|Born: July 23, 1936|
Van Nuys, California, U.S.
|Died: July 3, 1993 (aged 56)|
Montréal, Quebec, Canada
|April 17, 1956, for the Brooklyn Dodgers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 5, 1969, for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Earned run average||2.95|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Vote||78.41% (tenth ballot)|
Donald Scott Drysdale (July 23, 1936 – July 3, 1993) was an American professional baseball player and television sports commentator. A right-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn / Los Angeles Dodgers for his entire career in Major League Baseball, Drysdale was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
Drysdale won the 1962 Cy Young Award and in 1968 pitched a record six consecutive shutouts and 58+2⁄3 consecutive scoreless innings.
One of the most dominant pitchers of the late 1950s to mid 1960s, Drysdale stood 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) tall and was not afraid to throw pitches near batters to keep them off balance. After his playing career, he became a radio/television broadcaster.
Drysdale was born in Van Nuys, Los Angeles to Scott and Verna Drysdale. His father was a repair supervisor for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraphy Company who had a brief minor league career before Drysdale was born.
Drysdale attended Van Nuys High School where one of his classmates was actor Robert Redford. While he played had baseball since childhood, primarily as a second baseman, Drysdale only began to pitch during his senior year in high school; he posted a 10-1 record. He was signed out of high school by the Brooklyn Dodgers for a minimum salary and a signing bonus of $4,000.
Drysdale began his professional career in 1954, playing for the Class-C Bakersfield Indians of the California League where posted a 8-5 win-loss record with a 3.46 earned run average and 73 strikeouts in Bakersfield.
The following year saw him promoted to the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate, the Montreal Royals of the International League. In 1955, he posted 11-11 record with a 3.33 earned run average and 80 strikeouts for Montreal. The following year, Drysdale was promoted to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Pitching for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, he teamed with Sandy Koufax during the late-1950s to the mid-1960s to form one of the most dominating pitching duos in history.
Drysdale and Koufax served six months in the United States Army Reserve at Fort Dix in New Jersey after the end of the 1957 season and before spring training in 1958. In his autobiography, Once a Bum, Always a Dodger, Drysdale wrote: “Those six months were good for me. When you wake up at three-thirty every morning, and you realize that some of your buddies are just getting in back home, it gives you a lot of discipline. The service should be mandatory for every kid in America. You thought you were hot stuff being a major league pitcher, and then you went to Fort Dix and found out that it doesn’t matter who you were. There were no exceptions.”
In 1962, Drysdale won 25 games and lead the Majors in strikeouts with 232. He won the Cy Young Award and was named The Sporting News Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. In 1963, he struck out 251 batters and won Game 3 of the World Series at Los Angeles's Dodger Stadium over the Yankees, 1–0. In 1965, he was the Dodgers' only .300 hitter and tied his own National League record for pitchers with seven home runs. That year, he also won 23 games and helped the Dodgers to their third World Series title in Los Angeles.
In 1965, Koufax declined to pitch the first game of the World Series as it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Drysdale pitched for the Dodgers instead of Koufax, giving up seven runs in 2+2⁄3 innings. When Walter Alston, the manager, came to the mound to remove him from the game, Drysdale said, "I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too." The Dodgers lost the game to the Minnesota Twins 8–2 but went on to win the Series on Koufax's Game 7 shutout, with Drysdale winning Game 4.
Drysdale and Koufax took part in a famous salary holdout together in the spring of 1966. They had set an NL record the year before for strikeouts by teammates, with a combined total of 592. Both wanted to be paid $500,000 over three seasons, but Dodgers' GM Buzzie Bavasi preferred to give them one-year contracts according to team policy. They both finally signed one-year contracts just before the season opened. Drysdale's was for $110,000, and Koufax's was for $125,000. Those contracts made them the first pitchers to earn more than $100,000 a year.
In 1968, Drysdale set Major League records with six consecutive shutouts and 58+2⁄3 consecutive scoreless innings. The latter record was broken by fellow Dodger Orel Hershiser 20 years later. Hershiser, however, did not match Drysdale's record of six consecutive complete-game shutouts.
Recurring shoulder injuries had slowed Drysdale down in his final years. After suffering a torn rotator cuff, Drysdale retired from Major League Baseball during the 1969 season, having made only 12 starts.
