Near the top of the list of pitchers with the most career wins who never had a 20-win season, Milt Pappas was a solid workhorse throughout his career. Able to toss over 3,000 career innings, Milt is best known now as the guy the Reds received in their nearsighted trade when they dealt Frank Robinson to the Orioles. Robinson was what Baltimore needed to reach the top, while Milt was merely serviceable in his Cincinnati sojourn.
Pappas joined the Orioles as an 18-year-old in 1957 and looked sharp in nine innings of relief work. Milt only tossed eleven minor league innings in his career, not wasting valuable arm strength in the bushes. In 1958, he won ten games for the Birds as a 19-year-old kid. His breakout year came the following season when Milt finished third in the league in shutouts. He had a 15-9 record on a 3.27 ERA.
Milt represented the Orioles in the 1962 All-Star Game but he was even better the next three years; trimming his ERA every season until the famous trade that sent him to the Reds. Milt won 16 games in 1963 on a 3.03 ERA. In ’64, his seven shutouts were good for third in the AL. He trimmed his ERA down to a career best 2.60 in 1965. The Orioles had built a decent team by ’65 but they needed that right-handed compliment to Boog Powell in the lineup. So after the ’65 season, the Birds dealt from an area of strength, sending Milt and Jack Baldschun to the Reds for Frank Robinson.
After a rough first year with the Reds, Pappas settled into the National League in 1967 by winning 16 games. He honed his accuracy to near perfection with the Reds by averaging a stingy 0.174 walks per inning; superior to Hall of Fame peers Bob Gibson (0.229) and Gaylord Perry (0.287). But after a rough start to the ’68 season, the Reds traded him to the Braves for one of their key bullpen pieces of the Big Red Machine days: Clay Carroll. The trade worked well for both sides as Milt flourished with the Braves. His ERA after the swap was 2.37–opposed to 5.60 before the deal.
Like Pappas did with the Reds, he got off to a horrible start with the Braves in 1970 and he was sold to the Chicago Cubs where he got back on track. In his years at Wrigley, Milt came as close as he ever would to 20 wins by posting back-to-back 17 win seasons in 1971 and ’72. In ’71, he tied for the league lead in shutouts and in ’72 he had a trim 2.77 ERA with 29 walks issued in just under 200 innings of work. After a 7-12 season in 1973, Milt hung up his spikes.
W 209/L 164/PCT .560/ERA 3.40/G 520/CG 129/SHO 43/IP 3,186/H 3,046/BB 858/SO 1,728