Classic Yankees: Allie Reynolds

He was a natural at anything he wanted to do; track, bowling, poker playing, playing pool, football.  In David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49, Allie Pierce Reynolds, or simply, Allie Reynolds was described as probably the best all-around natural athlete on the team. He could start or relieve, and do both jobs well. Perhaps he did them too well, for that versatility may be what’s keeping him from the Hall of Fame. Had he been only a starter, maybe he would be in the Hall of Fame today instead of constantly on the Veterans’ Committee ballot. He just missed out (by one single vote) on the last go-around.

To quote Reynolds himself (from Harvey Frommer’s A Yankee Century), “I knew that was going to happen. All the relief work I did was really a career shortener. But to me teamwork was more important than some kind of honor.”

He was part Indian (1/4 Creek Indian), hence the nickname “Superchief.”  He was also a diabetic.

The son of a preacher, Reynolds didn’t exactly care for the NY fast life. Born in 1917, Reynolds went to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma St.) on a track scholarship. The football coach and the basketball coach (the legendary Hank Iba) wanted him for their squads.
Reynolds made the majors at the end of the 1942 season, with (it seemed appropriate) the Indians. He got into two games that year, and pitched five innings, giving up just one unearned run.

In 1943, Reynolds went 11-12, 2.99, 3 saves, ERA+ 104. He started 21 games and relieved in 13 more. It was a tendency that would carry over throughout his career. His 162 g. average would be 17-10, 3.30 (ERA+ 110), as he averaged 28 starts and 12 relief appearances a year. During that 1943 season, Reynolds led the AL in strikeouts and the majors in HBP, H/9 and K/9.

In 1944, Reynolds went 11-8, 3.30, ERA+ 100. He followed that with a record of 18-12, 3.20, 4 saves in 1945. There was no All-Star Game that year due to wartime restrictions, but Reynolds was an All-Star. It was an honor he’d achieve six times. His 1945 ERA+ was 101. He led the majors in walks that year.

In 1946, Reynolds slipped to 11-15, 3.88. ERA+ 85. When the Yanks offered Joe Gordon to the Indians, the Yanks were offered a choice of pitchers. Joe DiMaggio recommended that the Yanks take Reynolds. The Yanks wouldn’t regret it. As Halberstam mentions, some thought Reynolds as fast as Feller, others thought his curve was as good as Feller’s.

Reynolds won 19 games and became the ace of the staff in 1947, helping lead the Yanks to a WS title. 19-8, 3.20, 2 saves, ERA+ 110. 15th in the MVP voting. He did lead the majors in giving up HR (23). He went 1-0, 4.76 in the WS.

In 1948, Reynolds went 16-7, 3.77, ERA+ 108, with 3 saves. He led the AL in WP.
Then came the run of five consecutive WS titles. Reynolds went 17-6, 4.00 in 1949, ERA+ 101. He was an All-Star and finished 26th in the MVP voting. In Game 1 of the WS, he outpitched Don Newcombe, winning 1-0 on Tommy Henrich’s walk-off HR in the bottom of the ninth. Reynolds threw a 2-hit shutout and struck out 9. He got the save in Game 4, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless, hitless innings, striking out five. For the Series, he got a win and a save, pitched 12 1/3 scoreless innings, struck out 14, and gave up just two hits.

Reynolds went 16-12, 3.74, ERA+ 115 in 1950 despite bone chips in his elbow. Once again he was an All-Star, and once again he shone in WS play. He outdueled Robin Roberts in Game 2 of the Series, winning 2-1 in 10 innings when DiMaggio HR’d off Roberts in the top of the 10th. In Game 4, he came out of the bullpen to record the final out of the Series and get the save.

In 1951, Reynolds threw two no-hitters. In the second, the last batter was Ted Williams. Williams popped it up, but Yogi dropped it. Williams popped it up again, and this time Yogi caught it. Yogi was told, “when I die, I hope God gives me a second chance like the one he just gave you.” Reynolds won the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year (an award won by Rizzuto in 1950 and Mantle in 1956, to name a couple). He was 17-8, 3.05 and led the majors with 7 shutouts. He also had seven saves. ERA + 126. He led the majors in h/9, was an All-Star, and finished 3rd in the MVP voting (won by Berra). He lost game 1 of the Series, but with the Yanks down 2 games to 1, won Game 4, sparking the Yanks’ comeback.

Reynolds was a 20-game winner for the only time in his career in 1952, and finished as the runner-up for the MVP award that year, losing out to Bobby Shantz of the Philadelphia A’s (Mantle finished 3rd). Reynolds went 20-8, led the majors with a 2.06 ERA and 6 shutouts, saved six games, and led the league in strikeouts. His ERA+ of 162 led the majors and he was an All-Star. Once again he starred in the WS. After losing Game 1, he evened the series up at two apiece with a four-hit shutout in Game 4. He pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief for the save in Game 6, and then got the win in relief in Game 7, giving up one run in three innings of work. For the Series, he was 2-1, one save, and a 1.77 ERA.

Casey Stengel used Reynolds out of the bullpen more in 1953, and Reynolds wound up starting 15 games while relieving in 26. He went 13-7, 3.41 and saved 13 games. ERA+ 109. Once again, Reynolds was an All-Star, and he finished 12th in the MVP voting. He went 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in the Series.

Reynolds made six World Series with the Yankees, and the Yanks won all six. Reynolds was one of the greatest WS pitchers ever, going 7-2, 2.79 with four saves. He threw two CG shutouts in WS play.

In his final year, 1954, Reynolds hurt his back in a bus accident the Yankees were involved in.  The 37-year-old Reynolds closed his career with a 13-4, 3.32 record, ERA+ 105, and seven saves. Once again, Reynolds was an All-Star—for the sixth time in his career.
As a hitter, Reynolds hit .163 with one HR.

Reynolds finished his career with a record of 182-107 with an ERA of 3.30, ERA+ 110. He had 49 saves. His 162 g. average, as noted earlier, was 17-10, four saves, 3.30.

He wore 21 for the Indians, 22 for the Yankees. Although his number hasn’t been retired, he has a plaque out in Monument Park.

From Wikipedia: In 1991 Reynolds was initiated into the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity at Oklahoma State University and in 1993, he received the Jim Thorpe Lifetime Achievement Award. Oklahoma State also named their baseball stadium after Reynolds.

Reynolds died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on the day after Christmas, 1994 at the age of 77. In his honor, the Jim Thorpe Association established the Allie Reynolds Award, presented annually to “Oklahoma’s outstanding high school senior, based on accomplishments, sports, civics, character and leadership.”

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2 Responses to Classic Yankees: Allie Reynolds

  1. jim says:

    A phenomenal athlete and a wonderful man. It is a crime he is not in the baseball Hall of Fame. (He was drafted by the NY Football Giants.)

  2. mgobobb says:

    I had the pleasure of watching Allie Reynolds pitch many times. What a great pitcher. After reading the book about Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat, I found he was just as great a human being as a pitcher. In fact, all three guys were super fine people.