5. Best Dodgers starters of all-time: Don Newcombe
Don Newcombe was the third black pitcher to appear in a Major League game. The New Jersey native was playing baseball for a living at an early age. His high school didn’t have a team, so he joined a semi pro squad and dropped out to play for them full-time his junior year.
Newcombe grew up idolizing Satchel Paige, and soon followed suit pitching in the Negro Leagues. Branch Rickey recognized the young hurler’s talents and signed him and future battery mate Roy Campanella to minor league deals. There were more polished pitchers in the Negro Leagues at the time, but Newcombe’s size and raw ability projected well against big league bats.
Rickey was on to something, as Newk burst onto the scene winning Rookie of the Year, as well as making three straight All-Star appearances to start his career before serving in Korea for two years. After a bit of a down season in his return, Newcombe bounced back in a big way. He led the league in WHIP and winning percentage the next two seasons, and was an integral part of the World Series champion ‘55 team, becoming the first ever recipient of the Cy Young award in 1956, and was named MVP the same season.
Despite a solid 1957 season, Newcombe struggled mightily upon the Dodgers’ move out west, and he was traded to Cincinnati. He had a couple of decent years there, but ultimately was never the same player and was out of baseball by age 34. Sadly it was off the field issues that derailed Newcombe’s career. He was a rampant alcoholic, and by his own admission, his drinking severely affected his play.
Luckily Newk got clean by 1966, and went on to start the Dodger Drug and Alcohol Awareness Program. Newcombe totaled 123 wins, a 3.51 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 22 shutouts over his eight year Dodger career. He was the only player to win Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, MVP, and have a World Series ring until Justin Verlander “won” the World Series with the *Astros in 2017. Newcombe was also a standout hitter, compiling a .271 average with 15 homers.