The first game of the 2005 World Series is in the books, and Ozzie Guillen's scrappy little White Sox drew first blood with a 5-3 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday night. The game was notable for several reasons, including the success of Chicago's supposedly rusty bullpen as Neil Cotts and Bobby Jenks brushed off eleven days of dust and struck out five of the final six Houston hitters in the eighth and ninth innings to seal the win.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this opening game was the brief outing of Roger Clemens. As he gingerly walked down the steps to the clubhouse following his second inning of work, I wondered if any Hall of Fame pitcher had ever had a shorter World Series start. I don't have any friends working for the Elias Sports Bureau, so I had to do the grunt work myself. Thanks to the good folks at Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet, I was able to get an answer to my question.
If we can all agree that Clemens will one day end up in the Hall of Fame -- and I think we can -- he became part of a rather exclusive club on Saturday night. Currently there are thirty-six pitchers in the Hall of Fame who started at least one World Series game (including Babe Ruth), and only three of those guys fared worse than Clemens's two-inning stint. Here's the list of the Hall of Famers who weren't able to make it through three innings:
1.0 IP: Lefty Gomez, Game 3, 1939
1.0 IP: Whitey Ford, Game 4, 1953
1.1 IP: Whitey Ford, Game 6, 1958
1.2 IP: Mordecai Brown, Game 6, 1906
2.0 IP: Don Drysdale, Game 1, 1966
2.1 IP: Pete Alexander, Game 2, 1928
2.1 IP: Catfish Hunter, Game 2, 1977
2.2 IP: Hal Newhouser, Game 1, 1945
2.2 IP: Early Wynn, Game 4, 1959
2.2 IP: Don Drysdale, Game 1, 1965
An impressive list of unimpressive starts. It should be noted, however, of the four guys who would be above Clemens on that list (or below, depending upon how you look at it), only "Three Fingers" Mordecai Brown's Chicago Cubs weren't able to rally and win the Series.
Also of interest is the performance of Hal Newhouser in 1945. Having just won his second consecutive MVP for the Detroit Tigers (the only pitcher to turn that trick, by the way), Newhouser was hammered by the Cubs in the opening game of the '45 World Series. Just a fluke, obviously. Prince Hal atoned for the loss by earning a complete game win in game five, then coming back on two days' rest to go the distance again as the Tigers won the decisive seventh game.
One last thing. As I was walking through World Series history, I came across two pitchers who are on the other end of the spectrum: Christy Mathewson and Bob Gibson. If you're looking for a sure thing in the Fall Classic, you could send the rest of your pitching staff home and just bring these two guys. (Bring Mariano Rivera along for insurance, and you're gold.)
But back to Mathewson and Gibson. Take a look at their career numbers in the World Series:
Mathewson: 11 starts, 11 CG, 101.2 IP, 0.97 ERA
Gibson: 9 starts, 8 CG, 81.0 IP, 1.89 ERA
That, my friends, is dominant starting pitching.