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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

RIP, Preacher Roe

Via Jon, and a bit belated, former Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe passed away at 92 after a long battle with colon cancer. Quoting the thumbnail bio I wrote of him last year:
Not to be confused with Schoolboy Rowe, who also pitched for the Dodgers six years before, he had tremendous heat as a prep pitcher in rural Arkansas. He came up with the Cardinals, and was traded to the Pirates, where he had two successful years. In the offseason of 1945, he got into an argument while coaching a high school basketball team and got knocked to the ground. He suffered a fractured skull and spent the next two years ineffective. Fortuitously for him, the Dodgers were about to integrate baseball, and when Dixie Walker expressed a desire to get off the team, his wish was granted. Roe was the return on that trade; he shocked everyone by trading in his power pitcher routine for the repertoire of a soft-tossing lefty in the mold of Jamie Moyer. "I got three pitches. My change, my change off my change, and my change off my change off my change", he once said; he also had an illegal spitball that he added to the mix, and rarely got caught. Partly on the back of that pitch, he managed to go 22-3 in 1951, the second-highest winning percentage in Dodger history. Years after he retired, he tried to get the pitch reinstated by confessing to its use in the pages of Sports Illustrated; the effort backfired, and he became persona non grata at Dodger old-timer events.
Roe's 22-3 1950 season is still a franchise record winning percentage for any pitcher with 20 or more starts, and his career winning percentage of .715 tops the list. He's also in the top 10 for home runs allowed (single-season and career), and career ERA+.

Update: Also via Bloomberg News and dodgers.com:

"Preacher Roe left an indelible mark in Dodger history," said Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt. "He was one of the original 'Boys of Summer' and his success in the World Series against the Yankees in 1949, 1952, and 1953 helped pave the way for the 1955 World Champions. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his family and loved ones."

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