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Denny McLain was the last pitcher to win 30 games when he posted a 31-6 record in 1968 and then followed that season with a 24-9 record in 1969 for a two year record of 55-15. He won the Cy Young Award both seasons and at the age of 25 his future looked bright. However, he was to pitch only three more seasons posting a 17-34 record in that span. In 1968 he gave up only 241 hits in 336 innings an amazing 95 less hits allowed than innings pitched.
He was out of the majors by end of 1972 season, just four years after winning 31 games and lost 22 games in 1971. After the 1969 season, he made more news off the field than on. Early on in his career, Chuck Dressen got him interested in betting on horses and he later got involved with setting up a bookmaking operation with a Pepsi executive who had signed McLain to an endorsement deal since he claimed to drink a case of Pepsi a day.
This same executive got involved with McLain in the bookmaking operation when they decided to get in on the action instead of continue to lose money gambling on their own. I can remember back in 1967 that McLain had a foot injury due to falling to sleep while watching television. Later on it came out that his foot had been stomped on by an organized crime figure who stomped on his foot for McLain not paying a gambling debt he owed. McLain also claimed the foot injury was the result of being chased by a pack of wild dogs causing him to fall into a manhole.
When the news broke in stories published by Penthouse and Sports Illustrated about his gambling activity baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him in 1970 and then he was suspended again for dousing two sportswriters with water and then was suspended the rest of the season for carrying a gun on a Tigers flight.
In 1971 he pitched for the Washington Senators and didn't get along well with his manager Ted Williams, as he posted a 10-22 record that season. In 1972, he finished his major league career pitching for Braves and Athletics and posted a 4-7 record.
Two years later, he pitched for Shreveport Captains in the Texas League. They were playing the Alexandria Aces in Alexandria, Louisiana that year and I recall McLain warming up in the bullpen. The same pitcher who had won 31 games only five years earlier was now pitching in the Double A Texas League and not pitching that well.
He was making some money by playing the organ. He recorded two records for Capitol Records and in my book played very well and even played the organ at Tiger games occasionally. You can hear sound clips of his playing at amazon.com by typing his name in search box and going to Ultra Lounge Organs in Orbit Vol. 11. He may not have gotten rich from playing but could have provided well for his family. He even played in a bar where former boxer Leon Spinks was the bartender.
McLain also made money from hustling golfers and he claims to have made $100,000 for flying a wanted felon out of the country. He was once sent to prison along with John Gotti Jr. for drug trafficking, emebezzlement and racketeering. He purchased the Peet Packing Company and was sentenced to six years in prison for stealing $2.5 million from the employees pension fund. He was released from prison in 2002 and is now writing his own blog at dennymclain.us and made this post about players like Barry Bonds admiring their home runs before breaking into home run trot:
There is one thing in the game of baseball that kills me: It is when a hitter, like Barry Bonds stands at home plate after he has hit one into the seats and admires the homerun. That is what you call showing up the hitter folks, you dont do that to pitchers or at least not to the hitters that use to play this great game. I can tell you if Bonds had done it one time to me, Don Drysdale, Frank Larry, Luis Tiant, Bob Gibson, Mickey Lolich, Juan Marichal, and many other great pitchers, Mr. Bonds would have never been able to walk after his next at bat, we would have all stuck a fast ball into his ribs or hit him in another part of the body, it was not accepted in the sixties and seventies and now it is common course to see these hitters just stand there and admire the homer and smile and then to their "HOME RUN TROT" after the home run has got into the seats, that is BUSH CITY and if these guys pitching today dont do something about it, someone is going to hit 1000 home runs one day, what the hell, cant pitchers protect themselves anymore, cant they pitch inside, where is the "PURPOSE PITCH?" The game protects 'em too much, wake up Mr. Commissioner, it is time for the pitchers to have some protection again, enuff of these home runs, lets have some 2 hour games again and let pitchers play fair, and that is not going to happen soon, but folks, the next time you see a Bonds or someone stand at home plate and admire that homer, think about what some of the real STAR PITCHERS would have done to these wussies, I guarantee that they would have not hit a second one and if they had hit another, they would have sped around the bases or they would have found a 128 seam baseball in their ass or ribs, what do you think? McLain has been a prime example of how not to handle success and the fame that goes along with it. Still nobody can ever take away his 31-6 season in 1968. In the last 40 years only Steve Carlton and Bob Welch have come close to his 31 win season when they won 27 games in a season.
Josh Fogg made a $4 million mistake by turning down a $5 million offer for one year by the Colorado Rockies and wound up signing with the Cincinnati Reds for $1 million for the 2008 season. It is similar to what Jody Reed did with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he turned down an $8 million contract for three years and wound up having to accept a $300,000 contract with the Milwaukee Brewers.