This is the third of 10 installments featuring significant White Sox moments from All-Star games past.
Gary Peters was one of several White Sox pitchers of the 1960s who might be more highly regarded if only the White Sox could've hit. He won the Rookie of the Year in 1963 by going 19-8 with a 2.33 ERA over 243 innings, and when you had Peters and Joe Horlen in the same rotation, you had two of the best pitchers in the American League.
Peters and Horlen even stacked up well against the stacked National League:
ML ERA, 1963-67 (min. 900 IP)
MLB ERA+, 1963-67 (min. 900 IP)
Peters followed up his award-winning rookie season by going 20-8 with a 2.50 ERA in 1964. But when the offense crapped out in the second half of the decade, so did his win totals. In 1966, he posted a league-leading 1.98 ERA -- and won 12 games.
But Peters withstood the declining support for one more season in the sun, leading a White Sox team to an 89-73 record. They're best known for holding a share of first place in mid-September despite scoring the second-fewest runs in the league.
He went 10-4 with a 2.25 ERA in the first half, and in the four games he lost, the White Sox scored a total of six runs. He was named to the All-Star team for the second time in his career. This time, he actually pitched, and he couldn't have pitched any better. He went nine up, nine down, and you might recognize some of the names:
- Fergie Jenkins: Flyout.
- Willie Mays: Strikeout looking.
- Robert Clemente: Strikeout looking.
- Hank Aaron: Groundout to third.
- Orlando Cepeda: Strikeout looking.
- Dick Allen: Strikeout swinging.
- Tom Haller: Popout to short.
- Bill Mazeroski: Lineout to left.
- Gene Alley: Tapout to pitcher.
Back in 1934, Carl Hubbell was best known for striking out five future Hall of Famers in a row: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. Peters didn't quite pull a Hubbell, but striking out Mays, Clemente, Cepeda and Allen with a groundout by Aaron in the middle is pretty damned close.
Even with the league's best players backing him, however, Peters couldn't escape the perpetual problem of pitiful support. Peters got a no-decision, and the American League lost 2-1 in 15 innings.
Postscript Pt. 1
Earlier in the 1967 All-Star Game, Dick Allen showcased his strength. Look at the pitch Dean Chance threw, and look where Allen hit it:
Keep that in mind when thinking about how Peters pitched.
Postscript Pt. 2
Back in the winter, I came across the manly performance by Jack Harshman back in 1954, where he threw a 16-inning shutout against Detroit. The pitch-count estimator put him at 245 pitches.
The Sox leaned on Peters nearly as heavily in September of 1967. On Sept. 13, he pitched 11 innings of one-hit ball that would make Edwin Jackson blush -- 10 walks, seven strikeouts -- which puts his estimated pitch count at 172. And all he got was a lousy no-decision, because the White Sox needed 17 innings to finally put a run on the board.
They could never get any closer, thanks to the Hitless Wonder-grade offense. The Sox were one game back with five games to play -- two against the bottom-feeding Kansas City Athletics, and three against the sub-.500 Washington Senators. They lost all five - both ends of a doubleheader where Peters and Horlen pitched, and three straight shutout sealed their fate.
Peters' arm was never the same. He struggled through a injury-marred 1968, and he was far more hittable in the seasons after. His ERA+ over his first five full seasons was 132, but he never topped 100 in any of his other five.