Orioles great Mike Cuellar dead at 72

April 02, 2010 | WNST Staff

Orioles pitcher Mike Cuellar died today of stomach cancer in Orlando.

Cuellar’s wiki:

Miguel Angel Cuellar Santana (May 8, 1937 — April 2, 2010), best known as Mike Cuellar [coo-el'lyar] is a former left-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who spent most of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. He shared the American League‘s Cy Young Award in 1969, and won 20 games four times from 1969 to 1974 as the Orioles captured five division titles. Cuellar, nicknamed “Crazy Horse” while with the Orioles, ranks among Baltimore’s top five career leaders in wins (143), strikeouts (1011), shutouts (30) and innings pitched (2028), and trails only Dave McNally among left-handers in wins and shutouts.

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[edit] Professional career

A clever pitcher with an excellent screwball and changeup, Cuellar was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs as an amateur free agent in 1957 after drawing attention with a no-hitter he pitched for a military team in 1955 while serving in the Cuban army during the Batista regime. After two disastrous relief appearances with Cincinnati in 1959, he spent five years in the minor leagues and Mexican baseball, including time in the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians farm systems, before being acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964. After going 5-5 for St. Louis, primarily in relief, he was traded to the Houston Astros in June 1965. He began to come into his own in Houston, joining their rotation in 1966 and winning 16 games in 1967, before being traded to Baltimore in December 1968.

Finally, he found a major role with the Orioles, who were entering their strongest period in 1969. On August 10, Cuellar’s string of 35 batters retired in a row was ended by Cesar Tovar, who also spoiled Cuellar’s no-hit bid in a one-hit shutout against the Minnesota Twins. Cuellar finished his first season with Baltimore with a record of 23-11, 182 strikeouts and a 2.38 earned run average, and shared the Cy Young Award with Denny McLain, becoming the first Latin American-born winner of the award. He started Game 1 of the 1969 American League Championship Series, but had no decision as the Orioles won 4-3 in 12 innings. In the World Series against the New York Mets, he won Game 1 by a 4-1 score but left Game 4 after seven innings, trailing 1-0; the Mets won 2-1 in the tenth inning, and completed their Series upset with a win in Game 5.

Cuellar was 24-8 in 1970 with 190 strikeouts and a 3.48 ERA, leading the league in wins and complete games, and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. He was 20-9 in 1971 with 124 strikeouts and a 3.08 ERA. By this time he was part of a strong pitching staff, forming with Jim Palmer and McNally one of the finest rotations ever. The trio combined for eight 20-win seasons in three years (1969-71), racking up a combined 188-72 (.723) record, while the rest of the staff was 130-92 (.586). In 1971, Pat Dobson joined them by posting a 20-8 record, forming the Orioles’ “Big Four” 20-game winners; only one other team in major league history, the 1920 Chicago White Sox, has had four 20-game winners. Cuellar was ineffective but fortunate in Game 1 of the 1970 ALCS, leaving in the fifth inning with a 9-6 lead (helped by his own grand slam home run). He was pulled again in the third inning of Game 2 of the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, behind 4-0 (though the Orioles came back to win), and was again hit early in Game 5, giving up three runs in the first inning; but after abandoning his screwball he settled down to go the distance, winning 9-3 to clinch the Series championship. He won Game 2 of the 1971 ALCS 5-1, but lost Games 3 and 7 in the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Game 7 by a 2-1 score.

A winner of 18 games in both 1972 and 1973, Cuellar lost a 2-1 11-inning marathon in Game 3 of the 1973 ALCS against the Oakland Athletics. He enjoyed a great 1974 season with a 22-10 record, 106 strikeouts, a 3.11 ERA, five shutouts and 20 complete games, placing sixth in the Cy Young voting, and split a pair of decisions in the 1974 ALCS against Oakland, winning Game 1 but losing the final Game 4, again a 2-1 contest. After two sub-par seasons, he was released by Baltimore. He signed as a free agent with the California Angels in 1977 and was released that May after appearing in only two games. Attempting a comeback at age 42 in 1979, he had a combined 7-6 record with three clubs in the Puerto Rican and Mexican leagues.

In his 15-season career Cuellar had a record of 185-130 with a 3.14 ERA, 1632 strikeouts, 172 complete games, 36 shutouts, and 11 saves in 453 games and 2808 innings pitched. In five ALCS and three World Series, he went 4-4 with 56 strikeouts and a 2.85 ERA in 12 games.

On August 10, 1971, Cuellar gave up Harmon Killebrew‘s 500th career home run.

In a 1976 Esquire magazine article, sportswriter Harry Stein published an “All Time All-Star Argument Starter,” consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Cuellar, a Cuban, was the left-handed pitcher on Stein’s Latin team.

Currently, Cuellar lives in Orlando, Florida and is an active participant in the Hispanic Heritage Month event.

[edit] Other career highlights

  • 4-time All-Star (1967, 1970-71, 1974)
  • Led league in winning percentage (1974)
  • Finished eighth in 1969 MVP voting, tenth in 1974 voting
  • Became the first player to hit a grand slam in the Championship Series in 1970 against the Twins

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