Bats: Right • Throws: Right
6-0, 180lb (183cm, 81kg)
Born: November 23, 1940 (Age: 79-350d) in Marianao, Cuba
Debut: July 19, 1964 (Age 23-239d, 9,873rd in MLB history)
vs. NYY 9.0 IP, 4 H, 11 SO, 4 BB, 0 ER, W
Last Game: September 4, 1982 (Age 41-285d)
vs. MIL 5.1 IP, 12 H, 4 SO, 1 BB, 7 ER, L
Full Name: Luis Clemente Tiant
Nicknames: El Tiante
View Player Bio from the SABR BioProject
His father was a better pitcher than he was, but never pitched in the major leagues because of the color of his skin. Despite the shadow of his father, Luis Tiant managed to win more than 200 games and delight fans with his collection of pitching deliveries. He was an eccentric, cigar-smoking crowd pleaser for nearly two decades.
Tiant was born in Cuba, the land where his father, Luis Sr., had starred as a pitcher for more than two decades. Once, Luis Sr. had defeated a group of Major League All-Stars, striking out Babe Ruth. “Little Looey” – as he was called – followed in his famous father’s footsteps, learning every pitch imaginable. In 1959, just 18 years old, he was signed by Bobby Avila to play in the Mexican League. While playing below the border, his contract was purchased by the Indians
In 1964 he was called to Cleveland and was soon in their rotation, going 10-4, with a 2.83 ERA. Within a few seasons Tiant was the ace of the Indians staff, throwing four straight shutouts in 1966 on his way to 12 wins and a 2.79 ERA. In 1968 he achieved stardom when he won 21 games and fashioned a league leading 1.60 ERA. Opposing batters hit just .168 off Tiant, a major league record. Unfortunately for Luis, the Tigers’ Denny McLain won 31 games that year and ran off with the Cy Young award.
In 1969 Tiant slumped terribly – losing 20 games while his ERA more than doubled. In the off-season he was included in a multi-player deal with Minnesota that brought Graig Nettles to the Indians. With the Twins he began 1970 with six wins, but then he fractured his shoulder blade and virtually ended his season. He finished with seven victories in 18 games. When he showed little promise in spring training, he was released early in 1971. The Braves signed him to a minor league contract but gave up after a few weeks. He eventually landed with the Red Sox, going 1-7 with a 4.85 ERA. It seemed his career may be over
But Tiant surprised even himself, rebounding with a 15-wins eason in 1972, as the Red Sox battled with Detroit to the wire for the division title. Tiant was named Comeback Player of the Year on the strength of his 15-6, 1.91 ERA performance. He allowed just 7 home runs in 43 games and 179 innings. In ’73 he was back completely, winning twenty games and establishing himself as the ace and favorite of the Fenway faithful.
Tiant went 22-13 in 1974, but lost the Cy Young award to Jim Palmer. The next season he led the team into the post-season, winning 18 games. In the playoffs he whipped the A’s and then opened the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. His father, having been allowed to leave Cuba, was in Fenway Park that day to watch his son defeat The Big Red Machine 6-0. Little Looey won Game Four was well, and had a no-decision in Game Six – the game that saw Carlton Fisk’s dramatic game-winning homer in extra frames.
In 1976 Tiant enjoyed his last twenty-win season, but Boston was unable to repeat as AL champs. Two years later, in 1978, Luis won on the final day of the regular season, setting up the famous one-game playoff with the Yankees. The victory was the last for Luis in a Boston uniform, as he was signed by the hated Yankees as a free agent prior to the ’79 season. In two years with the Yanks, Tiant won just 21 games, and he finished his career with one-year runs in Pittsburgh and California in 1981-82.
Tiant holds several impressive marks, including the lowest ERA by a Boston pitcher since 1920. He holds the same distiction for Cleveland. He led the AL in shutouts three times (1966, 1968, and 1972), including 9 in his amazing ’68 season. That year he pitched 40 consecutive shutout innings. In 1966 he had pitched 41 straight whitewash innings, giving him two streaks over the 40-mark. That’s a feat only Tiant and Walter Johnson have accomplished.
- He’s always given me tips on how to do things, how to make things easier. Every day you can learn from a pitcher like him. – Former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martínez.
- If a man put a gun to my head and said I’m going to pull the trigger if you lose this game, I’d want Luis Tiant to pitch that game. – Former Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson.
- When I was a boy growing up in Cuba, Luis Tiant was a national hero. Now I’m thirty-six and he’s thirty-seven – Tony Perez.
- You can talk about anybody else on that team (1975 Red Sox) you want to, but when the chips are on the line, Luis Tiant is the greatest competitor I’ve ever seen.” – Jim Palmer Orioles Hall of Famer
- “I’ve never heard anything like that (“Loo-Eee, Loo-Eee, Loo-Eee” chanting in Fenway Park) in my life. But I’ll tell you one thing: Tiant deserved every bit of it” – Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski (Red Sox retired number 8)
- “The fastball is the best pitch in baseball. It’s like having five pitches, if you move it around.” – Luis Tiant
- “Normal relations, never. We should never forget what has happened to the people in Cuba for forty years. All baseball cares about is getting players out of Cuba. It doesn’t care about the suffering, just money. The Orioles shouldn’t have gone to Cuba. This is a free county, but that’s the way I feel.” – Luis Tiant
- “If we lose today, it will be over my dead body. They’ll have to leave me face down on the mound.” – Luis Tiant
- “Sometimes things go wrong, even when you’re doing your best. That just shows that none of us are perfect. So I keep trying with all of my heart, and if that’s not good enough, I’m not going to hang my head.” – Luis Tiant
Notable Events and Chronology for Luis Tiant Career
Orioles’ outfielder Frank Robinson becomes the first (and only) player to hit a home run completely out of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. The 451-foot wind-assisted blast, which clears the fifty rows of the left-field seats near the foul pole, before rolling to a stop 540 feet from home plate, comes off a fastball thrown by Indians’ starter Luis Tiant, who hadn’t given up an earned run on the season.
The National League emerges victorious in the annual All-Star Game at Veterans Stadium, 7 – 1. George Foster, one of seven Reds position players on the squad, homers, drives in three runs, and is named the game’s MVP. Rookie Mark Fidrych gives up two runs and takes the loss. It is the NL’s 13th win in the last 14 games.
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