- July 25, 1962
- 6' 1"
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 5-30-1986 with NYA
- Allstar Selections:
- 1990 CY, 1990 TSN
It was one of the first moves the new Pirate regime made before the 1987 season in an attempt to return the moribund franchise to the championship level it had attained for most of the past 16 seasons when the club traded for a young pitcher in the Yankee organization by the name Doug Drabek. The Yankees were looking for a solid veteran when they went for Rick Rhoden in an attempt to return to the top of the American League Division. What they ended up with was hurler who had seen his better days in return for what would turn out to be a Cy Young Award winner.
Doug had a decent freshman campaign in the Bronx when he went 7-8 with a 4.10 ERA in1986, before being dealt to the Steel City The Yankees had a fine 1986 campaign, finishing 90-72, 5 ½ games behind the Red Sox and were looking for that extra push to get them over the hump. They felt Rhoden was the answer, so they parted with Drabek whom they thought potential to be a big winner in the league.
Drabek had several pitches he could stymie opponents with, a nice fastball, which topped out in the low 90’s, a good slider, curveball and a devastating sinker. Yankee manager Lou Pinella loved his potential because the University of Houston alumni was never afraid of hitters and seemed to always go after them aggressively. Nonetheless, Doug was dealt to the team on November 29th, 1986 with Brian Fisher and Logan Easley for Rhoden, Celio Guante and Pat Clements.
The Texas native’s career with the Bucs did not exactly start in a hall of fame manner in 1987 as he went 1-8 in the first half of the season before the all-star game. It was a pattern that followed Doug throughout his career in Pittsburgh as he traditionally got off to a slow start.
Part of the slow start could be traced to an injury Drabek suffered in April when he pulled his right hamstring and ended up on the DL until May 18th. Eventually he got things turned around, won the National league’s pitcher of the month for August with a perfect 5-0 mark and was 10-4 after the all-star break.
Like the rest of the squad, 1988, proved to be the breakout year for Doug as he went 15-7, lowering his ERA from 3.88 to 3.08. During the season, Drabek struck out a career high 11 batters, won 7 decisions in a row and took a no-hitter into the ninth against the San Diego Padres on May 8th. The drama ended quickly in the 9th when Randy ready led off the frame with a pinch-hit single and former Pirate Marvell Wynne cracked a two run shot. It would be the only two runs Drabek gave up in the 6-2 victory.
Rearing its ugly head again in 1989 was the now patented Doug Drabek slow start as the talented hurler lost 5 of his first 6 contests. While Doug did again bounce back, it was a hard luck season that could have easily been spectacular if he got a little support from his teammates. He gave up three runs or less in 27 of his 34 starts but the team scored less than two runs in 11 of his 12 losses. Despite the fact he could have sewed for non-support, Drabek still led the staff with 14 wins as he finished the year 13-7 after the 1-5 start.
Coming into 1990, the team and its star pitcher wanted to prove the disappointing 1989 campaign was just a fluke. The two did so in fine style as the club won its first eastern division championship since 1979 and Drabek put everything together to have a monster season. He went 22-6, leading the circuit in both wins and winning percentage, .786. He became the first Buc to lead the league in wins since 1958 when Bob Friend won 22, and was the first Pirate in 13 year since John Candelaria to win 20 games in a season.
Without a doubt his best game of the season, and perhaps his career, came about on August 3rd, 1990 when he had a no-hitter going against the Phillies into the ninth inning. Drabek quickly got two and only had light hitting pinch hitter Sid Campusano stand between him and immortality. Unfortunately Campusano was there to wreck Drabek’s party as he singled to break up the gem and Drabek had to settle for a one-hitter.
Despite losing his no-hitter, Drabek still went on to a phenomenal campaign. He was named the National Leagues pitcher of the month in both July and August, the first pitcher to win back to back awards since Chicago Cub, and ex Pirate, Rick Rascal turned the trick in 1977. In the two month’s, Doug went 9-1 with a 2.23 ERA.
For his efforts Drabek was not only awarded the National League pitcher of the year by the Sporting News, but he captured the queen jewel of pitching awards, the Cy Young Award. With the win, he became only the second Buc to be so honored (Vern Law in 1960 had been the other).
With Pittsburgh winning the division, Drabek got a chance to pitch in the post-season. He was fabulous, going 1-1 including a 3-2 win in game 5. Doug proved to be a dominant pitcher in his 3-year NLCS experience although he also showed to be a very hard luck one. In 7 NLCS games, he went 2-5 despite a sparkling 2.05 ERA.
1991 proved to be his most disappointing with the club, finishing 15-14, again after a poor start, giving up more hits than innings pitched for the only time in his Pirate career. On the positive side, he finished 10th in the NL in ERA at 3.07 and was once again phenomenal in the NLCS giving up only 1 run in 15 innings going 1-1 including a heart wrenching loss to the Braves in game 6.
Drabek rebounded with a fine 1992 campaign, going 15-11, holding opponents to a .231 average with a fine 2.77 ERA, his second lowest with the club. A third straight appearance in the National League Championship followed, but Doug was not as sharp as he had been in the past losing his first two decisions, before taking the mound in the deciding game 7. That night the Texan was awesome shutting out the Braves over eight innings and giving was to closer Stan Belinda in the ninth with a 2-0 advantage and a long awaited trip to the fall classic on the horizon. As the story goes of course Sid Bream and Francisco Cabrera entered their names in the Pirate record book forever when the latter hit a two run single scoring the former with the winning run in the mind numbing 3-2 loss. It would be the third loss in the series credited to Drabek, which set an all-time LCS record.
Unfortunately, after the season Doug opted to sign a 4 year $19.5 million contract with his hometown club the Houston Astros. While he fell apart in ’93 losing a league high 18 games, he had a very strong 1994 going 12-6 with a 2.84 ERA, third in the league.
He ended up with the White Sox the following year where he etched his name in the record books with a 12-11 mark and 5.74 ERA, becoming the starter who had the highest ERA ever with a winning record.
After a 6-11-7.29 performance the following year with the Orioles, Drabek hung them up, secure in the Knowledge he would go down as one of the finest hurlers ever to take the rubber in the Steel City.