- August 31, 1940
- 5' 11"
- 165 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-11-1967 with ATL
Talk about waiting your turn, the Pirates signed Ramon Hernandez in 1959, and it would be twelve years before they would see the benefits of their investment.
Hernandez labored around in organized ball until he finally got his opportunity in 1967 with the Braves. He threw 51 2/3 innings in his freshman campaign, but in the pitching rich era of the late 60’s, his 4.18 ERA was not good enough and he went over to the Cubs the following season where he gave up 9 runs in 9 innings and went back to his minor league odyssey.
The southpaw was pitching for the Mexico City Reds in 1970, when Pirate utility infielder Jose Pagan gave a tip to Joe L Brown to resign the man they once owned. Brown did and Hernandez got his shot in the World Championship season of 1971. Ramon was up for a cup of coffee that year, but this Hernandez was different from the one that had an unsuccessful trial just 4 years earlier. He was almost unhittable in the 12 innings he pitched giving up only 5 hits and 4 saves in only 10 games for a miniscule 0.73 ERA.
Ramon had a deceptive motion that kept left handed hitter off balance. He brought with him 3 solid pitches that with the different angles he threw, actually turned into nine pitches. He had a screwball, a fastball and a curve, which came from an overhand, side armed and a side arm delivery that was described as an almost underhand pitch.
Pirate star center fielder Al Oliver said that if a lefty got a hit off the southpaw he could consider himself lucky. Out of the all the pitches, the screwball was his bread and butter pitch, which he learned off former Bucco Juan Pizarro. Ramon also was quite a competitor as he said once that he hated to give up homers, even in batting practice.
The Puerto Rican native proved Pagan to be a good evaluator of talent, as he became an outstanding reliever, combining with Dave Giusti and Bob Miller to form one the great bullpens of 1972. Ramon had his best season in the show, going 6-0, which included his first major league win, a 3-2 victory over the Phillies on April 21st, with a career high 14 saves with a 1.67 ERA. Hernandez had a fine playoff that season against the Reds, giving up only 1 hit and a run in 3 innings while saving a game. He was called upon in the eighth inning of the fateful game 5 that season and performed well, getting the last two out of the inning after replacing Steve Blass. With the Bucs up by one in the ninth, manager Bill Virdon pulled the southpaw in favor of the more experienced Giusti. There were three right-handed hitters coming up in the ninth, so the percentages did dictate that Giusti be in the game. Never the less Hernandez was angry and felt he should still be there. What was about to happen certainly might have proved Ramon correct. Giusti immediate gave up a homer to Johnny Bench and Pittsburgh eventually lost the game and the series 4-3.
1973 proved that Ramon’s first full season with the team was no fluke. He tossed a career high 89 2/3 innings and finished with 11 saves and a 2.41 ERA. During the campaign he went through two impressive streaks, one during a 11 game stretch where he tossed 20 consecutive scoreless innings and a 30 game streak where he gave up only 3 earned runs in 50 innings.
Although the next two seasons weren’t as impressive as the previous two, he still went 13-4 combined with ERA’s of 2.76 and 2.95 respectively. During the 4 game loss to the Dodgers in the 1974 NLCS, Hernandez again was on top of his game tossing four shut out innings.
After going through his worst season in a black and gold uniform, Ramon was sold to the Cubs in September of 1976. After he left, he had nowhere near the success that he did in the Steel City and was out of the show after the 1977season with the Cubs and Red Sox.
Despite his poor ending, Hernandez certainly ended up with a fine career, one that showed that, the best players aren’t always the bonus baby’s; sometimes you find a diamond in the rough. 12 years after the club originally signed him, the Puerto Rican native proved he was just that, a diamond in the rough.
In a nine-season career, Hernández posted a 23-15 record with a 3.03 ERA and 46 saves in 337 relief appearances, giving up 145 earned runs on 339 hits and 135 walks while striking out 255 in 430 ⅓ innings of work.
Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1967
1972 National League Championship Series
1974 National League Championship Series
1975 National League Championship Series
* Atlanta Braves (1967)
* Chicago Cubs (1968)
* Pittsburgh Pirates (1971-1976)
* Chicago Cubs (1976-1977)
* Boston Red Sox (1977)
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