Philadelphia A's pitching great
Robert Clayton (Bobby) Shantz was born September 26, 1925. The 5 ft. 6 in., southpaw from nearby Pottstown, PA began his professional career with Lincoln (NE) in the Western League in 1948. After posting an 18-7 record with this Class A team, he quickly moved up to the parent club, the Philadelphia Athletics, in 1949. In his second appearance of that season, Shantz won his first big league game as a reliever. Coming into the game in relief of Carl Scheib in the 4th inning, Bobby went on to strike out seven Detroit Tigers and to hold them to just two hits and one earned run over the next ten innings. A remarkable of job of closing!
By 1951, under the tutelage of the new the A’s manager, Jimmy Dykes, Shantz started 25 times and won 18 games. He added a knuckle ball to his repertoire, learned to change speeds, and further developed his curve ball which was called the best in the American League by no less a hitter than Ted Williams. Shantz went 18-10 for the 70-84 Philadelphia Athletics that year.
In 1952, Shantz had a truly marvelous year. He posted a 24-7 won-lost record to enable him to earn the AL Most Valuable Player Award, beating other players such as Allie Reynolds, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. In addition to 24 wins, which led the League, Shantz’s outstanding statistics that year included a .774 winning percentage, the fewest walks per game (2.03), and a league-leading WHIP of 1.048; he was second with 27 complete games and third with a 2.48 ERA. The Sporting News not only named him MVP but also pitcher of the year (the forerunner of the Cy Young Award which was not initiated until 1956).
Bobby Shantz was chosen for the All-Star Game
s in 1951, 1952 and 1957. In 1952, in the fifth, and final, inning of the game, Shantz exhibited his distinctive sidearm delivery and sharp curve, striking out Whitey Lockman
, Jackie Robinson
, and Stan Musial
, consecutively. Perhaps, had the game not been cut short by rain, Bobby may have been able to challenge Carl Hubbell’s 1934 five strike out string. (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simons, and Cronin). Scheduled to bat in the sixth inning were Hank Sauer, Roy Campanella, and Enos Slaughter.
In addition to his pitching skills, Bobby was also a remarkable fielder. He won the Major League Gold Glove for the first time in 1957 and then continued to win the award in his respective leagues for eight consecutive years until 1964. In fact, six times in his career he played errorless ball during an entire season.
The Athletics transferred to Kansas City in 1954, and during the next two seasons Shantz played only occasionally because of injuries. In 1957, he was traded to the New York Yankees in a 12-player deal and he proceeded to make a great comeback. He led the American League with a 2.45 ERA while posting an 11-5 won-loss record. He did manage also, to pitch six-plus innings in the 1957 World Series against the Milwaukee Braves. He was now used more frequently in relief. After winning the World Series with the New York in 1958, he contributed eleven saves for the 1960 pennant winning Yankees before being traded to the Pirates in 1961. It was the Pirates who had defeated the Yankees in the 1960 World Series; Shantz actually had a save in Game Two of that World Series for the Bronx Bombers.
Later that year, he was taken by the new iteration of the Washington Senators in the expansion draft and immediately was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The following year, with another expansion, Shantz was chosen by the Houston Colt .45s in the 1961 Expansion Draft. He was then traded to the St Louis Cardinals where he recorded eleven saves in 1963. The Cardinals then sent him to the Cubs in the deal that brought Lou Brock to St.Louis. Later that season, he was purchased by the Phillies and finished his brilliant, sixteen-year career on his home turf of Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium in 1964.
Bobby Shantz now resides in Ambler, PA.