In his 14-year career, Drysdale compiled a record of 209-166 with an ERA of 2.95. He struck out 2,486 batters, posted 49 shutouts and hit 154 batters. He struck out 200 or more batters six times. In the World Series, he was 3-3 with an earned run average of 2.95. In addition to his 1962 Cy Young Award, he won three NL Player of the Month awards: June 1959 (6–0 record, 1.71 earned run average, 51 strikeouts), July 1960 (6–0 record, 2.00 earned run average, 48 strikeouts), and May 1968 (5–1 record, 0.53 earned run average, 45 strikeouts, with 5 consecutive shutouts to begin his scoreless inning streak, which was carried into June).
Additionally, he was a good hitting pitcher. In 14 seasons, he had 218 hits in 1,169 at-bats for a .186 batting average, including 96 runs, 26 doubles, 7 triples, 29 home runs, 113 RBI and 60 bases on balls. His 29 home runs are sixth all-time for pitchers. He was occasionally used as a pinch-hitter, once during the World Series.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, his tenth year of eligibility, and his number 53 retired was retired by the Dodgers on July 1, 1984. At the time of his retirement, Drysdale was the last active player on the Dodgers who had played for them in Brooklyn.
Nicknamed "Big D" by fans, Drysdale was known to use brushback pitches and a sidearm fastball to intimidate batters, similar to his fierce fellow Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. Veteran Sal Maglie, also known for brushback pitches, taught him how to pitch aggressively when both were Dodger teammates in the 1950s. Drysdale led the NL in hit batters for four straight seasons from 1958 to 1961, and his 154 career hit batsmen is a modern National League record.
Fellow Hall of Famer Frank Robinson said of him, "He was mean enough to do it, and he did it continuously. You could count on him doing it. And when he did it, he just stood there on the mound and glared at you to let you know he meant it." "I don't think Don has ever tried intentionally to send someone to the hospital," said Maglie. "A pitcher needs to pitch inside. And if one of your teammates goes down, you do what you have to do to even the score, plain and simple."
In 1970, Drysdale started a broadcasting career that continued for the rest of his life: first for the Montreal Expos (1970–1971), then the Texas Rangers (1972), California Angels (1973–1979, 1981), Chicago White Sox (1982–1987), NBC (1977), ABC (1978–1986), and finally back in Los Angeles with the Dodgers (from 1988 until his death in 1993). He also worked with his Angels' partner Dick Enberg on Los Angeles Rams football broadcasts from 1973–1976. Drysdale kept the fans' interest with stories of his playing days.
While at ABC Sports, Drysdale not only did baseball telecasts, but also regional college football games as well as Superstars and Wide World of Sports. In 1979, Drysdale covered the World Series Trophy presentation ceremonies for ABC. On October 11, 1980, Keith Jackson called an Oklahoma–Texas college football game for ABC in the afternoon, then flew to Houston to call Game 4 of the NLCS between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies. In the meantime, Drysdale filled in for Jackson on play-by-play for the early innings.
In 1984, Drysdale called play-by-play (alongside Reggie Jackson and Earl Weaver) for the National League Championship Series between the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs. On October 6, 1984, at San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium, Game 4 of the NLCS ended when Padres first baseman Steve Garvey hit a two-run home run off of Lee Smith. Drysdale on the call:
Deep right field, way back. Cotto going back to the wall...it's gone! Home run Garvey! And there will be tomorrow!
In his last ABC assignment, Drysdale interviewed the winners in the Boston Red Sox's clubhouse following Game 7 of the 1986 American League Championship Series against the California Angels.
On August 14, 1983, while broadcasting for the White Sox, Drysdale generated some controversy while covering a heated argument between an umpire and Sox manager Tony La Russa. La Russa pulled up the third base bag and hurled it into the outfield, to the approval of the Comiskey Park crowd, and ensuring his ejection. Drysdale remarked, "Go get 'em, Dago!"
For the Sox, Drysdale broadcast Tom Seaver's 300th victory, against the host New York Yankees in 1985. His post-game interview with Seaver was carried live by both the Sox' network and the Yankees' longtime flagship television station WPIX.
