- November 24, 1930
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-28-1951 with PIT
Sometimes a won-loss record can be the cruelest of statistics. A pitcher can be one of the best at his craft, yet if he is with a lousy team, a .500 record is often the best he can hope for, unnoticed by the world on just how dominate he can be. Bob Friend was a one pitcher who experienced this brutality through most of his career.
Before playing on his first winning team in 1958, Friend went 73-94 with a 3.84 ERA often with teams that were among the worst in baseball history. Bob was a war horse a pitcher who went out and gave everything he had time and time again, despite the fact, their was not much support around him and the team needed him to give them innings.
During that time he led the league in innings pitched in 1956 and 1957 and despite the fact his team was 60-94 with a .390 winning percentage, in dead last for the 1955 campaign, Warrior, as Friend was known, went 14-9 with a .609 winning percentage and 2.83 ERA. So remarkable was Bob’s season that he finished 10th in the National League in winning percentage regardless of the teams dismal record and became the first pitcher in major league history to win the leagues ERA title with a last place team.
The big season in ’55, coupled with a solid 1956 season sent Bob Friend to his first all-star game in 1956. It was a memorable performance in Washington as he struck out Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Ted Williams in three innings of work. The Williams strike out was the last out of his performance and came with the bases loaded. In a meeting 15 years later in an airport, Williams surprised Friend by not only recalling the situation, but also confided to Bob that he didn’t expect the curve, the pitch that got him out. Friend was named the winner of the game, and with his victory and the one in 1960, shares the record for most lifetime All-Star game victories.
After a 14-18, 1957 campaign, Friend finally got to pitch on a winning team as the Bucs surprised the baseball world finishing at 84-70 in second place, it was to be the first time they ended up in the first division in 10 years. The Warrior responded well to his first winning team by having one of his best season ever, leading the National League in wins with a 22-14 record. It was Bob’s one and only 20 win season, and as he remembered, it took him 8 or 9 attempts to get it, but finally was helped out by a Dick Stuart 3 run shot to put him over the top.
Prosperity would not last long for the Purdue University graduate as not only would the Pirates disappoint in 1959, but Friend followed up his wildly successful 1958 season, in which he finished third in the Cy Young Award voting and 6th in the NL MVP race, with his poorest year, an 8-19 fiasco in 1959.
The Warrior was a very unflappable player and did not let the horrid ’59 campaign affect him as not only the Bucs bounced back to their magical world championship season in 1960, but so did Friend. Bob finished the ’60 season118-12, 5th in wins and 10th in winning percentage at .600. It was another season where the dependable Friend finished with over 30 starts. The Warrior never missed a start for the Bucs in his career and finished in the top 10 in games started between 1956-1964.
His success did not transcend to the World Series as Bob not only lost game 2 and 6, but also gave up the tying runs with the Bucs ahead 9-7 in game 7. Friend finished his one and only venture into the Post Season with a 0-2 mark, a 13.50 ERA and 13 hits given up in 6 innings of work.
The cerebral hurler continued to be the workhorse of the Pirate rotation, winning 18 games again in 1962, until he was dealt to the Yankees after the 1965 season for Pete Mikkleson.
Friend took the move in stride figuring he would have no problems making the adjustment to the American League and its supposed higher strike zone. He figured he had a good knowledge of the American League hitters and could be as successful there as he had been in Pittsburgh, Unfortunately, Bob was not as he ended up 1-4 with the Yanks in 12 games, before heading over to the cross-town Mets in Mid season where he ended his major league career with a 5-8 marks with the3 young team.
Friend, who eventually made a splash into local Pittsburgh politics, finished his career with a 197-230 record, pitching the majority of his career with poor teams. The Warrior became the only player in Major League history to lose 200 games without winning 200. How cruel the won-loss record truly can be.
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- Bob Friend