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Flashback Fridays: from Charlotte to Cooperstown

January 14, 2022 - Triple-A East League (AAA East) - Charlotte Knights News Release


When Tony Oliva was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame last month, he became the sixth player to go from Charlotte to Cooperstown. While he most certainly won't be the last (Curt Schilling has a chance to be elected later this month), the first player to go from Charlotte to Cooperstown earned election 50 years ago. That player pitched for the Charlotte Hornets for parts of three seasons and went on to spend 23 years in the majors. That player was Early Wynn.

EARLY YEARS

Born in Hartford, AL on January 6, 1920, Wynn spent a lifetime in the game of baseball as a player, coach and broadcaster. Known as a fierce competitor as a player, Wynn left an indelible mark on the game.

As a teenager, Wynn attended a tryout session in Florida for the Washington Senators and impressed coach Clyde Millan. The Senators decided to sign the 17-year-old for $100 per month. Wynn left high school without finishing and set out on his way to becoming a professional baseball player.

The Alabama-born hurler made his pro debut in 1937 with the Sanford Lookouts of the Florida State League. That season, Wynn appeared in 35 games (26 starts) and posted a 16-11 record with a 3.41 ERA in 235.0 innings pitched. His stay in the Florida State League lasted just one year as the Queen City was next up for the talented right-handed pitcher.

WYNN IN CHARLOTTE

Wynn continued to move up the organizational ladder in 1938. The 18-year-old made Charlotte his home in 1938 as he was promoted to the Charlotte Hornets for that season. The Hornets were members of the Piedmont League and were the Class B team of the Washington Senators. That season, the Hornets won 84 games and finished in second place. For Wynn, he continued to develop as a pitcher. He won 10 games that season and helped anchor a solid staff led by Bucky Jacobs, who won 21 games that year.

A year later, Wynn was back in Charlotte and this time he improved on the mound. He went 15-14 with a 3.96 ERA for the Hornets. His big game of the year came on July 24 when he tossed a no-hitter. Despite the stellar effort on the mound that day, his Hornets lost the game 2-1.

The 1940 season was Wynn's final full season in the minors and it was once again spent with the Hornets. Now as a 20-year-old, he posted a 9-7 record with a 4.25 ERA in 31 games. Overall in parts of three seasons in the Queen City, Wynn went 34-32 with a 4.45 ERA in 94 games.

He moved to Springfield in 1941 and later earned more time in the majors that season with the Senators. He went 16-12 with Springfield and compiled a 2.56 ERA in his final season before becoming a full-time major leaguer.

MAJOR LEAGUE HURLER

Wynn earned his first taste of the majors with a brief callup in 1939. He made just three appearances that year for the Senators. In his first major league outing on September 13, 1939, he tossed a complete game in a loss against the Chicago White Sox.

In 1941 after a solid season with Springfield, Wynn was promoted back to the Senators and this time he made his mark. He went 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in five starts and never looked back. From 1942 until his final big league season in 1963, Wynn went on to become one of the game's finest pitchers.

He pitched in four different decades and won at least 20 games in a season five times. He was named to nine All-Star Games and won the American League Cy Young Award in 1959. In addition, he was a two-time MLB wins leader (1954 & 1959), a two-time American League strikeout leader (1957 & 1958) and an American League ERA leader in 1950.

WYNN-ING 300 GAMES

As a 43-year-old with the Cleveland Indians in 1963, Wynn earned his 300th win on July 13. At the time, he became just the 14th hurler in major league history to achieve the milestone. Currently, there are 23 players in MLB history with 300 wins - all members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

COOPERSTOWN BOUND

Although he wasn't elected on his first year of eligibility, Wynn was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on his fourth try in 1972. That year, Wynn earned 76% of the vote, joining Sandy Koufax (86.9%) and Yogi Berra (85.6%) that year. When looking back at that list today, there are 16 people on the list that have now been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The most recent one being Gil Hodges, who received just 22% of the vote in 1972. He was elected, along with Tony Oliva, last month by the Veterans Committee.

NOTABLE AWARDS

In 2013, the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award honored Wynn as one of 37 Baseball Hall of Fame members for his service in the United States Army during World War II. Wynn ended the 1944 season early as he joined the U.S. Army. He missed the entire 1945 season and returned to the Senators in July of 1946 to continue his major league career.


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