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Al Benton

Al Benton

Position(s):
P
Born:
March 18, 1911
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 4"
Weight:
215 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-18-1934 with PHA

John Alton Benton (March 18, 1911 – April 14, 1968) was a Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher who played with the Philadelphia Athletics (1934–35), Detroit Tigers (1938–42, 1945–48), Cleveland Indians (1949–50) and Boston Red Sox (1952).

In 1940, Benton led the American League with 17 saves. In 1941 he went 15-6 with a 2.97 ERA (second in the AL) in 38 games. He completed seven of 14 starts and got seven saves. Despite his 7-13 mark a year later, his ERA was 2.90 with career-highs in starts (30) and innings pitched (226.2).

Benton was chosen for the American League All-Star team in both 1941 and 1942, and then missed the 1943 and 1944 seasons while serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Benton was discharged from the Navy in November 1944 and had his best year in 1945. He compiled a record of 13-8, a career-low 2.02 ERA, five shutouts, and 12 complete games in 191.2 innings. In a remarkable testament to the Tigers' pitching in 1945, Hal Newhouser and Benton were No. 1 and No. 2 in ERA among AL pitchers. Newhouser's Adjusted ERA+ in 1945 was 195 and Benton's was 175. The Adjusted ERA+ figures posted by Newhouser and Benton in 1945 rank as the 1st and 5th best seasons all time for a Detroit Tigers pitcher with at least 150 innings pitched.

Benton pitched in relief in three games in the 1945 World Series and gave up only one earned run for a 1.93 World Series ERA.

The rest of his career he worked largely as a setup man or as an emergency starter.

A two-time All-Star (1941–42), Benton compiled a career 98-88 record with 697 strikeouts and a 3.36 ERA in 1688.1 innings. He died in a 1968 motel explosion in Lynwood, California, at the age of 57.

Benton is known for being the only pitcher to face both Babe Ruth (in 1934) and Mickey Mantle (in 1952) (Bobo Newsom was also active - but never actually faced Mantle).  He was also the only pitcher to have pitched against Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. Gehrig and DiMaggio hit a total of 5 home runs off Benton.

Benton is also the only player to have two sacrifice bunts in the same inning, which he did against the Cleveland Indians, August 6, 1941).

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