Saturday, August 25, 2012

#211 John Denny - Philadelphia Phillies

Topps broke out the paint on John Denny's ninth career base card.  He was traded by the Indians to the Phillies on September 11, 1982.  This put Topps in a bind as Denny pitched four games for the Phillies, and boom, the season was over.  It is quite the contrast from the other fine cards in the set.  I never have been able to figure out why Topps airbrushed the clouds in the background.  Maybe they thought it gave the card continuity. 

Player: John Denny somehow flew under the radar and was not drafted until the 29th round by the Cardinals in 1970.  The 17 year-old Denny quickly showed he was worthy of a pro career by posting a 1.29 ERA in Rookie ball.  He debuted with the parent team in '74 pitching two innings and allowing two unearned runs.

Denny made the Cards rotation in '75 and after a six week demotion to AAA in May/June, he was in the majors for the rest of his career.  He had a decent rookie year putting up a 10-7 record with a 3.97 ERA in 136 innings.  He excelled the following year leading the NL with a 2.52 ERA, while starting 30 games and logging 207 innings. 

His 1977 campaign started off well with a 5-0 record but he was shelved for a month mid-year with a hamstring injury and his ERA was nearly two runs higher than the year prior. 
Denny bounced back with a 14 win, 2.96 ERA effort in '78.  He could not keep the momentum going however and struggled with his control, walking 100 with a 4.85 ERA in '79.

Denny was traded to the Indians after the '79 season and was mediocre in his first year in the Junior Circuit.  He missed half the year due to injury and finished with a 4.39 ERA.  He came back with a strong effort in '81 and had three consecutive shutouts toward the end of the season.  In the strike shortened campaign he went 10-6 with a 3.15 ERA.  In '82 Denny was scuffling with a 5.01 ERA when he was dealt to the Phillies late in September.

Even the most optimistic Phillies fan couldn't have predicted the year that Denny would have in '83.  He won 19 games in 36 starts with a 2.37 ERA, all career bests.  Part of Denny's success was keeping the ball in the park as he allowed just 9 HR in 242 innings.  He was rewarded with the NL Cy Young award as well as Comeback Player of the Year.  Although he didn't pitch poorly, Denny and the Phillies came up short in the World Series, losing to the Orioles.

Denny was nearly as effective in '84 but missed over two months with an elbow injury.  He pitched only 145 innings but had a similar 2.45 ERA.  He was healthy but rather average in '85 with a 3.82 ERA in 230 frames of work.  In the offseason he was swapped to the Reds.  In Cincy, Denny made 27 starts before his season ended with a sprained wrist.  Even though he was just 33 years old and just a few seasons removed from his Cy Young season, Denny retired from baseball.

Stuff:  Early career, 90 mph fastball, curve, change. 
Later career, Mid 80s sinker, curve, slider, change.

Flipside:  This is a pretty fuzzy view of this card back.  So let's just look at Denny's K/BB ratio. Even though he led the NL with a 2.52 ERA in '76 he walked 74 and struck out 74.  In his Cy Young season in '83 he walked just 53 and whiffed 139 batters. 

Oddball:  Denny came from a long line of rough-and-tumble Arizona ranchers and demonstrated a hot temper that flared often during his career.  He was not afraid to plunk a batter especially if a batter took him deep or showed him up in any way.  This of course led to fisticuffs on several occasions.  A short list of guys Denny brawled with: Reggie Jackson, Reggie Smith, Rod Carew, Tim Flannery, teammate Ted Simmons, and Reds reporter Bruce Schoenfield.

History:  Denny won a Cy Young and started two World Series games in his career.  He finished with a 123-108 record and 3.59 ERA (105 ERA+) in 13 seasons.  If he had stayed healthy he may have been remembered as one of the better pitchers of his era.  His silent treatment toward reporters and violent nature did little to endear him towards those around the game. 


  1. Not a guy you ever wanted to ask for his autograph...

  2. I bet if you would have handed over your '83 Scouting Report book to him, Denny would have ripped out his page, snarled, and threw it back at you.