Monday, March 24, 2014

FACE TIME: 1985 TOPPS KENT TEKULVE




Kent Tekulve was pretty fly for a nerdy guy.

And when buzzed to come in from the bullpen, he always answered. 

The Rubberband Man most definitely had a rubber wing.

Indeed, he pestered batters with a sinker/slider repertoire for 16 seasons. Only some sort of mutant could pitch 1,436.2 relief innings, an NL record.

His signature aviators and 6-foot-4 pulled-taffy build defined him as much as all those innings, 184 saves and 1,050 games pitched did. The science project with the submarine delivery was successfully unconventional in his day. Still, it was easy to underestimate Tekulve.

Innings and games appeared are not the pantheon of pitching statistics, but imagine being able to take the ball as often as he did and rack up 94 wins and post a career 2.85 ERA.
  • Along with Mike Marshall, Tekulve is the only other reliever to appear in 90 or more games more than once. (They both did it three times.) 
  • Marshall is the single-season games-pitched leader with 106 in '74 and Tekulve is second with 94 in '79. The Rays' Joel Peralta led the majors last season with 80.
  • Tekulve is the oldest (40) to appear in 90-plus.
  • His three saves in the '79 World Series set a record that lasted 17 years.
  • In August '87, during the dog days of the season, he pitched in a record nine consecutive games for the Phillies. At age 40.
He had his best two seasons in '78 and '79, posting remarkably similar stats. He saved 31 games in each season. In '78, he pitched in a major-league high 91 games and 135.1 innings; In '79, he pitched in a major-league high 94 games and 134.1 innings. He finished fifth in the Cy Young voting both seasons and was an All-Star for the only time in his career in '80.

This came after the Pirates in the mid-'70s were highly skeptical of his ability to close. After saving nine and winning five in '76, the Pirates traded for Rich Gossage and made him their fireman for the '77 season. Tekulve simply bided his time, and after Goose left for the Yankees following the season, he landed the fireman's job.

From then on it was Tekulve time all the time.

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