Monday, May 21, 2012

All-Time Bluefield Team - Ken McBride

Next up on the All-Time Bluefield-to-the-Bigs Team is Ken McBride. A three-time All-Star whose career was derailed by injuries, this right-hander was a standout in the early days of the Los Angeles Angels. He fits as a solid back-of-the-rotation/bullpen swingman on the Bluefield roster.

McBride was born August 12, 1935 in Huntsville, Alabama, sharing a birthday with Christy Mathewson and Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata. Other players from Hunstville to make the majors include Craig Kimbrel, Jimmy Key and the late Don Mincher, a former Minnesota Twin who was the president of the Southern League for the last decade before his death in March.

Ken grew up in Cleveland and was signed out of high school for $500 by Red Sox scout Denny Galehouse*.

*Galehouse was a former pitcher for Boston and the St. Louis Browns (he started and won Game One of the 1944 World Series, the only Fall Classic the Browns ever played in). With Boston in 1948, he lost a one-game playoff to Cleveland that gave the Tribe the pennant. The Indians won the World Series that year but haven't done it since. Galehouse was a scout for so long that not only did he sign McBride in 1954, he signed Andy Benes as a Padres scout in 1988.

McBride began his professional career with the Bluefield Blue-Grays in 1954, the club's first of two seasons as a Red Sox affiliate. The 18-year-old excelled, going 18-8 with a 2.53 ERA as he finished in the Appy League's in wins, innings, ERA and WHIP.

After a few years in the Red Sox farm system, he was sold to the White Sox on August 1, 1959 and made his major league debut three days later against the Orioles. He pitched well into the eighth and held a 2-1 lead, but a pair of unearned runs gave him a tough-luck loss. He pitched sporadically down the stretch for the Go-Go Sox, who won the pennant. Ken didn't make the postseason roster.

McBride spent most of the '59 and '60 seasons in the minors for Chicago, making it to the big league squad for a total of 16 games. He would finally get a shot at regular playing time in 1961, when the Los Angeles Angels chose him with the 13th overall pick in the expansion draft.

He began the Angels' inaugural season with a spot in the starting rotation and he made the most of his chance. Ken earned his first major league victory on April 29 when he outdueled Minnesota's Jim Kaat with a complete-game five-hitter. He went 8-5 with a 2.95 ERA in the first half and was named an American League All-Star.

It looked like McBride would continue his success in the second half when in one week he recorded two 11-strikeout games (the only double-digit K totals of his career). His walk rate went way down (4.43/9 IP to 3.09) and his strikeout rate soared (5.8 to 7.8), but he went 4-10 with a 4.43 ERA in the second half and finished with a losing record of 12-15. One of his second-half wins was this game in which he served up Roger Maris's 50th home run of his record-breaking season.

Still, his overall ERA+ of 124 was good for tenth in the AL and his bWAR of 4.9 was third-best. He finished fifth in strikeouts (180) and fourth in K/9 IP (6.7).

He went on a tear in 1962, winning ten straight decisions from May to July. He made the All-Star team for the second straight year but once again did not get into the game. Soon after, he cracked his ribs in a collision at home plate and missed most of the second half. He finished his abridged season at 11-5 with a 3.50 ERA and his four shutouts were the fourth-most in the AL.

The Angels finished in third place at 86-76, pretty great for a team in their second year of existence.

1963 brought another All-Star nod, but this time McBride was given the honor of starting the Midsummer Classic on the mound for the American League, thanks in part to run of six straight wins in June in which he posted a 2.04 ERA.

The game was on July 9 in Cleveland and McBride set down Tommy Davis, Hank Aaron and Bill White 1-2-3 in the first. He gave up a run in the second when Willie Mays walked, stole second and scored on a Dick Groat single.

He tied the game himself with the bat in the second inning when he knocked a single off Jim O'Toole to bring home Angels teammate Leon Wagner. But McBride allowed two more runs in his third and final inning when a Mays single scored Aaron and Ed Bailey drove in Mays with a single. In the opening three frames he allowed three runs on four hits with two walks and a strikeout of Al Kaline. The AL came back to tie the game, but the NL eventually won it 5-3.

McBride was the first of five Angels pitchers to earn the starting nod for the American League in the All-Star Game. The other Halo hurlers to start are Dean Chance (1964), Nolan Ryan (1979), Mark Langston (1993) and Jered Weaver (2011).

His ERA rose from 2.76 in the first half to 4.05 in the second. He still finished fifth in the AL in hits per nine IP (7.1) and eighth in WHIP (1.12). He made the third-most starts with 36 and worked the sixth-most innings (251). The righty was also great with the glove that year as he led all Junior Circuit pitchers in assists (52) and Range Factor per Game (2.06).

From 1961 to 1963, McBride's ERA+ of 113 was the eighth-best in the American League, right behind Bill Monbouquette, who starred for the Red Sox and was previously featured on the All-Time Bluefield Team.

Unfortunately for McBride and the Angels, 1963 would be his last good season.

1964 began on a high note, with McBride tossing six and one-third innings of one-hit shutout ball on Opening Day. But he injured his arm in his next start when he came back out after a long rain delay. He told Baseball Digest in 2004 that he "heard something pop" and he was never the same.

Ken went 0-10 with a 5.14 ERA over his next 12 starts. He set a franchise record by hitting four batters in one of those games, the last of which came with the bases loaded to break a tie in the ninth inning. That Angels record that has since been matched by Steve Sparks (1999), Omar Olivares (1999) and Scott Schoeneweis (2001).

McBride battled injuries and ineffectiveness as he went 4-16 with a 5.40 ERA over the '64 and '65 seasons. On August 15, 1965, he allowed four runs in the first inning without recording an out and although it was just three days after his 30th birthday, it was his last appearance in the major leagues.

By Bill James's Game Score, McBride's best game was this one on April 13, 1963 at home against the White Sox. He no-hit his former team for seven innings, but gave up a pair of singles in the eighth. He still had the shutout, but Juan Pizarro kept matching him zero for zero. McBride lasted 11 innings and gave up only two hits without allowing a run (Game Score 91) before being removed for a pinch hitter. The Angels went on to win in 15.

He returned to baseball in 1974 as the bullpen coach for the Milwaukee Brewers. He was promoted to pitching coach in 1975 and he tutored a young Jim Slaton, who went on to become an All-Star and win 151 games in the big leagues. Slaton is still the all-time winningest pitcher in Milwaukee Brewers history (117).

McBride is now living back in Ohio and is the president and COO of Norris Brothers, a construction company in Cleveland.

It's too bad that injuries cut short his career at 30, but McBride packed a lot into his brief career. The only Angels pitchers to make more All-Star teams than McBride's three are Nolan Ryan and Chuck Finley, who both made four. Mark Langston, Troy Percival and Francisco Rodriguez each made three as well.

His career doesn't have the longevity of some of the other pitchers to go from Bluefield to the majors, but he definitely belongs on the staff.

All-Time Bluefield Roster
SP 1 Dean Chance
SP 2 Mike Boddicker
SP 3 Bill Monbouquette
RP Ken McBride
RP Sammy Stewart
Setup TBA
Setup Arthur Rhodes
Closer Sparky Lyle

C Gregg Zaun

1B Eddie Murray
SS Cal Ripken
3B Doug DeCinces
IF Mark Belanger

LF Don Baylor
CF Luis Matos
RF Bob Bailor
OF David Dellucci

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