The Cubs evened things up in the top of the sixth, plating a run on an RBI single by André Rodgers.

But Braves center fielder Gino Cimoli came to Spahn’s rescue in the bottom of the eighth, slugging a solo homer to regain the lead for Milwaukee and give Spahn a chance to close the game out in the top of the ninth.

“I don’t hit many of those, but I can’t think of a better place to hit a home run,” Cimoli told the AP after the game.

“Neither can I,” Spahn chimed in.

“That was destiny, that home run,” Cimoli said. “Just destiny.”

When handed the lead in the top of the ninth, Spahn quickly retired the first two batters on a strikeout and a lineout. But looming up next as the Cubs’ last hope was future Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who entered the game as a pinch hitter.

When Banks hit a ground ball to third baseman Eddie Mathews, it looked like the final out would be recorded. But a wild throw from Mathews enabled Banks to reach first as the tying run.

All was soon forgiven, however, as Spahn induced a fly out from the next batter to secure his 300th win. He was mobbed by his teammates on the mound, while the County Stadium crowd of 40,775 rose to give the southpaw a standing ovation.

As he jogged off the field headed for the dugout, Spahn tipped his cap and blew a kiss to the crowd.

With another career milestone in the books, the 40-year-old Spahn remained focused on the short-term.

“First of all, I want to win 20 this year,” he said. “Then I’ll be back next year. I’m going to stay active as long as possible.”

The left-hander would achieve that goal, recording 21 wins to mark his 12th 20-win season.

When asked if he thought he could reach 400 career wins, Spahn was a bit more skeptical.

“Well, maybe I’ll try for 400,” he said. “But it seems awfully far away right now.”

Spahn did not ultimately reach 400, a mark that’s only been attained by Cy Young and Walter Johnson. But he did wrap up his 21-year career with the most wins ever by a left-hander, retiring at 44 years old with 363 victories.

Spahn was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973.


Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series