Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#254 - Stan Bahnsen

Stan Bahnsen was probably pretty tired when this photo was taken. In '72 and '73 Stan and Wilbur Wood started over half of Chicago's games. But Wilbur threw a knuckler while Stan - the "Bahnsen Burner" - threw a mid-90's fastball and a curve so the experience affected him a bunch more and within a couple seasons of winning 20 he was pitching out of the pen, his fastball basically gone. Here he poses in Oakland, a future home to both him and his manager. If that is number 24 in the background then it is outfielder Ken Henderson who has the posture of a much older guy. I know '73 was a bit of a disappointment for the Sox after their performance the prior year, but it wasn't that bad.

Stan Bahnsen grew up in Iowa and was a small forward in basketball and pitcher in high school. He then pitched at the University of Nebraska where he was a third team All-American before being drafted and signed by the Yankees his junior year of '65. He had a good start that year in Double A - 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA - before going 10-7 with a 2.91 ERA in the rotation at Triple A in '66. Late that season he got a few starts in which he pitched well. In '67 he returned to Triple A where he won nine and after the season began his military hitch which forced him to miss the following season's spring training. It seemed to not matter as now up in NY, Stan won 17 with a superb 2.05 ERA. His follow-up year was pretty disappointing as the lowering of the mound contributed to a reversal of his record and an almost two-run jump in ERA. The next two seasons he put up good numbers as the team's third starter behind Mel Stottlemyre and Fritz Peterson. After the '71 season the Yankees, desperate for a third baseman, sent Stan to the Sox for Rich McKinney in a trade that was a bust for NY but worked out pretty well for Chicago.

In 1972 manager Chuck Tanner decided to streamline his rotation and so Bahnsen, Wood, and Tom Bradley started 130 of the team's 154 games. Each guy put up quite good numbers as they combined for 60 wins and the Sox nearly won the division. In '73 Bradley was traded to the Giants but Tanner threw Wilbur and Stan out there for over 90 starts and even though they combined for 42 wins they also each lost 20 as the Sox slipped to fifth when Dick Allen went down mid-season. In '74 Tanner got his new third guy in Jim Kaat and the trio started 122 games but although Wood and Kaat had nice seasons, Stan's numbers fell to 12-15 and his ERA ballooned to 4.70. After a poor kick-off to '75 the Sox sent him to Oakland that June with Skip Pitlock for Dave Hamilton and Chet Lemon. There he recovered well enough to go 6-7 with a 3.24 ERA and help the A's to their fifth straight division title.

In '76 Bahnsen was reunited with Tanner in Oakland but this time in a supporting role as he pitched spot starts and long relief. Early the following season he would go to the Expos for Mike Jorgensen where he would get 22 starts while winning eight but with a high ERA. The next season he settled in as the Montreal middle reliever for a three-year run during which he went 11-12 with a 3.31 ERA and 16 saves. His pitching time would decline significantly in '81 although he did grab his first post-season experience that season. After being released following spring training in '82 Stan would sign first with the Angels and then the Phillies for whom he would spend most of the season in Triple A. After an abbreviated season at that level in '83 he was done. He finished with a 146-149 record, 16 shutouts, 20 saves, and a 3.60 ERA. In the late '80s he would play in the Senior League both seasons but he has spent most of his professional time since playing as a representative for cruise ships that offer tours with former major leaguers.

These are some pretty good start bullets. Stan was a sought-after property because of his fast ball. He also nearly had a no-hitter in '73 against Cleveland, former teammate Walt Williams breaking it up with a late-inning single.

On the cultural relevance stuff, on this date in '73 David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young reunited for a long session at Winterland. Later this month there would be reports that Young had passed away in Europe. That one was obviously wrong.

A fellow rookie honors pitcher hooks these two up:

1. Bahnsen and Steve Rogers '77 to '81 Expos;
2. Rogers and John Boccabella '73 Expos.

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