Wednesday, November 18, 2009

1976 Topps #271 - Jim Lonborg

  • Jim Lonborg was a major league pitcher from 1965-1979. Lonborg was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1963 while he was a student at Stanford University. He pitched in the minors in 1963 and 1964. Jim made the Red Sox in 1965 and went 9-17 with a 4.47 ERA in 32 games (31 starts). In 1966 Lonborg was 10-10 with a 3.86 ERA in 45 games (23 starts).
  • The 1967 "Impossible Dream" season was by far Jim's biggest season. He was the AL Cy Young Award winner, was an AL All Star (he didn't pitch in the game), and finished 6th in AL MVP voting. Jim was 22-9 with an ERA of 3.16 in a league-leading 39 starts. Jim led the AL in strikeouts with 246. He also led the AL in hit batsmen with 19. Lonborg picked up the nickname "Gentleman Jim" for his willingness to pitch inside. Jim won games 2 and 5 of the 1967 World Series (game 2 was a one-hitter) but came back on two days rest and lost game 7 to Bob Gibson. Here is an October 1967 Baseball Digest about Jim.
  • On Christmas Eve of 1967 Lonborg injured his knee in a skiing accident and was never the same pitcher. Here is an article about "What Could Have Been." Jim didn't appear in a game until May 28, 1968. He dropped to a 6-10 record with a 4.29 ERA in 23 games (17 starts). Oddly, in a season dominated by pitching Jim batted .282, which was the only time except 1970 (when he was 4 for 9) that he batted above .176.
  • In 1969 Jim started the year 6-0 with a 2.23 ERA but tailed off badly and ended up 7-11 with an ERA of 4.51. Lonborg started the 1970 season with the Red Sox but continued to struggle and was sent to AAA Louisville to try to work out the problems. He started two games in Louisville then shut it down for the year.
  • After starting the 1971 season in Louisville, Jim came back to the Red Sox in late May and had a pretty good year. He went 10-7 with a 4.13 ERA in 27 games (26 starts). After the '71 season Lonborg was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in a big trade that also sent George Scott to the Brewers and Tommy Harper to the Red Sox, among others. He had a good season in Milwaukee in 1972 (14-12, 2.83 ERA in 32 starts), but after the season Jim was traded again, this time to the Philadelphia Phillies.
  • Jim had a so-so 1973 season (13-16, 4.88 ERA), but he continued to improve after that. In 1974 Lonborg was 17-13 with a 3.21 ERA in 39 starts. He no longer depended on his fastball. Jim developed a good curve ball and a slider. Lonborg missed the last month of the 1975 season and ended up 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 26 starts. Here is a May 1975 Baseball Digest article.
  • Lonborg had his last really big season as the #2 starter in 1976. He was 18-10 with a 3.08 ERA in 32 starts and was on the mound when the Phillies clinched the NL East and made the playoffs for the first time since 1950. Jim took the loss in game 2 of the NLCS -- he pitched 5.1 innings and allowed 3 runs (1 earned). Here is an August 1976 Baseball Digest article.
  • Jim missed the first seven weeks of the 1977 season and took a while to return to form. He ended up 11-4 with a 4.11 ERA in 25 starts, but was 10-2 in the second half of the season. Jim had a memorable game on September 2. He learned in the third inning of the game against the Reds that his wife had gone into labor with his fifth child. He hurried through the game (which he won) and headed to the hospital in time to see the birth. But he didn't have time to ice his arm properly. He didn't pitch as well after that, and he took the loss in game 2 of the NLCS.
  • In 1978 Jim's effectiveness declined (8-10, 5.23 ERA in 22 starts) and he wasn't used by the Phillies in the postseason. He didn't expect to make the team in 1979 but ended up on the opening roster when several young pitchers were injured. He was 0-1 with an 11.05 ERA in four games when he was released on June 16. Rather than try to catch on with another team, Jim chose to retire.
  • After his playing career Jim went to Tufts University Dental School and has been a dentist in Hanover, MA. He has been active in several charities (The Jimmy Fund, Catholic Charitites, Little League Baseball). On the TV show Cheers, the picture of "Sam Malone" is actually that of Jim Lonborg.
  • Here is a good SABR biography of Jim.
  • Liked to face: Luis Aparicio (.203 in 79 AB); Dick McAuliffe (.194 in 62 AB); Felix Millan (.158 in 57 AB)
  • Hated to face: Dave Parker (.571 in 21 AB); Bill Russell (.536 in 28 AB); Harmon Killebrew (.483 with 6 HR in 29 AB); Mickey Mantle (.406 in 32 AB)

1 comment:

  1. i was a big fan of lonborg. he's a great ttm signer, too!