Don Drysdale

From New World Encyclopedia

Don Drysdale
Born: July 23 1936(1936-07-23)
Van Nuys, California
Died: July 3 1993 (aged 56)
Montreal, Quebec
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 17, 1956
for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Final game
August 5, 1969
for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Career statistics
Win-Loss record     209-166
Earned run average     2.95
Strikeouts     2,486
  • Brooklyn / Los Angeles Dodgers (1956-1969)
Career highlights and awards
  • 8x All-Star selection (1959, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968)
  • 3x World Series champion (1959, 1963, 1965)
  • 1962 Cy Young Award
  • 1962 NL TSN Pitcher of the Year
  • Los Angeles Dodgers #53 retired
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg
Elected    1984
Vote    78.41%

Donald Scott Drysdale was a Hall of Fame pitcher who was one of the biggest names in American baseball in the 1960s. His All-American good looks led to many television appearances and after his playing days concluded he became a sports broadcaster.

He teamed up with fellow Cy Young award winner and teammate Sandy Koufax to lead the Brooklyn Dodgers to multiple World Series championships. Drysdale pitched in five World Series, led the league in strikeouts three times, and threw 49 shutouts, including a record setting 58 1/3 scoreless innings. He was known for using brushback pitches and intentionally hitting opposing players as well as maintaining one of the highest batting averages for a pitcher.

In 1968 he pitched his record-tying fifth straight shutout on the day of the California presidential primary and was congratulated by Robert Kennedy in the speech he gave just before he was assassinated.

Early life

Drysdale was born on July 23, 1936 in Van Nuys, California. After his graduation from Van Nuys High School in 1954 he was courted by the Pittsburgh Pirates team president Branch Rickey. Rickey offered a $6,000 bonus and a contract with Pittsburgh's Triple-A Hollywood Stars affiliate. Neither Drysdale nor his father thought the youngster was ready to start his career at the Triple-A level.

Instead, Drysdale signed with the Dodgers for $4,000 because he wanted an organization that stood the best chance of teaching the art of pitching. He pitched that summer at the Dodgers' California League affiliate in Bakersfield and 1955 at Triple-A Montreal.[1]

After compiling a 8-5 record in Bakersfield he was 11-11 in 28 games in Montreal.[2]

Major League Career

Donald Drysdale's number 53 was retired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1984

In 1956, Don Drysdale made the jump to the majors, both starting and pitching from the bullpen for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The ensuing decade (from 1957-1966) marked a period of Dodgers' domination in baseball. While their offense was weak, Drysdale and Sandy Koufax became a duo that would consistently dominate opposing batters

The following year marked the arrival of the 6' 6" hurler nicknamed "Big D" by the fans. Following a 5-5 rookie year, Drysdale settled into the starting rotation and threw for a 17-9 record in the team's last year in Brooklyn. He would become a mainstay at the top of the rotation throughout the duration of his career.

In 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers made history by moving west to Los Angeles. Drysdale tossed the first game in Los Angeles Dodgers history, a 6-5 victory over the San Fransisco Giants, in what would eventually become an intense rivalry.

The Dodgers finished the regular season in first place in four out of five years from 1962 to 1966 without an overwhelming offense. Following their combined 49-20 record in 1965 the duo tried to take advantage of their dominance by demanding a three year, 1.05 million dollar contract to be divided evenly in 1966. At one point, Walter O'Malley, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers gave up and Dodger general manager, Buzzie Bavasi announced: "There is no sense in negotiating further."[3] Koufax and Drysdale did about face, each signing one-year deals worth more than $100,000.

Drysdale eventually signed for $110,000, significantly more than the $35,000 he made when he won 25 in 1962. He summed up his perspective in 1980: "When we played, World Series checks meant something. Now they just screw up your taxes."[4]

Drysdale lead the National League (NL) in games started every year from 1962 to 1965, as well as in innings pitched in 1962 and 1964. He never missed a start. He also led in shutouts in 1959. One of the best-hitting pitchers of his day, he led NL pitchers in homers four times, twice tying the NL record of seven. His career total of 29 ranks second to Warren Spahn's in NL history. In 1965 he hit .300 and slugged .508, pinch hit frequently, and achieved the rare feat of winning 20 and hitting .300 in the same year. In 1958 he slugged .591.

In 1962, Drysdale won 25 games and the Cy Young Award; however, the highlight of his career was in 1968, better known as the "Year of the Pitcher." In 1963 he struck out 251 batters and won Game 3 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium. In 1965 he won 23 games and led the Dodgers to their third World Championship in Los Angeles. He ended his career with 209 wins, 2,486 strikeouts, 167 complete games and 49 shutouts.

He stands at No. 29 on the all-time list for most career strikeouts, and No. 21 for the most shut-outs. He is No. 12 on the all-time list for hit batsmen as of mid-2007.

While Drysdale's numbers put him in a legendary category his prime years were shortened significantly by a career-ending torn-rotator cuff. In his own words, the Hall of Fame pitcher said, "A torn rotator cuff is a cancer for a pitcher and if a pitcher gets a badly torn one, he has to face the facts, it's all over baby."[2]


Despite being a pitcher, Don Drysdale led the 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers with a .300 batting average. He was one of the few players in the history of baseball to hit .300 and win 20 games in the same season. Not only did he hit for average, but he hit for power, as he clubbed 29 home runs during his career, second most for any pitcher in National League history.

