Johnny Sain

“Spahn and Sain and pray for rain,” was the Braves’ motto for the 1948 stretch drive, as they pushed toward their first pennant since 1914. That season Spahn was actually not much more effective than the Braves’ third and fourth starters, Bill Voiselle and Vern Bickford. Sain, however, led the NL with 24 wins, 39 starts, 28 complete games, and 314 innings.

A rookie in 1942, he spent 1943-45 in the military, but lost no time establishing himself upon his return. He won 20 each year from 1946 to 1948, slumped in 1949, but came back with a 20-13 mark in 1950. Although Sain could strike men out when the occasion demanded, the 6’2″ Arkansan had pinpoint control and a let-’em-hit-it philosophy. In three of his 20-win seasons, he led the league in hits allowed. Sent to the Yankees in August 1951 for Lew Burdette and $50,000, he contributed 11-6 and 14-7 marks to the 1952 and ’53 Yankee pennants, then led the AL with 22 saves in 1954.

An excellent-hitting pitcher (.245), Sain averaged .346 in 1947 and .353 in 1954, and led the NL with 16 sacrifice hits in 1948. He became an instructor and ML pitching coach with the A’s, Yankees, Twins, Tigers, Angels, White Sox, and Braves. He became known for developing 20-game-winners in tight, four-man rotations. Whitey Ford, Jim Kaat, Earl Wilson, Denny McLain, Clyde WrightStan Bahnsen, and Wilbur Wood all had their biggest seasons under Sain’s supervision. Loved by his pitchers, often hated by his jealous managers, he coached five ML teams that won pennants. Jim Bouton has called Sain “the greatest pitching coach who ever lived.” When Sain was fired by Yogi Berra, Bouton said, “What general likes a lieutenant that’s smarter?”