Friday, May 31, 2019

Cecil Upshaw (#286)

Cecil Upshaw was the Braves’ top relief pitcher from mid-1967 through the 1972 season.

Upshaw was signed by the Braves in 1964, and made his major-league debut on October 1, 1966.

In 1967, he was recalled from the minors when closer Phil Niekro moved to the starting rotation in mid-July. Upshaw remained in the closer role through the end of the 1972 season, except for missing the entire 1970 season with an injury.

In 1970 he tore ligaments in his hand in a freak accident. I had always heard that his ring finger got caught in a basketball net while attempting to dunk the ball, but on Wikipedia it says he and some teammates were walking down a sidewalk, and jumping up to touch overhanging awnings. Then his ring got caught on the awning and that was that.

In any case, Upshaw led the Braves in saves every season from '68-'72 except for 1970. In each season prior to the injury, his ERA was under 3.00, and he won a career-high 11 games in 1971.

After the 1972 season, the Braves acquired reliever Danny Frisella from the Mets, and the following April Upshaw was traded to the Astros for outfielder Norm Miller.

Cecil played just one season (1973) with the Astros, then was traded to the Indians in November for pitcher Jerry Johnson.

By late-April 1974 he was shipped out to the Yankees in a 7-player deal that saw Fritz Peterson and Chris Chambliss change teams. Upshaw played 1 season in the Big Apple, as the #2 reliever behind Sparky Lyle.

He was traded to the White Sox before the 1975 season. He manned the #10 spot on a 10-man staff in his final season, and was released during Spring Training in 1976.

Upshaw passed away in 1995 at age 52, of a heart attack.

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