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The Kickin' That Overcame Lickin':

PAUL DERRINGER

         

    The first year that this big, tall right-hander ever put on a Cincinnati Reds uniform, he lost 27 games - the largest total in major league baseball in 28 years.

But before his Cincinnati career ended, Paul Derringer was cheered and idolized. He is remembered as one of the all-time greats who pitched in Cincinnati.

 

Early in the 1933 season, Derringer was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Reds for shortstop Leo Durocher. The Cardinals needed help on the infield because of an injury to Charley Gelbert. The Reds were eager to get a young, hard-throwing pitcher in exchange for a shortstop who had a reputation of being "good field, no hit."

Derringer, a rookie sensation in 1931 when he led the league in winning percentage with a .692 on the strength of an 18-8 record, dropped to 11-14 in 1932. He was 0-2 with the Red Birds when the trade was made.

 

Big Paul was a right-hander with a big kick. He was anything but successful when he came to the Reds. Cincinnati was a last-place team and Derringer fell into a losing pattern, finishing with a 7-27 record. He learned a lot, however, and the experience of that dismal season would payoff in the future.

 

"I look back on that season of 1933 as one of my best in the majors.

 

They licked me time after time, but I pitched well. I think in about 19 games I was beaten when I allowed an average of about three runs per game. The Cincinnati club that year was terrible. I hate say it, but I think it was about the worst I ever played on," Derringer said when asked to remember his maiden season with the Reds.

 

Two years after losi ng 27 games, Derringer came back to win 22, the first of four 20-victory seasons he would have in Cincinnati.

    When the Reds won the pennant in 1939 and 1940, Derringer played a big role. He was a 25-game winner in 1939 and followed with 20 victories in 1940.

He teamed with Bucky Walters, another right-hander, to form the best one-two punch in baseball. Between them in those two pennant-winning seasons, they won 94 games and lost only 40.

 

Derringer was a control artist and he rarely walked a batter. Take the 1939 campaign, for instance. He pitched 301 innings and walked only 35 batters. As incredible as it seems, 24 of those 35 free passes were intentional walks.

    Paul's control was sensational. Once, as a stunt before a ball game, he took the mound blindfolded and delivered six of 10 pitches over the plate for strikes.

 

Derringer credited Hall-of-Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander for his pinpoint accuracy.

 

"When I reported to the Cardinals, Alex (Alexander) was there. Despite the fact that he had been a World Series hero the year before, Alex was one of the few who took pains to help me. He drilled one thought home, 'If you have something on the ball, control is the main thing.' I've never forgotten that pitching proverb and it had a lot to do with shaping my career."

 

Derringer was long considered one of the best "money" pitchers in the game, meaning he could always be counted on to come through in the clutch situation. Because of that reputation, it was hard to figure out how he lost his first four decisions in World Series play - two with the Cardinals in 1931, one in the 1939 World Series and the opening game of the 1940 Fall Classic.

 

However, with everything on the line in Game No.7 of the 1940 Series, he was indeed superb. He beat Bobo Newsom, 2-1, to nail down Cincinnati's first World Championship in 21 years.

 

Derringer pitched in Cincinnati through the 1942 season and then was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He finished his IS-year career in Chicago in 1945, having won 223 games.

 

He retired to Sarasota, Florida, where he makes his home today.

         
       

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