A tall southpaw, Jerry Reuss, a two-time All-Star, exceeded the 200 wins plateau in a career spent predominately with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jerry tossed a no-hitter as a member of the Dodgers and was the National League’s Cy Young runner-up in 1980. Given his solid, lengthy career, Reuss sits at 51st all-time in career shutouts, 57th all-time in career innings pitched, 75th in career wins and 78th in career strikeouts.
Drafted by his hometown St. Louis Cardinals in 1967, Reuss made his debut in ’69 with seven scoreless innings to earn a win in his first big league start. Not as sharp the next year, Jerry had a sub .500 winning percentage in 1970 but was able to reach an even .500 in 1971. High walk totals hurt Jerry in his early years and when his accuracy become a big problem in ’71, the Cardinals traded him to Houston.
Although his accuracy wasn’t much better in Texas, Jerry’s peripheral stats climbed. He led Astros pitchers with 174 strikeouts in 1972, while posting fewer hits allowed than innings worked. In 1973, he finally trimmed his ERA down below 4.00 as he led the National League with 40 games started. He was able to win 16 games for a rather poor Astros team so Houston swapped their ace southpaw to the Pirates for a much-needed catcher in Milt May.
Reuss came into his own in Pittsburgh. He won 16 games his first year as a Pirate and the following year he began to remedy his accuracy issues. After two straight seasons with 100+ walks, Jerry only issued 78 free passes in 1975. That year he finished second in the league in shutouts while winning 18 games on a tidy 2.54 ERA. Jerry had a respectable .609 winning percentage in 1976 before a lackluster 1977 and a dismal 1978 season. The Pirates, fearing Jerry was at the end of his rope, traded him to the Dodgers for Rick Rhoden. Reuss’ best years were just around the corner.
Jerry got back on track in 1979 before his greatest season in 1980. That year, Reuss was the NL’s Cy Young runner-up as he led the senior circuit in shutouts while fashioning an 18-6, 2.51 worksheet. He got a taste of the big stage in the strike shortened 1981 season when he carried the Dodgers to a World Series title. During the regular season, Reuss posted a 2.21 ERA with a remarkable .714 winning percentage. In the Division Series against his old Astros cronies, Jerry made two starts and tossed 18 scoreless frames. Almost as good in the World Series, he outdueled Ron Guidry for a big Game Five win.
Dynamite again in 1982, Jerry posted his third 18-win season. His issues with throwing strikes were no longer a concern, as Jerry walked just 50 batters in 255 innings of work. The Dodgers had a good young pitching staff in the 1980s to compliment Jerry, as he teamed with such young stars as Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela and Bob Welch. When he missed action in ’84 due to injury, the Dodgers had a good core of young arms to turn to during Jerry’s time on the sidelines.
Reuss bounced back from his injury with a solid showing in 1985. He posted a nifty 2.92 ERA that season but the injury bug bit again in ’86. The Dodgers released their ailing veteran early in 1987 season and he played for three teams that year. With his career seemingly over, the White Sox offered Jerry a chance to crack their rotation in 1988 and he did just that. The old southpaw led Pale Hose pitchers in wins as a 39-year-old. He ended his career with eight innings pitched with the 1990 Pirates, making him one of but a few players to have played at the Major League level in four decades.
W 220/L 191/PCT .535/ERA 3.64/G 628/CG 127/SHO 39/IP 3,670/H 3,734/BB 1,127/SO 1,907