Don Drysdale was born to be a Dodger. Hailing from Van Nuys neighborhood in Los Angeles he was a Southern California kid with the Hollywood good looks.
However, don’t let the pretty boy face fool you Drysdale was one of the most intimidating pitchers of his time. Standing at 6’5 “Big D” as he was called would brush batters off the plate with his sidearm fastball. Never afraid to challenge anybody inside Drysdale would often lead the league in hit batsmen. Don Drysdale is one of the most feared Dodgers pitchers of all time.
Drysdale was only 19 when he made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. Even as a teenager he showed he belonged in the majors posting a 2.64 ERA in 25 games and 12 starts his rookie season. The following year at the tender age of 20 he had already become one of the best pitchers in baseball going 17-9 with a 2.69 ERA and 4 shutouts.
Don was the best pitcher on the Dodgers first Los Angeles championship team in 1959. That year he led the team with 17 wins posting a 3.46 ERA and had an incredible fifteen complete games with four of them being shutouts. He was also great in the World Series beating the Chicago White Sox in his only start going seven innings while allowing only one run.
By 1960 he had established himself as the ace of the Dodgers pitching staff which was a rotation that already included the great Sandy Koufax. Koufax in his prime was the better pitcher, but he struggled early on and it took him some time to figure it out. Once Koufax did put it together he went on arguably the greatest five year run of any pitcher in history, however, Drysdale had the more consistent career which is the reason he statistically surpassed Koufax in almost every category.
By the mid-1960’s Drysdale and Koufax went on to form one of the greatest pitching duos of all time. In 1962 Drysdale won the Cy Young with a league-leading 25 wins and a 2.83 ERA. He also led the league with 314.1 IP and 232 K’s. He was amazing in game three of the 1963 World Series pitching a 1-0 shutout against the Yankees allowing only three hits and striking out nine in the process.
Just for icing on the cake Big D was also one of the greatest hitting pitchers of his time with a career 29 home runs and made pinch-hitting appearances regularly. He had as many as seven home runs in a season on two separate occasions. In fact, in 1965 he was arguably the Dodgers best hitter. He was the only player on the team to hit .300 and his seven home runs were only five less than the individual team high of twelve. Drysdale also managed to win 23 games while posting a 2.77 ERA that season.
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Talk about doing it all, imagine a pitcher nowadays winning 23 games while at the same time being one of the best hitters on a championship team, but that was how good Drysdale was. His greatest feat as a player, however, was his then record of 58 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the 1968 season, a year in which he had a career-best 2.15 ERA. Of course, the record was broken 20 years later by another great Dodgers righty Orel Hershiser.
In fourteen overall seasons, Drysdale was a nine-time all-star, one time Cy Young winner, and three-time champion. He ended up with 209 career wins, 2.95 ERA and 2,486 K’s. He was a workhorse with 167 career complete games and forty-nine shutouts and was elected to the hall of fame in 1984. His number 53 is of course retired by the Dodgers.vvDuring his playing career, he lived in the Hollywood spotlight often making guest appearances in TV and movies.
After his playing career, he remained in the game by broadcasting until his death in 1993. Drysdale was an amazing pitcher. He probably would be talked about more if it wasn’t for Koufax overshadowing him during some of the best years of his career. In my opinion, he is the greatest right-handed pitcher in Dodgers history and will never be forgotten. He not only is one of the best Dodger players ever he is also going to forever be remembered as one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.