Pirates shortstop Dick Groat once claimed “Batting against Don Drysdale is the same as making a date with a dentist.”
Drysdale was a tough pitcher, who along with Sandy Koufax, formed the most dominant pitching tandem of the 1960s.
The hard throwing right-hander had a reputation for owning the plate. Sportswriter Dave Anderson wrote: “Home plate is 17 inches wide. But to Don Drysdale it is divided into three parts – the inside four inches, the middle nine inches and the outside four inches. To him only the middle part belongs to the hitter; the inside and the outside part belong to the pitcher.”
Drysdale used a sidearm fastball to intimidate hitters and was not afraid to throw inside, as Orlando Cepeda described: “The trick against (Don) Drysdale is to hit him before he hits you.”
Upon his retirement from the game, Drysdale’s 154 batters hit by a pitch were a modern National League record. As he put it: “My own little rule was two for one – if one of my teammates got knocked down, then I knocked down two on the other team.”
Drysdale took home the Cy Young Award in 1962 when he won 25 games, at a time when there was only one Award given in the major leagues. In 1968, he pitched 58.2 straight scoreless innings, a record that would stand for 20 years. Included in that stretch of consecutive scoreless innings was a record six straight shutouts.
A terrific all around athlete, Drysdale could swing the bat as well as throw the ball. In his career, he hit 29 home runs, including seven in each of the 1958 and 1965 seasons, a record for home runs in a season by a National League hurler. In his major league career, he batted as high as sixth in the lineup and was used as a pinch hitter from time to time. He was the only .300 hitter in the lineup for the 1965 World Series champion Dodgers.
A nine-time All-Star, Drysdale started the All-Star Game a record-tying five times.
Drysdale’s 14-year big league career ended in 1969 at the age of 32. After his playing days, he stayed involved in the game as a broadcaster for the White Sox, Rangers, Expos, Angels and Dodgers – as well as ABC's Monday Night Baseball.
Drysdale was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. He passed away on July 3, 1993.