Hal Newhouser

Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser was a great pitcher during the war years and for a number of years after the war. Late in his career he was a productive reliever for the 1954 Indians who won 111 games. He won two MVP awards and played in the World Series with the 1945 Detroit Tigers and the 1954 Cleveland Indians.

Cousin of Ken Macha, “Prince Hal” was in the minors only one year, 1939, and came up to the majors at age 18 near the end September of 1939. The next year he went 9-9 as the youngest player on the pennant-winning 1940 Tigers. He did not appear in the 1940 World Series, which the Tigers lost in seven games.

“Hal had an overhand curve that nobody has got a hit off yet this season. It’s the best pitch I’ve ever seen. … He threw three of ’em to Joe DiMaggio and Joe couldn’t even foul ’em.” – Birdie Tebbetts, 1946
There has long been a question if he deserved his election to the Hall of Fame because most of his great years came during World War II. The argument on his behalf points out that many of the pitchers in the list below crashed in their early 30s, that Newhouser had established himself as a quality young arm at an extremely young age before the war, and most of all his defenders point to his 1946 season where he finished second in the MVP vote. In fact, in 1946 he won 20 of his first 22 starts. He earned his 20th victory several games before the Tigers played their 100th game, a pace no pitcher since then has matched, not even Denny McLain. The win came on July 27, 1946 and gave the Tigers a record of 52-39. The rest of the club was only 32-37 at that point.

Newhouser also led the league in victories in 1948 with 21, and had 18 victories in 1949.

Although Newhouser won “only” 207 games, the most similar pitcher is another Hall of Famer, Bob Lemon, who also won 207.

Newhouser won more games before his 30th birthday than any other pitcher of the live ball era with 188. He won his 189th game on his 30th birthday but his arm had almost fallen off by that point, and he ended his career with only 207 wins.