Modern day scouts wouldn’t give a prospect like Bobby Shantz the time of day. Today, scouts drool over the pitcher built like a mountain and pass over the mite. But Bobby, although small of stature, had the finesse and poise of a large power pitcher. Equipped with the stuff that hitters feared, Shantz was also the preeminent defender for his position–he won the Gold Glove Award every year from 1957 to 1964.
The slight southpaw as originally signed by the old Philadelphia A’s of Connie Mack. Shantz made his Major League debut with the Athletics in 1949 and led the staff with a stingy average of just 0.787 hits per inning. But Bobby was unable to duplicate his rookie success and was hampered by the Sophomore Jinx.
With the jinx cast aside in 1951, Bobby enjoyed his breakout campaign. He posted an 18-10 record while leading the A’s with three shutouts. Shantz made his first All-Star team that year but it was just a precursor of things to come. The mighty mite captured the AL MVP Award in 1952 when he led the junior circuit with 24 wins and a .774 winning percentage. Shantz finished second in the league with 27 complete games and five shutouts. His 152 strikeouts were good for third in the junior circuit. Despite Bobby’s exceptional pitching, the A’s barely finished above .500.
The 280 innings that little Bobby Shantz tossed in 1952 caught up with him in ’53. He suffered through the season with a sore arm and missed most of the 1954 campaign to the same ailment. The A’s relocated to Kansas City in 1955 and Bobby tried to revive his career in a new city. The A’s used Shantz as a spot-starter and relief pitcher, enabling him to lead the organization in saves in 1956. With his career redefined as a fireman, the Yankees took interest in Shantz and made one of their many lopsided trades with the Kansas City A’s.
Kansas City shipped Bobby to New York with slick-fielding Clete Boyer for some spare parts, the best of which was relief pitcher Tom Morgan. With the Yankees, Shantz put his arm woes behind him and flourished with the ever dominant Bronx Bombers. In his first year in pinstripes, Bobby paced the AL with a tidy 2.45 ERA. He had a .688 winning percentage and guided the Yankees to the World Series where he averaged a strikeout per inning in a losing cause.
The Yankees used Shantz as a starter/relief pitcher his first two seasons before shifting him to the bullpen full time in 1959. As a fulltime fireman, Shantz excelled. He surrendered a stingy average of just 0.674 hits per inning in ’59; an average that cast a mighty shadow for his Hall of Fame peers of Whitey Ford (0.951), Early Wynn (0.789) and Jim Bunning (0.880).
Shantz topped the Yankees in saves in 1960 while adding another save in a World Series defeat to Pittsburgh. The Yankees left him unprotected for the expansion draft and the new Washington Senators selected him. Before he made a pitch for the Senators, he was used as trade bait to bring in three nondescript players from the team that beat him in the World Series.
After one year with the Pirates Bobby was again plucked in an expansion draft, this time by the Houston Colt 45s. Like the Senators, Houston swapped him to the Cardinals and he posted a season ERA below 2.00. Bobby nailed down eleven saves in 1963 with an average of 0.886 strikeouts per inning. He coupled his fanning abilities with fine control, issuing just 0.215 walks per inning.
During his last Major League season he was packaged in an infamous trade with Ernie Broglio to the Cubs for a young, unrefined speedster named Lou Brock. Shantz was at the end of the line and Broglio quickly developed arm issues while the kid Brock embarked on a stellar career that carried him to Cooperstown.
W 119/L 99/PCT .546/SV 48/G 537/IP 1,936/H 1,795/BB 643/SO 1,072/ERA 3.38