A Reds-letter day in Cooperstown

Francis_90By Bill Francis

Former big league pitcher Jim Maloney is in the midst of visiting some of the more recognizable and respected spots in America – Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, Wrigley Field and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Accompanied by his wife Lyn, the 72-year-old former fireballer made a stop at the Cooperstown shrine on Thursday from their home in Fresno Calif. For Maloney, it was his first visit since he came with the Cincinnati Reds to participate in the 1967 Hall of Fame Game against the Baltimore Orioles.

Former Reds and Angels pitcher Jim Maloney (right) gets a tour of the Hall of Fame Library from Senior Curator Tom Shieber on Thursday in Cooperstown. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Former Reds and Angels pitcher Jim Maloney (right) gets a tour of the Hall of Fame Library from Senior Curator Tom Shieber on Thursday in Cooperstown. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

“It’s just unbelievable,” he said after touring the Museum and archive. “I had been here in 1967, and all I remember is going to little Doubleday Field. We didn’t go through the Museum and I don’t know why. We bused in from Utica, N.Y. and after the game we bused back.

“But I have a son-in-law that came through here last summer and he just marveled about the place. And now I can see it’s everything that you dream about. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place.”

Maloney ended his 12-year big league career, spent mostly with the Reds, in 1971. A high school shortstop, he made the successful transition to pitcher and dominated the National League for a number of years before injuries forced him to retire in his early 30s.

“I was blessed with a strong arm. Somehow I could always throw the ball harder than anybody my age or anybody that was three or four years older than I was,” he said. “I would say my fastball was in the high 90s, but I had an excellent curve to go along with my fastball,  just like Sandy Koufax.

“There were a lot of good pitchers when I played – Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, and Sandy Koufax. Every ballclub had a guy that could fire that ball. That was the deal in those days. I was glad I came along when I did.”

Maloney finished with a 134-84 record, a 3.19 ERA, and 1,605 strikeouts in 1,849 innings pitched. A two-time 20-game winner, he won at least 12 games every season from 1963 to 1969. His best campaign may have come in 1963, when the righty compiled a 23-7 record with a 2.77 ERA and 265 strikeouts.

“I had a goal when I started of having a 20-win season, and I did that a couple times,” Maloney said, “and I had a goal of playing in the All-Star Game, and I did that one time, and I wanted to pitch a no-hitter, and I was fortunate to do that a couple of times, and play in a World Series, and I got to do that in 1961.

“So overall, outside of an injury cutting my career short, the only goal I didn’t achieve was winning 200 games, and I just fell a little short of that one.”

Maloney not only tossed two no-hitters, but also lost another one in the 11th inning. Today, his glove used in a 10-inning no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs in 1965 is on display in the Museum’s “One for the Books: Baseball Records and the Stories Behind Them” exhibit.

“I wondered where that glove went,” Maloney joked. “It’s really an honor to go and see your name in the Museum and the glove you had when you threw a no-hitter on display.”

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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