Although the relief pitcher had been around awhile before Konstanty broke in, with guys like Marberry, Murphy, Casey and Maltzberger defining the role, it wasn’t until Jim won the MVP Award in 1950 that firemen were legitimized. The backbone of the fabled Whiz Kids, Jim led the Phillies to the World Series in 1950, thus earning a Most Valuable Player award.
Jim made his Major League debut in 1944 at the tender age of 27 with the Reds. He showed promise as a freshman hurler with a 2.79 ERA, but this was during wartime and Jim, even with his poor eyesight (he was one of the few bespeckled players of his time) was inducted into the military for the war effort. He returned to the Majors in 1946 with the Boston Braves but failed to impress in fifteen innings of work. After spending the 1947 and ’48 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League, Jim was up the Majors to stay with the Phillies in 1949.
Jim tied for second place in the National League with seven saves in 1949, as the fireman post was still an area for washed up veterans and kids unable to fill a spot in the rotation. But when 1950 rolled around, Konstanty made folks stand up and take notice of the importance of a star fireman. That year he paced the NL with 22 saves and 74 games pitched. Jim posted a 16-7 record on a 2.66 ERA and showed remarkable lumber eluding skills by issuing just 108 hits in 152 innings of work. The Whiz Kids, so nicknamed for their youthful roster, won the NL pennant after decades of futility in Philadelphia.
With the Phillies co-ace Curt Simmons the first Major Leaguer drafted for the Korean War at the end of the 1950 season, Jim, who didn’t start a single game all season, was pressed into starting duty in the World Series. Jim started the opening game for the Phillies and lost a pitcher’s duel. The Whiz Kids, a great story all season in the National League, prove no match for the Yankees who made short order of the boys.
In 1951, Jim finished third in the league in the saves department. But in 1953, when Steve O’Neill took over as skipper, he moved Jim into the rotation and stretched out his arm with 19 starts. Despite the experiment in the rotation, Konstanty led the club in saves. The Yankees acquired Jim near the end of the 1954 season in a futile attempt to catch the red-hot Indians, but despite Jim’s success in the Big Apple (he had a 0.98 ERA in 18 innings) the Yanks couldn’t catch Cleveland.
His last great year came in 1955 when he fashioned a .778 winning percentage with the Yankees. His ERA was a trim 2.31 and he saved eleven games for the pinstripe patrol. But after a sluggish start to the 1956 season, Jim was released and he caught on with the St. Louis Cardinals. He ended the season and his Major League career with the Redbirds.
W 66/L 48/PCT .579/ERA 3.46/G 433/SV 74/IP 946/H 957/BB 269/SO 268