Thursday, August 23, 2012

#419 - Wayne Twitchell

The subject of this post was a full foot taller than the subject of the last one so it’s probably pretty good that Wayne and Walt never played together. Mr. Twitchell does look enormous posing at Shea on a dreary day. 1973 was a pretty excellent year for Wayne. After starting the season in the pen Danny Ozark told him to start in a game against Cincinnati in May and he turned in a nice outing, giving up two runs in seven-plus innings. That outing would get him both a regular spot in the rotation and an All-Star nod as Reds manager Sparky Anderson named Wayne to his staff principally because of that game. By late August he had won 13, way more than any previous total for him but when going for number 14 against the Cubs in September he had to run to first to cover the bag and an errant throw made him have to turn the wrong way. Billy Williams tried a head-first slide to beat the tag and his head and Wayne’s knee connected hard, finishing both the knee and Wayne’s season. The injury would also impact the rest of his career.

Wayne Twitchell was an all-city athlete while attending Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon. He was a big kid from a young age and excelled in all big three sports. His dad had played for Oregon State in football as a blocking back and it was Wayne’s plan to follow his dad’s footsteps and take his QB skills there as well as pitch for the school. But during his senior year of ’66 Houston made Wayne the number three pick – between Reggie Jackson and Ken Brett – of that spring’s draft and his dad was concerned that Wayne might develop knee problems if he opted for football as he had. So Wayne went to A ball where he turned in some excellent numbers and got a quick look in Triple A which didn’t go so well. After missing a bunch of the ’67 season to an injury he put up good numbers at both A and Double A levels in ’68 but again in ’69 ran into a wall at the Triple A level. After that season he was sold to the Pilots/Brewers. Back home for the Brewers’ Triple A team Wayne continued to have control issues in ’70 but he got a short look up top anyway, giving up two runs but striking out five batters in under two innings. Then early in the ’71 season he was sent to the Phillies for a minor league outfielder in one of the trades those two clubs seemed to do constantly.

Twitchell’s luck seemed to change when he got to Philly. Although he again posted a high ERA in Triple A to start the ’71 season his control improved substantially and when he got the call late that year he threw shutout ball. That got him a pass to stay up top all the next season as he did OK work for an awful team as a swingman in his rookie year. After his promising ’73 season ended in injury he did extensive rehab but his lateral movement was compromised and his control worsened as in '74 he went 6-9 with a 5.21 ERA. In ’75 his control and his ERA improved a bunch but his record didn’t as he went 5-10. The Phillies were making serious strides back then and in ’76 Wayne lost his rotation spot but pitched well in a lot less innings, going 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA. In ’77 he was given some starts but after going 0-5 was sent to Montreal that June with Tim Blackwell for Barry Foote and Dan Warthen. He improved to 6-5 the rest of the way but the ERA stayed high and in ’78 he went 4-12 as it topped 5.00 again. He then split the ’79 season between the Mets and Seattle but by then his knee was toast and when the season ended so did his career. Wayne went 48-65 with a 3.98 ERA up top and did roughly the same in the minors.

Twitchell returned to Portland after his career ended. He had taken classes and graduated from Portland State and spent the rest of his professional days in real estate. He also did a bunch of volunteer coaching at Wilson High. In 2006 he was admitted to Oregon’s athletic hall of fame and in the YouTube video of that induction he seems like an awfully humble and nice guy. He would contract cancer a couple years later from which he would pass away in 2010. He was 62.

Wayne gets a star bullet just like Rich Folkers’ a couple posts back. The broken hand is the injury that made him miss a bunch of games in ’67. 

So I know I’ve over-used this guy recently but he remains the best link:

1. Twitchell and Dick Allen ’75 to ’76 Phillies;
2. Allen and Walt Williams ’72 White Sox.

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