Drysdale hosted a nationally syndicated radio show called Radio Baseball Cards. 162 episodes were produced with stories and anecdotes told by current and former Major League Baseball players. The highlight of the series were numerous episodes dedicated to the memory and impact of Jackie Robinson as told by teammates, opponents and admirers. Radio Baseball Cards aired on 38 stations, including WNBC New York, KSFO San Francisco and WEEI Boston, as a pre-game show. A collector's edition of the program was re-released in 2007 as a podcast.
Drysdale conducted all of the National League player interviews for the Baseball Talk series in 1988 (Joe Torre did the same for the American League).
On September 28, 1988, fellow Dodger Orel Hershiser surpassed Drysdale when Hershiser finished the season with a record 59 consecutive scoreless innings pitched. In his final start of the year, Hershiser needed to pitch 10 shutout innings to set the mark – meaning not only that he would have to prevent the San Diego Padres from scoring, but that his own team would also need to fail to score in order to ensure extra innings. The Dodgers' anemic offense obliged, and Hershiser pitched the first 10 innings of a scoreless tie, with the Padres eventually prevailing 2–1 in 16 innings. Hershiser almost did not pitch in the 10th inning, in deference to Drysdale, but was convinced to take the mound and try to break the record. When Hershiser broke Drysdale's record, Drysdale came onto the field to hug him, and said, "Oh, I'll tell ya, congratulations... And at least you kept it in the family."
Drysdale also called Kirk Gibson's walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers Radio Network:
Gibson a deep sigh, re-gripping the bat, shoulders just shrugged, now goes to the top of the helmet as he always does, steps in with that left foot. Eckersley working out of a stretch, now here’s the 3-2 pitch...and a drive into right field (losing voice) WAY BACK! THIS BALL IS GONE! (followed by two minutes of crowd noise) This crowd will not stop! They can't believe the ending! And this time, Mighty Casey did NOT strike out!!
In 1958, Drysdale married Ginger Dubberly, a native of Covington, Georgia, and a former Adrian fashion model. The couple had a daughter, Kelly, but divorced in 1982.
On November 1, 1986, he married basketball player Ann Meyers, who took the name Ann Meyers-Drysdale. Drysdale and Meyers had three children together: two sons, Don Jr. (known as "DJ") and Darren, and a daughter, Drew. When Ann was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993, it was the first time that a married couple were members of their respective sports' Halls of Fame.
On July 2, 1993, Drysdale worked the television broadcast for the game between the Dodgers and the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium. After the game, he returned to his room at the hotel the team was staying at, Le Centre Sheraton. As the team left for the stadium the next morning, Drysdale was not with them. Several broadcast team members were sent back to the hotel once the team realized Drysdale had not arrived at the stadium, and when hotel personnel went up to Drysdale's room they discovered his body lying face down on the floor. The cause of death was ruled to be a heart attack, and the coroner's report determined that Drysdale had been dead for at least eighteen hours by the time he was found.
The Dodgers noted the death of their former star pitcher during the broadcast of the game later on that day. Drysdale's broadcasting colleague Vin Scully, who was instructed not to say anything on the air until Drysdale's family was notified, announced the news of his death by saying, "Never have I been asked to make an announcement that hurts me as much as this one. And I say it to you as best I can with a broken heart." He later described it "the toughest broadcast" of his career.
While this was going on, word reached Drysdale's former White Sox colleague Ken Harrelson as he was calling that evening's game against the Baltimore Orioles at Comiskey Park for WGN television. Harrelson relayed the information to his audience, barely able to keep his composure while doing so. Dick Enberg, his broadcast partner with the Angels, said, "Every day was a good day when you were with Don Drysdale."
Among the personal belongings found in Drysdale's hotel room was a cassette tape of Robert F. Kennedy's victory speech after the 1968 California Democratic presidential primary, a speech given only moments before Senator Kennedy's assassination. In the speech, Kennedy had noted, to the cheers of the crowd, that Drysdale had pitched his sixth straight shutout that evening. Drysdale had apparently carried the tape with him wherever he went since Kennedy's assassination.
Drysdale's body was cremated and his ashes were placed in the Utility Columbarium in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. They were returned to his family in February 2002 and scattered the next year.
Drysdale was a popular guest star in several television programs: