Friday, April 28, 2006

Claude Osteen

Nicknamed “Gomer” for his uncanny resemblance to the 1960s television character played by actor Jim Nabors, Claude Wilson Osteen Jr. was a reliable and durable pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the mid-1960s and early-1970s.

Although Osteen regularly preformed in the shadows of the club’s more celebrated hurlers like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Don Sutton, he made a name for himself, pitching in three All Star games and winning 20 games in a single season twice. During his nine seasons in Los Angeles, Osteen led the club in shutouts seven times, games started six times, wins and complete games four times, and innings pitched twice.

Much was expected from Osteen from the start. He signed with his hometown Cincinnati Reds for a reported $40,000 bonus in 1957 after leading Reading High School to the Ohio State championship.

Osteen made his major league debut on July 6, 1957 at the age of 17 and although he pitched well in relief, he was sent down to the minors shortly thereafter. He pitched briefly with the Reds in 1959 and spent the entire season with the big club in 1960, but was back in the minors the following season.

The slender southpaw finally got a chance to pitch regularly in the big leagues when he was dealt to the Washington Senators in September 1961. After posting back-to-back losing seasons, Osteen responded with a respectable 15-13 mark and a 3.33 ERA for ninth place Senators in 1964.

Nevertheless, Osteen was traded again over the winter, this time to Los Angeles, along with infielder John Kennedy and $100,000 cash for slugging outfielder Frank Howard and four other big league players.

In 1965, Osteen joined the Dodgers vaunted starting rotation, alongside Koufax, Drysdale and Johnny Podres. Although Osteen split his 30 decisions, he pitched magnificently, posting a 2.79 ERA, good enough for ninth best in the league. Los Angeles won the pennant that year and Osteen was masterful in the World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Osteen tossed seven scoreless innings to win Game __ and allowed just one run in a losing effort in Game 6. The Dodgers went on to win the Series in seven games.

Osteen won 17 games in 1966 as the Dodgers returned to the World Series once again. This time, the club lost the fall classic to the Baltimore Orioles in four straight games. Osteen pitched in Game _ ...........


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