The Obit For Warren Spahn

The New York Times, November 25th, 2003 (Page B9)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 26 November 2003

Editorial - Power from the port side

If the critics are right when they say what matters most in baseball today is money, then Warren Spahn was baseball's antimatter.

His death Monday at 82 serves as a sad, nostalgic reminder of the days when baseball really was the national passion and Milwaukeeans unabashedly expressed their pleasure in public for their beloved Braves. "Spahnie" was one of their all-time favorites because he obviously loved baseball as much as Milwaukee fans loved watching him deliver the goods, game after game, with that trademark high kick that looked like something he learned from the Radio City Rockettes.

Where Spahn ranked among others at his position is open to debate, we suppose. But not here. We think Braves shortstop and Spahn teammate Johnny Logan got it just right when he declared Spahn "the greatest left-handed pitcher to ever put on a uniform."

In a sport where statistics take on almost biblical importance, many of Spahn's accomplishments on the mound have survived the test of time. During his 21-year career, Spahn won 363 games, the most ever by a left-hander. He won the Cy Young Award in 1957, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 - his first year of eligibility - and still holds or shares nine Braves franchise records.

Spahn also proved amazingly durable; he won 177 games after he turned 35, including No. 300 in 1961, when he was 40 years old. He missed three seasons when he served in the Army during World War II. Wounded during action, Spahn was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

He made his mark when the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee, with his greatest season coming in 1953, the team's first year in Brewtown. He went 23 - 7 that year and led the National League with a 2.10 earned run average.

What also set him apart was his determination to go the distance. Spahn completed 382 of his 665 career starts - a statistic that seems even more remarkable today when pitchers rotate in and out of a game like so many groundskeepers. As Logan said, if Spahn started the game, he figured he should finish it.

Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripkin were iron men among infielders. But among pitchers, few could match the mettle of Warren Spahn.