One of the finest short relievers in baseball history, Tekulve was an unusual pitcher who released the ball from below his knees, making his offerings difficult for batters to read. Hitting Kent “The Rubber Band Man” Tekulve was like trying to read a volume of James Joyce placed on the ground while standing over it. Needless to say, he gave many a batter headaches.
Tekulve, who never started a game at the Major League level, made his debut with the Pirates in 1974. Already 27 years old, it seemed that Kent would have just a brief career, but given his free and easy motion, he lasted a long time in the Majors and currently rests 8th all-time in games pitched and 12th all-time in games finished.
Kent had a fine rookie season in 1975, posting a tidy 2.25 ERA as a freshman. Pirates skipper Danny Murtaugh doubled his workload in ’76, working him in 102 innings and The Rubber Band Man thrived, posting a 2.45 ERA with nine saves. Kent continued his workhorse role, pitching over 100 innings out of the pen for the next four years. In ’77, Tekulve fashioned a 10-1 worksheet; good for a .909 winning percentage. He wasn’t the lone gunman in the Buccos bullpen; teaming with Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, the two stellar stoppers appeared in 72 games apiece.
1978 was one of Kent’s finest seasons. The Rubber Band Man led the senior circuit in games pitched and games finished while also coming in fifth in Cy Young Award voting. His 31 saves were good for second in the league. he was a member of the World Champion Pirates of ’79, surrendering just four hits in nine World Series innings. After a so-so 1980 season, Kent was back on top in the strike shortened ’81 campaign. That year Kent posted a nifty 2.49 ERA. He led the league in games pitched again in 1982 with 85 and then followed that up with a phenomenal 1983 season in which he posted a 1.64 ERA in 99 innings of work.
Kent had a 2.66 ERA in 1984 and after a rocky start to the ’85 season, the Pirates dealt their Rubber Band Man to the Phillies for a washed up Al Holland. He revived his career in Philadelphia, tossing 110 innings and issuing just 25 walks in ’86, setting up for closer Steve Bedrosian. Returning to his setup role in ’87, Kent led the senior circuit with 90 games pitched. At the age of 41, Kent had a decent 3.66 ERA in 1988 and then pitched one final year with the Reds before hanging up his cleats.
W 94/L 90/PCT .511/SV 184/G 1,050/IP 1,436/H 1,305/BB 491/SO 779/ERA 2.85