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Mon, 06.14.1926

New Jersey’s own, Don Newcombe

Don Newcombe

*Don Newcombe was born on this date in 1926. He is a retired Black baseball player.

From Madison, New Jersey, nicknamed "Newk", Donald "Don" Newcombe was the one of thee first great Black pitchers in major league baseball history.  After playing one season with the Newark Eagles in the Negro Leagues, Newcombe signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  With catcher Roy Campanella, Newcombe played for the first racially integrated baseball team based in America, the 1946 Nashua Dodgers of the New England League.  He continued to play for Nashua in 1947 before moving up through the minor leagues.

He debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers on May 20, 1949.  He immediately helped them to the league pennant with 17 victories, led the league in shutouts, and pitched 32 consecutive scoreless innings. He was also among the first four black players to be named to the All-Star team, along with his teammates Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella and the Indians' Larry Doby. Newcombe was named Rookie of the Year by both The Sporting News and the Baseball Writers Association of America. In 1950 he won 19 games, and 20 the following season. He also led the league in strikeouts in 1951. In the memorable playoff game between the Dodgers and the Giants at the end of the 1951 season, Don Newcombe was relieved by Ralph Branca in the bottom of the ninth inning before Branca surrendered the walk-off home run to Bobby Thomson.

After two years of military duty during the Korean War, Newcombe ha a disappointing comeback season in 1954, going 9-8 with a 4.55 earned run average, but returned to form the next year finishing second in the NL in both wins and ERA, with marks of 20-5 and 3.20, as the Dodgers' "Boys of Summer" finally won the World Series.  In 1956, he was 27-7 with 139 strikeouts, a 3.06 ERA, 5 shutouts and 18 complete games, leading the league in winning percentage.  He was named the National League's MVP, and was awarded the first-ever Cy Young Award, then given to the single best pitcher in both major leagues.

After the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles Newcombe got off to a slow 0-6 start in 1958 before being traded to the Reds for four players in midseason. He posted a record of 24-21 with Cincinnati until they sold his contract to Cleveland in mid-1960. He finished with a 2-3 mark in Cleveland to end his major league career.  Newcombe acknowledges that alcoholism played a significant role in the decline of his career.

A 6'4", 225-pound fasball pitcher, he is also the only baseball player to have won the Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards.  Newcombe was also an excellent hitting pitcher, one of the few pitchers in baseball who was used as a pinch hitter.   He batted .271 (the 9th-best average in history among pitchers), with 15 home runs, 108 runs batted in, 238 hits, 33 doubles, 3 triples, 94 runs scored and 8 stolen bases.

In his 10-year major league career, Newcombe registered a record of 149-90, with 1129 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA, 136 complete games and 24 shutouts in 2154 innings pitched.  Newcombe has maintained sobriety and rejoined the Dodger organization in the 1970s. He still serves as the Dodgers' director of community affairs.  In that role, he has helped numerous other people in their own battles against substance abuse.

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