Legendary Brooklyn Dodgers
pitcher Don Newcombe
- ) was the first black pitcher in the Major Leagues
and remains the only player ever to have won all three of the Rookie of the Year
, and Cy Young Award
s. An imposing figure at 6'4", 220 pounds, "Newk" terrorized the National League as the ace of the legendary "Boys of Summer
" Brooklyn squad that perennially won the pennant. In his 10-year career, Newcombe posted an outstanding record of 149-90 to go along with a 3.56 ERA, and his strong career numbers likely would have approached Hall of Fame
stature had he not lost two prime seasons to military service in the Korean War
After playing one season for the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues, Newcombe signed with the Dodgers in 1949. His 3-0 shutout of the Reds in his May 22 debut was just the beginning of a strong campaign in which Newcombe compiled a record of 17-8, a 3.17 ERA, and led the league with 5 shutouts, earning the Rookie of the Year Award from both The Sporting News and the BBWAA.
Newk established himself as one of the brightest young stars in the game over the next two years, going 19-11 in 1950, and 20-9 in 1951 (including a league-best 164 strikeouts), before his career was interrupted for two seasons by his army service from 1952-1953. Returning in 1954, Newcombe showed some rust from the long layoff in going 9-8 with a 4.55 ERA, but rebounded strongly the next season, going 20-5 with a 3.20 ERA and helping Brooklyn finally defeat the hated Yankees for the World Series title. Newcombe then posted the finest season of his career in 1956, compiling an astonishing 27-7 record to go with a 3.06 ERA and 5 shutouts, becoming the first player in baseball history to win both the MVP and the Cy Young Award in the same season.
In addition to his dominant pitching, Newcombe was also an outstanding hitter. His .271 lifetime batting average is 9th best ever for a pitcher. In 1955, he batted .359 with 7 home runs (still a NL record for pitchers, since tied by Mike Hampton in 2001). Always a home-run threat with his powerful left-handed stroke, Newcombe hit two home runs in a game on three separate occasions, and his hitting was good enough that he was able to catch on as a first baseman in Japan following the conclusion of his Major League career.
Newcombe remains one of the few pitchers to start both games of a doubleheader, which he accomplished against the Phillies on September 6, 1950, completing the first game for a 2-0 shutout, and pitching into the 7th inning in the second game before leaving with his team trailing 2-0 (the Dodgers later rallied for a 3-2 win), and is also one of the few pitchers to swipe home on a straight steal, following his triple against the Pirates on May 26, 1955.