Steven Michael Stone
A journeyman pitcher for most of his career, he suddenly metamorphosed, in 1980, into the best hurler of the season, winning the Cy Young Award with a 25-7 record for Baltimore. A published poet who claims that his mother made "the best matzoh-ball soup this side of Tel-Aviv" and that his grandfather "conducted the longest seders in the history of Judaism," he starred in the 1980 all-star game, retiring nine straight batters on only 28 pitches. The reason for his sudden transformation? "No one who has ever played this game," he observed, "has ever said it was anything less than eighty percent mental."
Birth and Death Dates:
b. July 14, 1947
Stone, who was Thurman Munson's batterymate at Kent State, had an excellent minor league career before playing in the majors -- between 1969-1971, he struck out 399 batters in 400 innings. In 1971, he was called up in midseason by the San Francisco Giants, and finished 5-9 with a 4.15 ERA and 2 shutouts. After a 6-8 season in 1972 (although he did have a 2.98 ERA), the Giants traded Steve to the Chicago White Sox. He went 6-11 with a 4.24 ERA with the Sox in 1973, and was traded to the Cubs following the season. With the Cubs, Steve pitched well and finished 8-6 in 1974 and 12-8 with a 3.95 ERA in 1975. Unfortunately, Stone spent much of the 1976 season on the DL with a sore shoulder. He pitched in 17 games (75.0 innings) and went 3-6.
Following the 1976 season, Steve signed as a free agent with the White Sox. He went 15-12 and 12-12 respectively in his second stint with the Sox, and then signed with the Baltimore Orioles before the 1979 season. While with the Orioles, he switched his jersey number to 32, the number of his boyhood idol Sandy Koufax. That year, Stone had a slow start, going only 6-7 by the middle of July, but he was 5-0 after July 10 to finish the year with a record of 11-7 with a 3.77 ERA. He also pitched in Game 4 of the World Series, giving up 2 runs in 2 innings of relief against the Pittsburgh Pirates; although the Orioles won the game, they lost the Series, 4 games to 3. One of the provisions in Stone's contract with the Orioles was a $100,000 bonus if he won the Cy Young Award. Steve did not think much of the provision, believing instead a bonus for a winning season would have been more sensible. He observed that "It was like an insurance salesman telling you, 'We'll give you $50,000 if an elephant falls on you.' He knows darn well an elephant isn't going to fall." Somehow, however, an elephant did fall on Stone during the 1980 season.
Beginning the year 2-3 with a 4.74 ERA, Steve then won his next 14 decisions (in 17 starts) from May 9 to July 26! It was the longest winning streak in the AL since 1974, and fell only 2 short of the AL record. In the All-Star game, Stone retired the first nine batters in order. He eventually won 23 of his 27 final decisions, and finished the season 25-7 with a career-high 9 complete games and a tremendous 3.23 ERA. Stone led the league in wins and winning percentage (.781) and was named AL Pitcher of the Year by the Sporting News, as well as the AL Cy Young Award winner. He even finished 9th in the AL MVP voting. What was the secret of his shocking, unexpected success? By rehabilitating and resting his sore arm instead of going into surgery, Steve actually gained five miles an hour on the velocity of his fastball. His manager, the legendary Earl Weaver, said this was the only time he had ever seen that happen. Stone attributed his sudden turnaround to playing with a winning, defensively adept club for the first time, and to the fact that he stopped thinking of himself as a mediocre pitcher.
Stone hoped that his success would continue into the 1981 season, but he developed a pain in his elbow during spring training. He appeared in 15 games that year, but was not the same, going 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA before the season was halted by a strike. The following year, there was no improvement in his arm, so Stone announced his retirement in June 1982. He then became a sports broadcaster, doing play-by-play for the Chicago Cubs on WGN -- for years he played straight man to Harry Carey. He still broadcasts games for the Cubs and owns a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona called Harry and Steve's.
Stone pitched for the San Francisco Giants, 1971-72, the Chicago White Sox, 1973, and 1977-78, the Chicago Cubs, 1974-76, and the Baltimore Orioles, 1979-81.
5'10", 175 pounds
Winning pct.: .535
Games Started: 269
Complete Games: 43
Innings Pitched: 1789.1
Hits Allowed: 1709
Strike Outs: 1065
Home Runs: 0
Batting Average: .100
Double Plays: 13
Total Chances per Game: 1.3
Fielding avg: .945
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PHOTOGRAPHS AND OTHER IMAGES
Also, read a chapter from Jewish Baseball Stars by Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
Great Jews in Sports, by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
The Baseball Encyclopedia: Tenth Edition (New York: McMillan, 1996)