Here’s a sneak peek at some info on Bob Friend from my upcoming book on the 1960 Pirates:
Friend led the league in starts from 1956-1958. He won 22 to top the NL in 1958 then suffered through a frightful season in which he went 8-19 to lead the league in defeats, for a hellacious dip. Back on his game in ’60, he won 60% of his decisions, winning 18 in all to go with a 3.00 ERA.
Baseball is a peculiar game. Some big name pitchers, often for reasons they have no control over such as a lack of run support and the type of defense they have behind them, actually wind up with lifetime records which are sub-.500. Some well known pitchers who suffered that ignominy include Friend (197-230), Bobo Newsom, Don Larsen of World Series perfect game fame, Johnny Vander Meer who threw back-to-back no-hitters, and both Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger, the men who hooked up in and completed the major’s longest game ever in terms of innings, 26, back on May 1, 1920. Imagine their pitch counts! One estimate was between 250-300 for each weary man at the end of the game which was called in 1-1 tie. The game ran a mere 3 hours and 50 minutes.
Upon Friend’s retirement in 1966, he was also one of just 17 pitchers to lose 200 games and one of just a few pitchers to lose that many while finishing a career with a record below .500. That does not mean he wasn’t a quality pitcher because he was. As Roger Craig, who lost 24 games with the 1962 expansion Mets and 22 more the next season, observed, “You’ve got to be a pretty good pitcher to lose that many.” His logic was no manager is going to let a lousy pitcher play long enough to acquire tons of losses. As a trivia note, Friend holds the distinction of giving up Pete Rose’s first big league hit.