John Candelaria
Born: (1953-11-06) November 6, 1953 (age 70)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Batted: Left
Threw: Left
MLB debut
June 8, 1975, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
July 7, 1993, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
MLB statistics
Win–loss record177–122
Earned run average3.33
Career highlights and awards

John Robert Candelaria (born November 6, 1953) is a Puerto Rican-American former Major League Baseball pitcher. Nicknamed "the Candy Man", he played in MLB during the years 1975–1993 for eight teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates, California Angels, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Early life

Candelaria was born on November 6, 1953, to Puerto Rican parents.[1] He is the second of four children born to John and Felicia Candelaria. He grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. He frequently attended New York Yankees games at Yankee Stadium.[2]


At the age of 15, Candelaria attended a baseball tryout where a Los Angeles Dodgers scout called him the best[clarification needed] he had ever seen. The tryout catcher had to be replaced with a major league catcher for fear of injuring the stand-in.

Candelaria played as a center in the Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN), the top tier basketball league in the Puerto Rico, for 2 seasons with the Piratas de Quebradillas in 1971 and 1972.[3] When he announced he was leaving the Quebradillas basketball "Pirates" for the Pittsburgh Pirates, many were skeptical. The local newspaper featured him pitching a basketball on the front page of the sports section. He had attended La Salle Academy in lower Manhattan and gained fame as a basketball center, including leading his team to a championship in 1971.

Candelaria had his best season in 1977, when he was 20–5 with a 2.34 ERA in 230+23 innings pitched. He was also a member of the 1979 World Series champion Pirates team. On August 9, 1976, Candelaria no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers 2–0 at Three Rivers Stadium; it was the first no-hitter pitched by a Pirate in Pittsburgh since Nick Maddox at Exposition Park in 1907.[4][5] Candelaria's second post-season appearance with the Pirates (he pitched Game 3 in the 1975 NLCS) came in their 1979 World Series championship season. Candelaria started Game 1 of the 1979 NLCS and pitched seven innings of two-run ball against the Reds with a painful shoulder. The Pirates won 5–2 in 11 innings. In the 1979 World Series, Candelaria had a rough Game 3, giving up five runs in 4 innings as the Pirates lost 8–4 to the Orioles. He redeemed himself in a crucial Game 6 by combining with Kent Tekulve to pitch a 4–0 shutout.

Candelaria, who stood 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) and wielded a mid- to upper-90s fastball with natural movement, remained an effective starter for the Pirates through the 1984 season. He suffered personal tragedy on Christmas morning 1984, when his 18-month-old son John Jr. fell into the family's swimming pool at their home in Sarasota, Florida. John Jr. spent five weeks in intensive care and was then transitioned to home, where he received nursing care 24 hours per day. He was readmitted to the hospital multiple times and spent 11 months in a coma. John Jr. died in a Pittsburgh hospital on November 14, 1985.[6][7]

Candelaria was moved to the bullpen in 1985. In response to the change, Candelaria called general manager Harding Peterson "a bozo"; he said that the team's ownership valued its racehorses more than its baseball players.[8] He posted nine saves out of the Pittsburgh bullpen, which ended up being a team high on a 57-win team. He was traded along with George Hendrick and Al Holland from the Pirates to the Angels for Pat Clements and Mike Brown on August 2 in a transaction that was completed two weeks later on August 16 when Bob Kipper was sent to Pittsburgh.[9][10] At the time, he was one of only two Pirates that remained from the 1979 championship team, the other being Don Robinson. The Angels immediately made him a starter again and he went 7–3 down the stretch in 1985 and helped the Angels into the 1986 ALCS with a 10–2 record. Candelaria later said that the trade to a contending team had been a positive change for him.[8]

Candelaria and George Hendrick once confronted their Angels teammate Reggie Jackson about his bullying of Lisa Nehus Saxon. Saxon had been one of the first female reporters allowed in baseball locker rooms.[11]

In 1989, Yankee manager Dallas Green looked to give Candelaria some extra rest at the start of the year, as the pitcher was recovering from a knee injury.[12]

Candelaria played for both New York teams (Mets and Yankees), both Los Angeles teams (Dodgers and Angels) and both Canadian teams (Blue Jays and Expos). He finished his career back where it started in Pittsburgh in 1993, making him the only Pirates player from the 1979 team to play for the Pirates during their twenty consecutive losing seasons.

Tommy John remembered that Candelaria would throw strikes on 0-2 pitches, rather than wasting a pitch outside of the strike zone. "He gave up some 0-2 hits, but got more 0-2 outs, and saved his arm some pitches."[13]

Personal life

Candelaria currently lives in North Carolina, and is an avid world traveler. John has a nephew, Zac Candelaria, who played catcher at the Division One program of Fairfield University.[14]

See also


  1. ^ Society for American Baseball Research - John Candelaria
  2. ^ Escape To New York Tragedy And Trouble Have Been John Candelaria`s Companions For Three Years. Now He`s Ready To Leave Them Behind
  3. ^ John Candelaria BSN Statistics
  4. ^ "John Candelaria |". Retrieved June 17, 2009.
  5. ^ August 9, 1976 Dodgers-Pirates box score at Baseball Reference
  6. ^ "Candelaria's son, 2 1/2, dies in city hospital". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 15, 1985. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  7. ^ Lohrer, Robert (March 6, 1988). "Travis John's Story Miracle Remembered". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Fernandez, Bernard (October 10, 1986). "Candelaria knows elbow woes lurk around next bend". Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  9. ^ "Sports People: Wish Comes True," The New York Times, Saturday, August 3, 1985. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
  10. ^ "The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired the contract of left-handed pitcher...," United Press International (UPI), Friday, August 16, 1985. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
  11. ^ "Lisa Saxon, the Woman Who Helped Change Sports Writing Forever". November 17, 2014.
  12. ^ John and Valenti, p. 239
  13. ^ John and Valenti, p. 94
  14. ^ "The 1979 Pirates: Where are they now? - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review". Archived from the original on August 19, 2009. Retrieved September 7, 2009.
Preceded byBlue Moon Odom & Francisco Barrios No-hitter pitcher August 9, 1976 Succeeded byJohn Montefusco Preceded byGorman Thomas AL Comeback Player of the Year 1986 Succeeded byBret Saberhagen