A terrific and wildly eccentric relief pitcher, the southpaw affectionately known as “The Mad Hungarian” was an elite fireman of the 1970s. A former first round pick, the southpaw liked to keep his teammates on their toes and is purported to have once carried a live grenade into the clubhouse–but he never removed the pin. Al sported a Fu Manchu mustache and a mane of wild, dark brown hair and with his appearance coupled with his bizarre mound antics, many a batter questioned his sanity. It was all an act however, in order to psyche himself up for late-inning work.
A first round pick by the Cardinals in 1969, Al shot to the Majors quickly. Summoned by the parent club in 1970, Al worked in 16 contests that season. He pitched sparingly for the Redbirds in 1971 and ’72 before enjoying a breakout year in 1973. That season The Mad Hungarian had a 2.09 ERA in 44 relief outings. He averaged a strikeout per inning and only surrendered 45 hits in 56 innings. Since he proved that he could handle pressure situations, Al’s workload increased in 1974. Al worked in 65 games and fashioned an amazing .889 winning percentage. His value was noted by the sportswriters who voted him some shares in the Cy Young Award vote–he finished fifth.
Hrabosky’s best year came in 1975 when he led the NL in saves and winning percentage. The southpaw saved 22 games and added 13 wins out of the bullpen. More than just a one-inning gunslinger, Al pitched 97 innings and fashioned a great 1.66 ERA. But Al wasn’t able to keep up his terrific pitching in the next two years as his strikeout rate fell and his hits allowed rate rose. Before the 1978 season began Al had been traded to the AL West powerhouse Royals for Mark Littell and Buck Martinez.
The change of scenery worked wonders for Al who had one of his best seasons his first year in Kansas City. The Mad Hungarian missed a lot of bats, indicated by his terrific 6.2 hits allowed over nine innings average. He nailed down 20 saves for the AL West Champion Royals in a fairly strong bullpen that also featured Steve Mingori and Marty Pattin. The Royals and Yankees had the best rivalry in baseball going at this time as the two teams seemed to clash in the ALCS every year in the late 1970s. Al worked in three ALCS games against the Yankees, but in a losing effort. The following season Al regressed and for the first time since his rookie season he surrendered more hits than innings pitched.
Although Al had a .692 winning percentage for the ’79 Royals, KC let him walk after the year via free agency. He returned to the National League, signing a deal with the Atlanta Braves. Used in a set-up capacity by the Braves, The Mad Hungarian had his final great season in the southern state of Georgia. In the strike shortened 1981 season, Hrabosky fashioned a 1.07 ERA in 34 innings of work. He played one final year in the Majors in 1982 before he embarked on a broadcasting career. The Mad Hungarian can be heard doing play-by-play for the St. Louis Cardinals.
W 64/L 35/PCT .646/ERA 3.10/G 545/SV 97/IP 722/H 619/BB 315/SO 548