Thanks to some research by Tim Trokey of Fox Sports Midwest, we have just learned that Kyle McClellan and Jaime Garcia are the first pair of Cardinals starters to begin the season 5-0 since 1963. The starters from that ’63 team were Curt Simmons and Ray Washburn.
There’s way more to this story than just a 5-0 start.
Curt Simmons was a veteran lefty and number three starter behind staff aces Bob Gibson and Ernie Broglio. Washburn, the right-hander with an explosive fastball and a knee buckling curve was the the starter in waiting, bringing up the rear of the rotation as a youngster.
Is the hair standing up on the back of your neck yet ? If not, just wait.
Curt Simmons would finish the season with a 15-9 record and lead the staff with a 2.48 ERA. He had been a flame thrower when he broke into the league with the Phillies before after arm and shoulder troubles nearly ended his career. Since coming over to the Cardinals, he reinvented himself as a crafty pitcher, relying on deception and a knee buckling curve of his own. As a result, Simmons was a much better pitcher now than when he could throw the ball past any hitter.
It is with Ray Washburn that the spooky parallels take a Rod Serling sort of twist.
We all remember Jaime Garcia’s fourth victory of 2011, right ? He retired the first 22 Milwaukee Brewers batters before giving up a walk with one out in the eighth inning. The 24 year old Garcia nearly threw a perfect game, ending up with a two hit shutout.
Let me take you back to April 27, 1963.
A 25 year old Ray Washburn, in his second year as a starter for the Cardinals, brought a 3-0 record and 1.67 ERA into this game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The quick start and miniscule ERA were starting to get noticed around the National League, and sports writers were beginning follow the name Washburn with “rising star” in their articles.
His opponent in this game is Larry Sherry, but that’s not the important part of the story. Neither is the nine men the Cardinals sent to the plate in the sixth inning, the three errors the Dodgers committed, nor are the three runs that resulted from that mayhem.
The story was Washburn. With two men out in the seventh inning, Ray Washburn walked Ron Fairly. Fairly would be the first man to reach base against the young Cardinals hurler. Twenty men up, and twenty men retired. Washburn had a perfect game up to that point.
That sound you now hear is your inner monologue playing the soundtrack from “The Twilight Zone.”
He would retire the next batter to end the seventh inning, keeping the no-hitter in tact.
With every ear in Cardinals nation listening to KMOX, Bill Skowon smacked a one out single in the eighth inning, breaking up Washburn’s no-hit bid. Washburn had gone through some pretty good hitters, and it was a guy hitting .200 did him in. He would give up another single to Jim Gilliam in the eighth, and a double to Maury Wills in the ninth to complete the three hitter. Washburn would earn the complete game shutout win, his second on the season.
Tingly yet ?
Maybe this will do it. Washburn’s next victory, for number five on the season, would come against the Chicago Cubs. Yes, the same team that Garcia just defeated to earn his fifth win of the 2011 season.
Because Washburn threw too hard for too long on a cool evening in Los Angeles, he developed arm troubles that would cost him the rest of the 1963 season, and a good part of the next two. He did a Curt Simmons through, and reinvented himself as a crafty right hander and was a huge part of two National League pennants in 1967 and 1968. In September of 1968, Washburn would get his no-hitter in San Francisco, retiring Hall of Famer’s Willie Mays and Willie McCovey in the last inning to do so.
You just can’t make up stuff like this.