The square-shouldered, 6’4″ Kaat is one of a handful of major leaguers to play in four decades. His 25 years of pitching was a major league record. The last active original Washington Senator, Kaat moved like a cat around the mound, winning 16 consecutive Gold Gloves. He won 18 games for the AL champion Twins in 1965, then had his best season in 1966, going 25-13 and leading the league with 41 starts, 19 complete games, and 304 innings. That year only one Cy Young trophy was awarded for both leagues, to the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax, but TSN selected Kaat as AL Pitcher of the Year.
Following five more seasons with victories in double figures, Kaat was 10-2 in 1972 when he sprained his left wrist and missed the remainder of the season. He was 11-12 in August 1973 (including a one-hitter at California on July 1) when, thinking Kaat’s best days were behind him, the Twins sold him to the White Sox. In Chicago, Kaat was reunited with his former Minnesota pitching coach and mentor, Johnny Sain. In his two full seasons in the Chicago stable, Kaat won 41 games, often using a quick-pitch delivery.
Despite his 20-14 record with over 300 innings pitched in 1975, Kaat, age thirty-seven, was sent to the Phillies in a trade for Alan Bannister, Dick Ruthven, and Roy Thomas, the oldest of whom was twenty-four. In his first tour of duty in the NL, Kaat was 26-30 in three seasons. In May 1979, he was sold to the Yankees and, for the first time, relieved in more games than he started. He spent most of his final four ML years working out of the bullpen, and pitched in relief in four games of the 1982 World Series for St. Louis against Milwaukee.
A good all-around athlete, Kaat also hit 16 homers in his career, with a .185 lifetime batting average. He stands as the Twins’ all-time winningest pitcher, with 189 victories. After retiring as a player, he was the Reds’ pitching coach in 1986. He has also worked as a TV announcer for the Yankees.