"He could hit a gnat in the butt with a pitch if he wanted to."
-Rich "Goose" Gossage


Eck the Starter

Dennis Eckersley is a legendary relief pitcher and closer, playing twenty-four seasons in Major League Baseball. He began his carreer as a starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians in 1975. He won thirteen games in his first season, with a 2.60 ERA, his lowest ERA as a starter. In 1978 he was traded to the Boston Red Sox, but not before no-hitting the Anaheim Angels in 1977. For Boston, Eckersley continued his solid work as a starter, finishing below .500 only twice during his six and a half year run with Boston. He was traded mid-season to the Chicago Cubs in 1984, where he would spend a slow three years. His numbers beginning to dwindle, Eck found himself tossing up a 4.57 ERA in his last year as a Cub. This would also be his last year as a starter.

Eck the Closer

The Cubs shipped Eckersley out to Oakland in 1987 after putting up an unimpressive 6-11 record in 1986. Tony LaRussa, the Athletics' skipper, gave Eckersley a second life by transforming him into a closing pitcher. The closer role began to shape Eckersley into a superstar and in return, Eckersley began to shape the closer role. Today, many would consider Eckersley to be the platonic form of a closer. He is the complete package. With years under his belt as a starter, he knew how to finish the job, and with the added benefit of being able to enter late in the game at top form, he was deadly. Raw talent and seasoned expertise aside, Eckersley looks like a closer. Tall and forboding, Eckersley sported long untamed jet black hair and a fiery goatee, like some mad scientist-general obsessed with final victory.

Eckersley saved 320 games for the Athletics over nine seasons, during which he commanded the A's to four division titles, three American League pennants, and a World Series title in 1989. He played for the A's during their Bash Brothers era, closing for the likes of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

Following LaRussa to the Midwest, Eckersley wound up with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996, where he played his last two seasons as a closer. I had the opportunity to watch Eckersley play during his last two seasons in St. Louis, and I can attest to his presence on the mound. Eck returned to the Red Sox for his last year, the first time in his career he signed with a different team during free agency.  

Eck the Hall of Famer

He played his last game for the Red Sox, breaking the major league record for most appearances in that game.  He extended Hoyt Wilhelm's mark by one game, setting the record at 1,071 games.

Recently elected to the Hall of Fame with 421 ballots (8.2 percent above the required 75 percent), Eckersley joined Paul Molitor as the only two members of the 2004 class.  Eckersley enjoys a place at the top of many career statistics categories, including second most seasons with thirty or more saves with eight (behind Lee Smith's nine).  Even though Eck became a closer halfway through his career, he is still third in the all-time saves list with 390 (behind John Franco's 424 and Smith's 478).  Eckersley resides tied for twelfth on the all-time games finished list with 577.  His eleven saves in League Championship series with the A's are a Major League record.

Eck represented the American League with six All-Star appearances in 1977, 1982, 1988, and 1990-1992.  He received the AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award in 1992, when he led the league in games finished and saves (for the second time since 1988).


Statistics:

(Thanks to baseball-reference.com)


 Year Ag Tm  Lg  W   L   G   GS  GF  CG SHO SV   IP     H    R   ER   HR  BB   SO   ERA 
_________________________________________________________________________________________
 1975 20 CLE AL  13   7  34  24   5   6   2  2  186.7  147   61   54  16   90  152  2.60 
 1976 21 CLE AL  13  12  36  30   3   9   3  1  199.3  155   82   76  13   78  200  3.43 
 1977 22 CLE AL  14  13  33  33   0  12   3  0  247.3  214  100   97  31   54  191  3.53 
 1978 23 BOS AL  20   8  35  35   0  16   3  0  268.3  258   99   89  30   71  162  2.99 
 1979 24 BOS AL  17  10  33  33   0  17   2  0  246.7  234   89   82  29   59  150  2.99 
 1980 25 BOS AL  12  14  30  30   0   8   0  0  197.7  188  101   94  25   44  121  4.28 
 1981 26 BOS AL   9   8  23  23   0   8   2  0  154.0  160   82   73   9   35   79  4.27 
 1982 27 BOS AL  13  13  33  33   0  11   3  0  224.3  228  101   93  31   43  127  3.73 
 1983 28 BOS AL   9  13  28  28   0   2   0  0  176.3  223  119  110  27   39   77  5.61 
 1984 29 BOS AL   4   4   9   9   0   2   0  0   64.7   71   38   36  10   13   33  5.01 
         CHC NL  10   8  24  24   0   2   0  0  160.3  152   59   54  11   36   81  3.03 
         TOT     14  12  33  33   0   4   0  0  225.0  223   97   90  21   49  114  3.60 
 1985 30 CHC NL  11   7  25  25   0   6   2  0  169.3  145   61   58  15   19  117  3.08 
 1986 31 CHC NL   6  11  33  32   0   1   0  0  201.0  226  109  102  21   43  137  4.57 
 1987 32 OAK AL   6   8  54   2  33   0   0 16  115.7   99   41   39  11   17  113  3.03 
 1988 33 OAK AL   4   2  60   0  53   0   0 45   72.7   52   20   19   5   11   70  2.35 
 1989 34 OAK AL   4   0  51   0  46   0   0 33   57.7   32   10   10   5    3   55  1.56 
 1990 35 OAK AL   4   2  63   0  61   0   0 48   73.3   41    9    5   2    4   73  0.61 
 1991 36 OAK AL   5   4  67   0  59   0   0 43   76.0   60   26   25  11    9   87  2.96 
 1992 37 OAK AL   7   1  69   0  65   0   0 51   80.0   62   17   17   5   11   93  1.91 
 1993 38 OAK AL   2   4  64   0  52   0   0 36   67.0   67   32   31   7   13   80  4.16 
 1994 39 OAK AL   5   4  45   0  39   0   0 19   44.3   49   26   21   5   13   47  4.26 
 1995 40 OAK AL   4   6  52   0  48   0   0 29   50.3   53   29   27   5   11   40  4.83 
 1996 41 STL NL   0   6  63   0  53   0   0 30   60.0   65   26   22   8    6   49  3.30 
 1997 42 STL NL   1   5  57   0  47   0   0 36   53.0   49   24   23   9    8   45  3.91 
 1998 43 BOS AL   4   1  50   0  13   0   0  1   39.7   46   21   21   6    8   22  4.76 
_________________________________________________________________________________________
 24 Years           171     361     100    390        3076      1278      738       3.50 
 WL%= .535      197    1071     577     20     3285.7      1382      347      2401
_________________________________________________________________________________________
 162 Game Avg     9   8  50  17  27   4   0 18  156.0  146   65   60  16   35  114  3.50 
 Career High     20  14  69  35  65  17   3 51  268.3  258  119  110  31   90  200  0.61 
_________________________________________________________________________________________
                 W   L   G   GS  GF  CG SHO SV   IP     H    R   ER   HR  BB   SO   ERA 



(That means he is really good.)

Sources:
www.baseball-reference.com/e/eckerde01.shtml
www.thebaseballpage.com/past/pp/eckersleydennis/
www.baseballhalloffame.org/

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