Big Van was a devastating pitcher who, while at the top of his game, was as overpowering a pitcher as could be found in the league. He was usually found near the top of the pecking order in strikeouts per nine innings, fanning batters with his overpowering arsenal of bullets and torpedoes.
Mungo was originally summoned to the Major Leagues by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1931. His accuracy was suspect, indicated by his league leading total of 115 walks in 1932, but Van still won 13 games as a rookie. He put it all together in 1933 when he won 16 games on a tidy 2.72 ERA. The 1933 Dodgers had little talent outside of Mungo (something he had to deal with throughout his tenure in Brooklyn) employing a couple washed-up bats in Hack Wilson and Lefty O’Doul and little else.
Brooklyn road Van excessively in 1934, when he paced the league with 315 innings pitched. Van also topped the league in games started and walks while finishing behind Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean in strikeouts. He made his first All-Star appearance that year while tossing three shutouts and posting just as many saves. His workload decreased in 1935 but he still led the senior circuit in shutouts while finishing fourth in the strikeout department.
He eclipsed 300 innings pitched again in 1936 as skipper Casey Stengel ran Mungo out to the hill as much as he could. Van responded by leading the NL with 238 strikeouts. There were very few pitchers – make that no pitchers – who were as dominant as Van that year. Mungo was the Major League’s lone 200 strikeout man in ’36 but the fireballing took its toll on Van and he never again was the same pitcher.
Limited to 160 innings in 1937 due to an arm injury, Van nevertheless had his third straight year of leading the league in strikeouts per nine innings when he fanned 122 batters on his short workload. But the injuries began to mount up for Van. After throwing 133 innings in 1938, he suffered a broken leg that kept him off the field for most of 1939. He blew out his arm in 1940 and rarely pitched at the Major League level in 1941 and 1942. He worked out in the bushes those two seasons trying to regain arm strength.
He came back with the Giants in 1943 and tossed a pair of shutouts for Mel Ott’s boys during that war interrupted year. His last good year came in 1945 when he posted a 14-7 record on a 3.20 ERA.
W 120/L 115/PCT .511/G 364/CG 123/IP 2,111/H 1,957/BB 862/SO 1,242/SHO 20/ERA 3.47