Roy Face Stats & Facts
Bats: Right • Throws: Right
5-8, 155lb (173cm, 70kg)
Born: February 20, 1928 (Age: 92-298d) in Stephentown, NY
High School: Averill Park HS (Averill Park, NY)
Debut: April 16, 1953 (Age 25-055d, 8,586th in MLB history)
vs. PHI 0.1 IP, 4 H, 0 SO, 1 BB, 3 ER
Last Game: August 15, 1969 (Age 41-176d)
vs. LAD 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 SO, 0 BB, 2 ER
Full Name: Elroy Leon Face
View Player Bio from the SABR BioProject
He was certainly an original. Roy Face became one of if not the first genuine superstars to come out of the bullpen in an era when most teams thought having such a player was just a luxury that most couldn’t afford.
He was drafted by the Dodgers first in 1950, and was stuck in their minor league system before Branch Rickey, who got him originally when he was the General Manager of Brooklyn, plucked him a second time in 1952 when he moved over to the Pirates, it was a move that certainly gave Face hope in his quest to make it to the show. “I was drafted from the Dodgers and was happy about it because at that time, the Dodgers had a pitching staff that would have been hard to break into and the Pirates were rebuilding”.
While in the Bucco minor league system, Rickey told Face that if he wanted to make the big leagues he would have to develop another pitch to go along with his fastball and slider. After watching former Dodger Joe Page throw the forkball in his comeback attempt with the team and realizing what success he had with it, Roy decided to teach himself the pitch, which turned out to be his bread and butter pitch and helped make him one of the greatest relievers of all time. Roy was able to pick these things up on his own, like the forkball, on his way to the majors. “No one really helped me. Everything I learned, I taught myself.”
He finally made it to the majors in 1953 and split time between the bullpen and the starting rotation until 1957 when Danny Murtaugh came to town as the Pirate skipper. “Danny Murtaugh scratched me as a starter and I never started a game after he took over as a manager”. It turned out to be a brilliant move as Face immediately became successful saving 10 games in 1957, 5th in the league, before leading the senior circuit in 1958 with 20 while winning his last 5 decisions. That last stat would become important when Face reeled off a 17 wins in a row in 1959, making the streak 22 over two years. He finished the season 18-1 with a record .947 winning percentage and was named to his first of three consecutive all-star games. The 18 wins set the mark for relief wins in one season, and while a reliever achieves that mark by blowing a few saves, which the club would rally behind him and score runs for the victory, the feat is nonetheless remarkable. During the 1959 season, the 5’8” reliever held teams scoreless between June 11th and July 12th ending the campaign with a 2.70 ERA and was 7th in the MVP voting.
Although 1959 was a disappointing campaign for the team, 1960 was pure magic for Face and the club as the Bucs won the world championship while the Stephentown. New York native would be second in the NL with a then career high of 24 saves while getting three more in the Pirates first three World Series victories that season.
Face led the NL in saves in 1961 before having what was arguably his best season ever in 1962 with an NL and career best 28 saves, his lowest ERA ever, a spectacular 1.88 mark all the while limiting opponents to a .231 average. Roy would be awarded with the National League Fireman of the Year for his efforts.
After a mediocre 1964 season where Face was bounced around to the tune of a 5.20 ERA, he came into camp in 1965 looking forward to rebounding from the poor season. Unfortunately a knee injury would limit him to only 16 games although he had a 5-2 mark with a 2.60 ERA in those appearances.
Three years later on August 31st, 1968, manager Larry Shepard inserted him into the game in the first inning after Steve Blass recorded the first out and then temporarily moved to left field while Roy came in to retire Felix Milan of the Braves and in the process tied Walter Johnson’s mark of 802 pitching appearances with the same club. After he got Milan out, Blass came back into the game to lead the Bucs to an 8-0 victory and before the contest was over, the team announced that it had sold Face to the Tigers.
He finished his career the next season with the expansion Montreal Expos ending it all with 193 saves and 104 wins. Throughout Roy’s career, he left his mark as a pioneer in the game. Relievers are the backbone of every team in the majors today and Roy Face had the distinction of leading what at the time was a very overlooked part of a club at that time to the level it enjoys today.
Notable Events and Chronology for Roy Face Career
The Pittsburgh Pirates draft relief pitcher Elroy Face from the Montreal Royals, the top minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. During a 15-year career with the Pirates, Face will lead the National League in saves three times. In 1959, he will win an incredible 18 of 19 decisions in relief.
In the second of two games, the Pirates, down 5 – 0, tie the Phillies in the 9th inning, then win in the 10th, 7 – 6. The victory goes to Elroy Face, even though he gives up a home run to Ed Bouchee in the top of the 10th. Face is now 17-0 and the Pirates are just four games in back of the leading Giants.
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