Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Luis Tiant (#532)

Luis Tiant was a starting pitcher for 19 seasons (1964-82). He was a member of the Cleveland Indians’ rotation during the 1960s (which is how I always identify him).

The middle (and probably more famous) part of his career was spent with the Boston Red Sox, where, in addition to having three 20-win seasons, he won 18 games in 1975 for the AL champs and was 3-0 in the post-season.

Tiant is also famous for his patented 180-degree “face the center fielder” pitching windup motion.

Luis began his pro career at age 18, pitching for the Mexico City Tigers from 1959-61. The Tigers sold him to the Cleveland Indians before the 1962 season. Tiant pitched on the Indians’ farm for 2 ½ seasons. He won 14 games in 1963 for the Tribe’s single-A team, and was 15-1 in just the first half of 1964, pitching for triple-A Portland (OR) Beavers.

Tiant was called up to the majors in mid-July 1964, and won another 10 games with Cleveland, primarily as a starter.

Except for parts of the ’65 and ’66 seasons, Luis was always a starter during his time with the Indians, which lasted through the 1969 season. In 1968 he won 21 games, and led the AL with a 1.60 ERA and 9 shutouts, while making his first all-star team.

The following year, he lost 20 games, and was dealt to the Twins after the season with pitcher Stan Williams for pitchers Dean Chance and Bob Miller, 3rd baseman Graig Nettles, and outfielder Ted Uhlaender.

Luis lasted only one season in Minnesota. He was 6-0 by the end of May, but broke a shoulder blade, sidelining him until early August. He was ineffective after returning, finished up at 7-3, and was released the following March.

Tiant was picked up by the Braves in mid-April, and assigned to triple-A. Released a month later, he was then signed by the Red Sox. Boston had him tune-up in triple-A for a month, then called him up to the Sox in early June. Luis started 10 games in his first 6 weeks with the team, then was relegated to the bullpen for the final 2 months of the season.

In 1972, he began a string of 7 consecutive seasons with 12 or more wins for the Red Sox. Luis again led the AL with a 1.91 ERA, while winning 15 games. He won 20 and 22 games in the next 2 seasons.

In the 1975 AL Championship season, he compiled an 18-14 record and led his team in starts, innings pitched, and strikeouts for the 3rd consecutive season. Tiant was 1-0 in the ALCS and 2-0 in the World Series. He played 3 more seasons in Boston, winning 21 games in 1976.

After the 1978 season, he was granted free agency, and signed with the Yankees. After one good and one so-so season in New York, free agency took him to the Pirates for the 1981 season. He spent most of the season at triple-A Portland (where he had been in 1964), and was called up to the Pirates for the last 6 weeks of the season, starting 9 games.

Tiant finished his career back where he started – playing in Mexico in 1982 and 1983. He also played 6 games for the California Angels at the end of the 1982 season.

Although Cuban, Tiant was inducted into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

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