Dennis Lee Eckersley (born October 3, 1954 in Oakland, California), nicknamed "Eck", was a Major League Baseball player elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 (his first year of eligibility). He enjoyed overwhelming success as both a starter and a closer and was the first pitcher in Major League history to have both a 20 win season and a 50 save season in his career. He is also noted as the pitcher who gave up Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
Dennis was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 1972 amateur draft and made his Major League debut on April 12, 1975. Dennis pitched well throughout the year, compiling a 13-7 record and 2.60 ERA, although he lost the Rookie of the Year award to MVP Fred Lynn. His unstyled, long hair and live fastball made him an instant identifiable favourite of fans.
Eckersley pitched well over three season with the Indians before being traded on March 30, 1978 to the Boston Red Sox. Pitching for a contender boosted Eckersley's stats over the next several seasons. He won a career-high 20 games in 1978 and 17 games in 1979, both years compiling a 2.99 ERA.
During the remainder of his tenure with Boston, from 1980 to 1984, Eckersley pitched poorly. His fastball wasn't as intimidating as it once had been and his 43-48 record over this span reflected this.
Eckersley was traded on May 25, 1984 with Mike Brumley to the Chicago Cubs for Bill Buckner. Eckersley signed with Chicago in the off-season as well. He enjoyed some success with the new team, but ultimately lost their interest in 1986 when he posted a 6-11 record with a 4.57 ERA.
Eckersley was traded again on April 3, 1987 to the Oakland Athletics where manager Tony LaRussa intended to use Eck as a set-up man or long reliever. An injury to then-closer Jay Howell, however, opened the door for Eckersley to move into the closer's role, a role he wouldn't relinquish during his tenure with the Athletics. Eckersley was one of the most dominant closers in the game during the period of 1987 to 1992, saving 236 games and never posting an ERA higher than 3.03 (and posting a low of 0.61). Eckersley's control, which had always been above average even when he was not otherwise pitching well, became his trademark; he walked only 3 batters in 57.7 innings in 1989, and only 4 batters in 73.3 innings in 1990. He was the American League's Cy Young Award winner and MVP in 1992, a season in which he posted 51 saves. No pitcher since has won the two honors in the same season, and no reliever after Eckersley won the Cy Young until Eric Gagne won NL honors in 2003.
Eckersley enjoyed marginal success from then until his retirement in 1998. Nevertheless, his 390 career saves ranks 3rd on the all-time list.
Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (2004)
All-Star (1977, 1982, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992)
American League Cy Young Award winner (1992)
American League MVP (1992)
American League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award winner (1988, 1992)
American League Championship Series MVP (1988)
Finished 2nd in American League Cy Young voting (1988)
Finished 4th in American League Cy Young voting (1978)
Finished 5th in American League Cy Young voting (1990)
Finished 6th in American League Cy Young voting (1989)
Finished 7th in American League Cy Young voting (1979)
Finished 5th in American League MVP voting (1988, 1989)
Finished 6th in American League MVP voting (1990)
Pitched no-hitter (May 30, 1977)
Cleveland Indians (1975-1977)
Boston Red Sox (1978-1984, 1998)
Chicago Cubs (1984-1986)
Oakland Athletics (1987-1995)
St. Louis Cardinals (1996-1997)
W L PCT ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H ER R HR BB SO WP HBP
197 171 .535 3.50 1071 361 100 20 390 3285.7 3076 1278 1382 347 738 2401 28 75