The Times West Virginian


June 12, 2013

Cole makes highly anticipated debut


o April 12, 1965, not every Hall of Famers debut was like Koufax’s.

  Steve Carlton made his debut at Wrigley Field for the Cardinals, came on in a game that would end, 10-10, replacing Barney Schultz.

The score was tied, a runner was at second, power-hitting left-handed first baseman George Altman was at the plate.

The 20-year-old Carlton’s job was to get him out.

He didn’t. He walked him and was replaced, facing one batter in his debut.

o Bob Gibson was 23 when he faced his first major league batter in the Los Angeles Coliseum with its 230-foot left field fence and he must have wondered what he gotten himself into for Jim Baxes, a career minor leaguer who was playing his only major league season, said “Welcome to the big leagues” by hitting a home run.

Baxes would bat only .246 in that but did hit 17 home runs.

Gibson would play 16 years and win 251 games.

o Randy Johnson was something of a freak when he debuted, at 6-foot-10, he was the tallest pitcher ever, maybe the hardest throwing and a 25-year-old rookie, which was old for making a debut.

 The opponent on Sept. 15, 1988, for him was the Pirates and while his debut was hardly spectacular, pitching five innings of a 9-4 win, allowing six hits, a couple of runs with three walks and five strikeouts.

The first batter he faced was John Cangelosi, who grounded out to second, and he also was touched for his first home run, this by Glenn Wilson.

o Times change. There was a time when everyone believed Walter Johnson and Bob Feller were the two hardest throwers the game had ever seen.

Certainly, Johnson threw hard for his time, right from the start when as a 19-year-old he pitched and won Washington’s opener, 3-2. But it was 1907 and let’s just say the players were different.

Johnson was considered a big man, but at 6-1 and 200 he wasn’t Randy Johnson. Consider this when wondering just how hard Johnson threw … there were 99 players debut in the major leagues in 2007 and only 24 of them were 6-foot or taller, none taller than 6-3 and only four listed at 200 pounds.

None were more than 200 pounds and one, an infielder named John Kane, was listed at 138 pounds.

Feller could throw hard. That was documented by rudimentary machines that measured the speed of his pitch and by the numbers he compiled in a career interrupted by World War II.

But what of is debut?

In July 19, 1936, and Feller was a fuzzy faced 17-year-old farm boy who would pitch an inning in relief, giving up nothing worse than a couple of walks.

But Feller is remembered for his first major league start, which would come a month later.

So unsure of him was his manager Steve O’Neill, that he had another pitcher, Denny Galeouse, warm up with him in case he got in early trouble.

It was the batters who were in trouble, as Feller struck out the side in the ninth and finished with 15 strikeouts, then the most by any pitcher in big league history in his first start as he won his first major league game.

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