Drysdale was a perennial All-Star, being named to the team of stars in 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, and 1968, his last and arguably best season.

In 1962, Drysdale received his only Cy Young award and was named to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. His number 53 was officially retired at Dodger Stadium on July 1, 1984.

Don Drysdale still holds the National League mark for most hit batsmen, with 154.

Broadcasting career

Don Drysdale retired mid-season in 1969 because of his ailing shoulder and became a broadcaster not just for the Dodgers (from 1988 up until his death in 1993), but also the Montreal Expos (1970-1971), Texas Rangers (baseball) (1972), California Angels (1973-1979}), Chicago White Sox (1982-1987), and Major League Baseball on ABC (1978-1986).

While at ABC Sports, Drysdale not only announced baseball telecasts, but also Superstars and Wide World of Sports. During the 1979 World Series, Drysdale covered the World Series Trophy presentation ceremonies for ABC. In 1984, he did play-by-play (alongside fellow Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Earl Weaver) for the 1984 National League Championship Series (NLCS) between the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs.

For the White Sox, Drysdale broadcasted the 300th victory of pitching contemporary Tom Seaver against the host New York Yankees in 1985. His post-game interview with Seaver was carried live by both the White Sox' network and the Yankees' longtime flagship television station WPIX.


Drysdale hosted a nationally syndicated radio show called Radio Baseball Cards. One-hundred-sixty-two episodes were produced with stories and anecdotes told by current and former Major League Baseball players, including many Hall of Famers. The highlight of the series was numerous episodes dedicated to the memory and impact of Jackie Robinson. Radio Baseball Cards aired on 38 stations, including WNBC New York, KSFO San Francisco and WEEI Boston. A collector's edition of the program was re-released in 2007 as a podcast.[5]


Drysdale guest starred in:

  • The Greatest American Hero episode "The Two Hundred Mile an Hour Fastball," which was first broadcast on November 4, 1981 as a broadcaster for the California Stars.[6]
  • The Brady Bunch episode "The Dropout," which was first broadcast on September 25, 1970.
  • Leave It to Beaver episode "Long Distance Call," which was first broadcast on June 16, 1962.
  • The Rifleman episode "Skull," which was first broadcast on January 1, 1962.
  • The Millionaire episode "Millionaire Larry Maxwell," which was first broadcast on March 1, 1960.
  • With his first wife, Ginger, on You Bet Your Life with host Groucho Marx. The episode was released on the 2006 DVD "Groucho Marx: You Bet Your Life - 14 Classic Episodes."

Personal Life

Drysdale married Ginger Dubberly in 1958, with whom he had a daughter named Kelly. They divorced in 1982. In 1986, he married Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame player Ann Meyers, who took the name Ann Meyers-Drysdale. In 1979 Meyers became the first woman to sign a contract with the NBA.

It was the first time that a married couple were members of their respective sports' Hall of Fame. Drysdale and Meyers had three children together: Don Junior ("DJ") (son), Darren (son), and Drew (daughter). In 1990, Drysdale published his autobiography, Once a Bum, Always a Dodger.


Don Drysdale died of a heart attack in his hotel room in Montreal, Quebec, where he had been broadcasting a Dodgers game. Drysdale was found dead by radio station employees sent to look for him when he was late for his scheduled broadcast. The coroner estimated that he had been dead for 18 hours. Soon afterwards, Drysdale's broadcasting colleague Vin Scully, who was instructed not to say anything on the air until Drysdale's family was notified, announced the news of his death by saying "Never have I been asked to make an announcement that hurts me as much as this one. And I say it to you as best I can with a broken heart."

Among the personal belongings found in Drysdale's hotel room at the time of his death was a cassette tape of Robert F. Kennedy's victory speech after the 1968 California Democratic presidential primary, a speech given only moments before Senator Kennedy's assassination. In the speech, Kennedy had noted, to the cheers of the crowd, that Drysdale had pitched his fifth straight shutout that evening. Drysdale had apparently carried the tape with him wherever he went since Robert Kennedy's death.

Don Drysdale's body was cremated at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.


Don Drysdale is remembered for the fear he instilled in the opposing batter, often freezing them at the plate as they anticipated the next pitch hitting them. Former baseball player, Dick Groat said, "Batting against him (Don Drysdale) is the same as making a date with the dentist."[7]

Upon his death, Chicago Sun-Times writer Dave van Dyck summed up the legacy of Drysdale: "Not all records are made to be broken. Some should belong forever to only one person. Like the record for most hit batsmen in a career, 154. No one ever intimidated batters like he did. No one ever will again.[8]


  1. Koufax, Drysdale were a dynamic duo Retrieved January 7, 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Official Site of Don Drysdale Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  3. Don Drysdale Holdout Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  4. Don Drysdale Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  5. Radio Baseball Cards Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  6. The Greatest American Hero: The Two-Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Fastball Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  7. Baseball-Almanac: Quotes Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  8. Dave Van Dyck, "Drysdale A `Hitman' On Mound." Chicago Sun-Times. 1993.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • "Drysdale, Don." American National Biography, 2002. OCLC 277015554
  • Drysdale, Don, and Bob Verdi. Once a Bum, Always a Dodger. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990. ISBN 0312039026
  • Shapiro, Milton J. The Don Drysdale Story. New York: J. Messner, 1964. OCLC 1307872

External links

All links retrieved January 30, 2024.


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