Considered one of baseball’s best “money” pitchers, Candelaria’s toughest opponent was injury. From 1975 to 1988, he had only one losing season. His 1976 no-hitter was the first ever pitched by a Pirate in Pittsburgh. A gutsy competitor, Candelaria’s biggest asset was great control of all his pitches from a tough three-quarter delivery. The 6’7″ 205-lb lefty helped Pittsburgh win the NL East as a rookie in 1975 and set a NLCS record with 14 strikeouts in Game Three. In 1977 he became the first NL pitcher since Sandy Koufax (in 1965) to win 20 games and lead in ERA (2.34) and winning percentage (.800, 20-5). He was Pittsburgh’s first 20-game winner since Vern Law in 1960 and their first lefthander to win 20 since Wilbur Cooper in 1924. He led the 1979 World Champions with 14 wins and pitched shutout ball in the crucial sixth game of the World Series.
Candelaria overcame a severe arm injury in 1981. Plagued by chronic back problems, the already disgruntled Candelaria was moved to the bullpen in 1985 and traded to California in August as the Pirates dumped their high-salaried players after finishing last in 1984 despite leading the league in ERA. Candelaria was the AL Comeback Player of the Year in 1986 as the Angels won their division. He gave up only one earned run in his two LCS starts, winning one but losing Game Seven on errors. Near the end of another injury-plagued season in 1987, the Brooklyn, NY native was sent to the Mets, who had lost Ron Darling to injury, but Candelaria’s 2-0 record wasn’t enough to help them win their pennant race. Not wanting to return to the bullpen, he went to the Yankees after the season and was their best pitcher in 1988 (13-7, 3.38) but spent the last part of the year on the DL again, this time with knee ailments. More injuries cut into his 1989 campaign, when he appeared in just 22 games. Candelaria developed into an effective reliever for the final years of his career, winning seven games and saving five others out of the bullpen in the 1990 season, which he split between Minnesota and Toronto. After spending two years with Los Angeles, Candelaria finished up his career by returning to Pittsburgh for a last hurrah in 1993.