Fun Facts — Sal “The Barber” Maglie

by M.C. Antil on December 5, 2010

Sal Maglie

Even though he had long stopped playing years before I started following baseball, the Giants’ Sal Maglie nevertheless left an indelible stamp on my mind as a kid.  I had read a number of times that he was not merely one of the best pitchers in the game during the Fifties, but one of its meanest as well. 

They said Maglie would throw at batter’s chin at the drop of a hat if he thought the guy was leaning a little too far over the plate, earning him one of the great nicknames the game has ever known; “The Barber.”

And even though at that point I had never seen any video of The Barber, all it took was one glimpse of his surly visage in a photo, with that perpetual five o’clock shadow of his, to realize Sal Maglie was not a guy to be trifled with

But until this week, when I did a little research, did I learn the following (which frankly, shocked me).  In Maglie’s first full season in the big leagues (1950) he went 18-4, with an .818 winning percentage, a 2.79 ERA and 5 shutouts, leading the N.L. in each of those final three categories. 

Then in ’51, when the Miracle Giants wiped out a 13 1/2 game Brooklyn lead in August, caught the Dodgers on the last day of the season, and then beat them in a playoff on Bobby Thompson’s dramatic “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”, Maglie had an even better year.  He went 23-6, with an 2.93 ERA, 22 complete games and 4 saves in 298 innings.  Those numbers propelled him to a fourth place finish in that year’s MVP voting.

The Barber: "Next?"

However, what was remarkable about those two years — as I said, the first two full seasons of Maglie’s big league career — wasn’t just the numbers he put up.  It is that he put them up when he was 33 and 34 years old.

Huh?

Yep, it’s true.  Through a combination of circumstances, some of which were self-inflicted, Sal Maglie never pitched a full season in the big leagues until he was 33 years old.

Go figure.

But those are just a handful of the amazing facts I discovered about the remarkable career of Sal Maglie.  Consider:

  • Although he was known as The Barber because he constantly pitched high and tight to batters, throughout the course of his big league career he averaged only one hit batter every five starts.
  • In May of 1956 he was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Brooklyn Dodgers, after which he went 13-5 with a 2.87 ERA, including three shutouts for the pennant-winning Dodgers.  His performance, which earned him the runner-up slot in both the Cy Young and MVP voting, was made all the more remarkable by the fact that in the summer of 1956 he was 39 years old.
  • In the fall of that season, Maglie was the losing pitcher in Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game, and in that contest hurled a complete game, giving up only two runs while allowing only five hits.
  • He was the only man to play for the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees during Gotham’s storied run of baseball dominance in the 1950’s.
  • In over 1,700 big league innings, Maglie issued only eight intentional walks, half of them after he was past the age of 40.
  • He would go on to become the pitching coach for two of the most famous teams in the back half of the 20th Century, the hapless 1969 Seattle Pilots, immortalized by Jim Bouton in “Ball Four,” and the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox, featuring Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski and Cy Young Award winner  Jim Lonborg.

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