Thursday, January 7, 2010

1976 Topps #317 - John Candelaria

  • John "Candy Man" Candelaria pitched for nine teams from 1975-1993. John was from Brooklyn, New York. He was 6'7" tall and was a center for a basketball team in Puerto Rico in the early 1970s. John was discovered as a 15-year-old and the tryout catcher had to be replaced by a major league catcher due to John's good fastball. According to a scout, Candelaria was in line to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he showed up at a later tryout wearing a marijuanna T-shirt. The Dodgers didn't like it and chose not to sign him.
  • Candelaria was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1972. He pitched in the minors from 1973-1975 and was called up to the Pirates in June 1975 after posting a 7-1 record with a 1.77 ERA and one save in ten games (nine starts) at AAA Charleston. In his rookie 1975 season Candelaria was 8-6 with a 2.76 ERA in 18 starts. He started game 3 of the NLCS, allowed three runs in 7.2 innings, and wasn't involved in the decision (the Pirates lost the game in the 10th inning). John talks about that game in a January 1985 Baseball Digest "Game I'll Never Forget" article.
  • In 1976 Candelaria was 16-7 with one save and a 3.15 ERA in 32 games (31 starts). He pitched a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 9 in front of 9,680 fans in Pittsburgh. John's best season was 1977. He was 20-5 with a league-leading 2.34 ERA. He also led the league with 29 home runs allowed, but a lot of those were probably solo shots since he allowed only 60 earned runs all season. John made the NL All Star team but he didn't pitch in the game. The fact that John finished only 5th in NL Cy Young voting in 1977 shows how many good starting pitchers were out there. All four of the guys who finished ahead of Candelaria (Steve Carlton, Tommy John, Rick Reuschel, and Tom Seaver) had ERAs under 2.80 and won 20 or more games.
  • The 1977 season was the peak of John's career. He was usually good for double figures in wins, but his next highest win total was 15 in 1983. John was 12-11 with a 3.24 ERA in 1978 and 14-9 with a 3.22 ERA in 1979. He started game 1 of the NLCS and pitched seven innings but wasn't involved in the decision (the Pirates won it in the 11th inning). Candelaria was rocked in game 3 of the World Series but came back to combine with Kent Tekulve on a 4-0 shutout in game 6.
  • In 1980 Candelaria had his only losing season as a starting pitcher. He was 11-14 with a 4.01 ERA in 34 starts. John made only six starts in 1981 (his last one was on May 10) due to an arm injury. He ended the 1981 season 2-2 with a 3.54 ERA.
  • Candelaria bounced back in 1982 with a 12-7 record and a 2.94 ERA in 30 starts. He also earned a save in his only relief appearance. In 1983 he was 15-8 with a 3.23 ERA and in 1984 he was 12-11 with a 2.72 ERA. John started to suffer from chronic back problems and was moved to the bullpen in 1985. He wasn't very happy about the move. John made 37 relief appearances for the Pirates and then was traded to the California Angels on August 2 with George Hendrick and Al Holland for Mike Brown, Pat Clements, and Bob Kipper. John started 13 games for the Angels. His total stats were 9-7 with nine saves and a 3.73 ERA.
  • After making one start on April 9 and pitching two innings, John missed the next three months of the 1986 season with an injury. After coming back on July 8, Candelaria had a nice season, going 10-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts. John won game 3 of the ALCS but lost game 7 on errors. He gave up only one run in the two games.
  • In 1987 John made 20 starts for the Angels (8-6, 4.71 ERA) then was traded to the New York Mets on September 15. He made three starts for the Mets (2-0, 5.84 ERA) but the Mets didn't make it to the post season. Candelaria became a free agent after the 1987 season and signed with the New York Yankees. The 1988 season was his last season as a full-time starter. John was 13-7 with a 3.38 ERA in 24 starts and picked up a save in his only relief appearance. He was on the disabled list with knee problems for the last five weeks of the 1988 season. John started the 1989 season with the Yankees (3-3, 5.14 ERA in 10 games-6 starts) and was traded to the Montreal Expos on August 29 for Mike Blowers. John pitched in 12 games out of the bullpen (0-2, 3.31 ERA) and was released after the season.
  • In 1990 Candelaria signed with the Minnesota Twins. He was 7-3 with 4 saves in 34 games (1 start) before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 27. He didn't pitch well for Toronto (0-3, 5.48 ERA in 13 games - 2 starts) and became a free agent after the season. Candelaria signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and spent two seasons with them as a situational left-handed reliever. In 1991 he appeared in 59 games and was 1-1 with 2 saves and a 3.74 ERA in 33.2 innings. Candelaria made 50 appearances in 1992 and was 2-5 with 5 saves and a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings.
  • After the 1992 season John became a free agent and signed with the Pirates. He was 0-2 with 1 save and a 8.24 ERA in 24 games when he was released on July 9, 1993.
  • John is now living in North Carolina and is an avid world traveller.
  • Liked to face: Ron Cey (.140 in 50 AB); Darrell Evans (.154 in 65 AB); Steve Garvey (.164 in 55 AB)
  • Hated to face: Bob Brenly (.500 in 30 AB); Larry Herndon (.447 in 47 AB); Art Howe (.400 in 40 AB)


  1. Candeleria always seemed to kill the Dodgers. Those batting averages for Cey and Garvey back that up.

    Maybe he got fired up to pitch against them because they turned him down for wearing that shirt.

  2. Nice write up on the Candy Man... I had never heard the story about the pot leaf shirt before. thats great. I remember my brother in law wearing such a shirt to a job interview at Dairy Queen. DQ took the Dodgers stance and didn't give him the job. It was particularly funny because they had a help wanted sign on their marquee, but the C fell off and the sign read "Now Hiring: Openers and losers". I thought the pot leaf shirt was perfect!

  3. I like the part where Mr C says, "If you believe it you can achieve it".... may he be happy in the beginning , in the middle and in the end...