Don Drysdale Essentials
Bats: Right • Throws: Right
6-5, 190lb (196cm, 86kg)
Born: July 23, 1936 in Van Nuys, CA
Died: July 3, 1993 (Aged 56-345d) in Montreal, Canada
High School: Van Nuys HS (Van Nuys, CA)
Debut: April 17, 1956 (Age 19-269d, 8,925th in MLB history)
vs. PHI 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 SO, 1 BB, 0 ER
Last Game: August 5, 1969 (Age 33-013d)
vs. PIT 6.0 IP, 8 H, 2 SO, 1 BB, 2 ER
Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1984. (Voted by BBWAA on 316/403 ballots)
View Don Drysdale’s Page at the Baseball Hall of Fame (plaque, photos, videos).
Full Name: Donald Scott Drysdale
Nicknames: Big D or Airedale
View Player Bio from the SABR BioProject
Drysdale’s real glory days were earlier, when he was paired with Sandy Koufax as the most feared pitching duo of the 1960s. The Dodgers finished the regular season in first place in four out of five years from 1962 to 1966 without an overwhelming offense. The two staged a highly publicized joint holdout following their combined 49-20 record in 1965. They sought a three-year, $1.05 million contract to be divided evenly. Drysdale eventually signed for $110,000, quite a bit better than the $35,000 he made when he won 25 in 1962. He summed up his perspective in 1980: “When we played, World Series checks meant something. Now they just screw up your taxes.”
Drysdale was a workhorse, leading the NL in games started every year from 1962 to 1965, as well as in innings pitched in 1962 and 1964. He never missed a start. He also led in shutouts in 1959. One of the best-hitting pitchers of his day, he led NL pitchers in homers four times, twice tying the NL record of seven. His career total of 29 ranks second to Warren Spahn’s in NL history. In 1965 he hit .300 and slugged .508, pinch hit frequently, and achieved the rare feat of winning 20 and hitting .300 in the same year. In 1958 he slugged .591.
Drysdale’s tenure spanned Dodger eras. He won 17 in their last year in Brooklyn, and pitched the team’s first West Coast game (a loss at San Francisco). When he retired, he was the last Brooklyn player left on the Dodgers. He had the longest career played under a single manager – 13 years with Walter Alston. When Drysdale came up, he played with Duke Snider and the “Boys of Summer.” He retired from a staff that included Don Sutton, who pitched through the 1980s.
Knocking down hitters was a major tool in Drysdale’s pitching repertoire. He set the 20th-century NL career record by hitting 154 batters, and led the NL in that category a record five times. His philosophy on the knockdown pitch was simple – “If one of our guys went down, I just doubled it. No confusion there. It didn’t require a Rhodes scholar.”
A fixture at All-Star time, Drysdale holds All-Star records with eight games pitched, five starts, 19.1 innings, and 19 strikeouts. He went 2-1, 1.40, allowing only 10 hits.
Drysdale was one of the most appealing Dodgers to the Hollywood entertainment community. He appeared on numerous TV shows including “You Bet Your Life,” “The Donna Reed Show,” and “The Brady Bunch.” After his playing days, Drysdale became an announcer for the Angels and the White Sox before returning to the Dodgers. “Interviews were the hardest thing for me at first,” he said. “I felt so damn funny asking players questions when I already knew the answers.”
He was married to Basketball Hall of Famer Ann Meyers from 1986 to 1993. When Ann was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in May 1993, it was the first marriage of Hall of Famers from two of the four major sports. His father, Scott Drysdale, worked for a time as a scout for the Dodgers.
Drysdale died in Montreal, QC on July 3, 1993. He was in Montreal as part of the Dodgers’ broadcasting team. He did not report to the ballpark that day and was later found dead in his room at the team hotel. Vin Scully broke the news of Drysdale’s death live on air during the game that Drysdale was to announce with Scully.
Quotes by Don Drysdale
“A torn rotator cuff is a cancer for a pitcher and if a pitcher gets a badly torn one, he has to face the facts, it’s all over baby.”
“If they knocked two of your guys down, I’d get four. You have to protect your hitters.”
“In Brooklyn, it was as though you were in your own little bubble. You were all part of one big, but very close family, and the Dodgers were the main topic of everybody’s conversations and you could sense the affection people had for you. I don’t know that such a thing exists anymore.”
“I hate all hitters. I start a game mad and I stay that way until it’s over.”
“It’s a bottom line business where a lot of gray suits are brought in and then, within two years, these guys suddenly know everything about baseball.”
“My own little rule was two for one. If one of my teammates got knocked down, then I knocked down two on the other team.”
“Some of these guys wear beards to make them look intimidating, but they don’t look so tough when they have to deliver the ball. Their abilities and their attitudes don’t back up their beards.”
“The pitcher has to find out if the hitter is timid, and if he is timid, he has to remind the hitter he’s timid.”
“When I throw a curve that hangs and it goes for a hit, I want to chew up my glove.”
“When we played, World Series checks meant something. Now all they do is screw your taxes.”
“I always used to think that he [Hank Aaron] had a lot of Stan Musial in his stance. From the pitcher’s mound they both seem to coil at you. The only sensible thing – if you couldn’t get the manager to let you skip a turn against him – was to mix the pitches and keep the ball low, and if you were pitching to spots it was important to miss bad. If you missed good, and the ball got in his power zone, sometimes you were glad it went out of the park and was not banged up the middle.”
“What being around [Sal] Maglie did for me was to confirm this idea in my mind and refine it. It was part of the game. I watched Maglie, I listened to Maglie, and it all sunk in. It just sort of clicked.”
Quotes about Don Drysdale
“Batting against Don Drysdale is the same as making a date with a dentist.”
— Dick Groat
“Don Drysdale would consider an intentional walk a waste of three pitches. If he wants to put you on base, he can hit you with one pitch.”
— Mike Shannon
“I hated to bat against Drysdale. After he hit you he’d come around, look at the bruise on your arm and say, ‘Do you want me to sign it?'”
— Mickey Mantle
“I personally think it’s too bad if a batter gets hit crowding the plate. I know that Don Drysdale, Larry Sherry and Stan Williams felt the same way when they pitched for the Dodgers in the late 1950s and early ’60s. That was the formula I was raised on. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a batter apologize for smashing a line drive off some part of a pitcher’s torso”
— Roger Craig, Inside Pitch
“The trick against Drysdale is to hit him before he hits you.”
— Orlando Cepeda
“Home plate is 17 inches wide. But to Don Drysdale it is divided into three parts – the inside four inches, the middle nine inches, and the outside four inches. To him only the middle part belongs to the hitter; the inside and outside parts belong to the pitcher.”
— Dave Anderson, New York Times