July 13, 1963 – Early Wynn Returns to Indians, Earns Elusive 300th Win
Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn came to the Indians in 1948 after 8 seasons with the Senators and two years serving in World War II. Early in his career he was known as an aggressive power pitcher who was quick to brush batters back off the plate. He once said, “A pitcher will never be a big winner until he hates hitters.” He was also known to knock runners down at first base, with bean balls disguised as pickoff attempts.
Ten years into his baseball career, Wynn could no longer rely entirely on velocity and swagger. He credited Mel Harder with re-making his career. Harder taught Wynn how to throw a curveball, and he became part of one of the most talented pitching rotations in history along with Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Mike Garcia.
He pitched for nine years with the Indians, leading the World-Series bound 1954 squad with 23 wins. Wynn was traded to the White Sox after the 1957 season where he pitched until the end of 1962. The White Sox released Wynn at the end of the season with 299 total wins.
The Indians reached out to Wynn on June 1, 1963. He was at home in Venice, Florida unhappily retired. The 43-year old felt that he had more innings left in his arm. Wynn pitched a complete game in his first game back in the rotation, but either pitched no-decisions or was the hard-luck loser in four consecutive outings.
On July 13, 1963 the Indians were visiting the Kansas City Athletics in Missouri’s Municipal Stadium and Wynn was on the mound again seeking his elusive 300th win. Second baseman Larry Brown put the Tribe ahead early with an RBI single that drove in Joe Romano.
The A’s tied it up in the bottom of the fourth when George Alusik sent Wynn’s pitch over the Muni Stadium wall for a lead-off home run.
Wynn led off the top of the fifth with a single, and advanced to second on a Dick Howser single. KC’s Moe Drabowsky walked Max Alvis to load the bases. Joe Adcock then knocked a single scoring Wynn and Howser. Another walk chased Drabowsky from the game, and Al Luplow knocked in another two runs before Romano was gunned out at home trying to score from first base.
The Royals loaded the bases to lead off the bottom of the fifth, then Jerry Lumpe tried to stretch a double into a triple. Three runs scored–including a young Tony LaRussa who was on base as a pinch runner.
Woodie held pinch hit for Wynn in the top of the 6th. With five innings in the books and a 5-4 lead, Wynn could not lose the game but his teammates would have to hold on for the win.
Reliever Jerry Walker gave up only three hits and two walks in his four innings of work. His talented pitching along with two further Indians insurance runs sealed Wynn’s place in the history books as the 14th MLB pitcher to achieve 300 wins.
Wynn made one start after this game, and spent the rest of the year in the bullpen. He retired at the end of the 1963 season with exactly 300 wins, and a lifetime ERA of 3.54. He struck out 2,334 batters in 4,564 innings across parts of four decades.
The 300 win club currently stands at 24 pitchers, and is not anticipated to grow anytime soon. Randy Johnson is the most recent addition, having earned his 300th win in 2009. Lefty Grove is the only other pitcher to have retired with exactly 300 wins.