A crafty southpaw, Osteen is best remembered for his years with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He joined the club near the end of Sandy Koufax’s career and thus was asked to fill shoes nobody could fathom of filling. Unlike Sandy, Claude relied more on guile than dominating stuff. His craftiness allowed him to win close to 200 career games and post eleven consecutive 200+ innings pitched seasons.
Osteen was originally signed by the Reds in 1957 out of high school and made his Major League debut that season. The slim southpaw worked four innings and surrendered just one run. After spending the 1958 season on the farm, Osteen received another brief trial with Cincy in ’59. He was able to crack 20 games pitched in 1960 as a 20-year-old but was dealt to the Senators in 1961 for Dave Sisler. Washington made Claude a starting pitcher in 1962 and the following season he began his lengthy string of 200+ innings pitched seasons. A valuable workhorse, Osteen took his turn in the rotation with admirable consistency.
Claude enjoyed his breakout year in 1964 when he won 15 games for a lowly Senators team. Washington was in desperate need for offense so they traded Osteen to Los Angeles for Frank Howard and Ken McMullen. The deal worked out well for both sides. Claude won 15 games on a 2.79 ERA his first year in California. The southpaw worked 287 innings and posted a two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 1966 he was the most difficult pitcher in the National League to take deep as he surrendered just six gopher balls in 240 innings. The Dodgers, who won the World Series in 1965 backed by a 0.65 ERA from Osteen, made the Fall Classic again in ’66 but Claude lost his only start despite a sensational 0.571 WHIP. Over the course of his career, Claude had a losing World Series record but had an enviable Fall Classic ERA of 0.86.
Osteen won 17 games in 1967 and finished second in the league in the shutout department. He made the first of his three All-Star appearances that season by posting a career best 2.92-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After leading the National League in losses in 1968, Claude enjoyed his first 20-win season in ’69. The lefty made 41 starts and finished second in the league with 321 innings worked. He made the All-Star team again in 1970 but didn’t enjoy his second 20-win season until 1972. Claude posted a 2.64 ERA and completed 14 of his starts.
But the Dodgers hadn’t been to a World Series since 1966 and Osteen, although just a 32-year-old, was an aging veteran. He pitched one final year with the Dodgers in 1973–his eleventh straight 200+ innings pitched campaign. Osteen had long been an institution in Los Angeles but he was traded to the Astros for Houston’s long-running institution, Jimmy “The Toy Cannon” Wynn. Claude pitched most of the ’74 season with the Astros but was dealt late season to the Cardinals for two lesser ballplayers. He ended his career in 1975 with yet another 200+ innings pitched season with the Chicago White Sox.
W 196/L 195/PCT /501/ERA 3.30/G 541/CG 140/SHO 40/IP 3,461/H 3,471/BB 940/SO 1,612