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Dennis Eckersley

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Title: Dennis Eckersley  
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Subject: List of Boston Red Sox broadcasters, Rollie Fingers, Oakland Athletics, Closer (baseball), Mariano Rivera
Collection: 1954 Births, American Latter Day Saints, American League All-Stars, American League Championship Series Mvps, American League Most Valuable Player Award Winners, American League Saves Champions, American Sportsmen, Baseball Players from California, Boston Red Sox Broadcasters, Boston Red Sox Players, Chicago Cubs Players, Cleveland Indians Players, Cy Young Award Winners, Living People, Major League Baseball Announcers, Major League Baseball Pitchers, Major League Baseball Players with Retired Numbers, National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees, Oakland Athletics Players, Pawtucket Red Sox Players, Reno Silver Sox Players, San Antonio Brewers Players, Sportspeople from Oakland, California, St. Louis Cardinals Players
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Dennis Eckersley

Dennis Eckersley
Eckersley at the 2008 All-Star Game Red Carpet Parade
Born: (1954-10-03) October 3, 1954
Oakland, California
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 12, 1975, for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB appearance
September 26, 1998, for the Boston Red Sox
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 197–171
Earned run average 3.50
Strikeouts 2,401
Saves 390
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Baseball Hall of Fame
Inducted 2004
Vote 83.2% (first ballot)

Dennis Lee Eckersley (born October 3, 1954), nicknamed "Eck", is an American former Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher. Between 1975 and 1998, he pitched for the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals. Eckersley had success as a starter, but gained his greatest fame as a closer, becoming the first of two pitchers in MLB history to have both a 20-win season and a 50-save season in a career.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility. He is also noted as the pitcher who gave up a dramatic walk-off home run (a phrase Eckersley coined) to the injured Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. He works as a studio analyst for Red Sox games on the NESN network.


  • Early life 1
  • Baseball career 2
    • Cleveland Indians 2.1
    • Boston Red Sox 2.2
    • Chicago Cubs 2.3
    • Oakland Athletics 2.4
    • Final playing years 2.5
  • Post-playing career 3
  • Personal 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Eckersley grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, rooting for both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. He was a quarterback at Washington High School in Fremont until his senior year, when he gave up football to protect his throwing arm from injury.[1] He won 29 games as a pitcher at Washington, throwing a 90 mph fastball and a screwball.[2]

Baseball career

Cleveland Indians

Eckersley was drafted out of high school by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 1972 amateur draft and was disappointed that he was not drafted by the Giants. He made his MLB debut on April 12, 1975. He was the American League Rookie Pitcher of the Year in 1975, compiling a 13–7 record and 2.60 ERA. His unstyled, long hair, moustache, and live fastball made him an instant and identifiable fan favorite. Eckersley pitched reliably over three seasons with the Indians.

He threw a no-hitter on May 30, 1977 against the California Angels. Two batters reached base in the game, one on a walk in the first inning and the other on a third strike that was a wild pitch.[3] He earned his first All-Star Game selection that year and finished the season with a 14-13 win-loss record.[4]

Boston Red Sox

Eckersley was traded with Fred Kendall on March 30, 1978 to the Boston Red Sox for Rick Wise, Mike Paxton, Bo Díaz, and Ted Cox. Over the next two seasons, Eckersley won a career-high 20 games in 1978 and 17 games in 1979, with a 2.99 ERA in each year.[4] However, during the remainder of his tenure with Boston, from 1980 to 1984, Eckersley pitched poorly. His fastball had lost some steam, as demonstrated by his 43–48 record with Boston. He later developed a great slider.

Chicago Cubs

Eckersley was traded on May 25, 1984 with Mike Brumley to the Chicago Cubs for Bill Buckner, one of several mid-season deals that helped the Cubs to their first postseason appearance since 1945. Eckersley performed poorly in his sole start for the Cubs in their NL Championship Series with the San Diego Padres.

Eckersley remained with the Cubs in 1985, when he posted an 11–7 record with two shutouts (the last two of his career). Eckersley's performance deteriorated in 1986, when he posted a 6–11 record with a 4.57 ERA. After the season, he checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic to treat alcoholism.[5] Eckersley noted in Pluto's book that he realized the problem he had after family members videotaped him while drunk and played the tape back for him the next day.

Oakland Athletics

Eckersley was traded again on April 3, 1987 to the Oakland Athletics, where manager Tony La Russa intended to use him as a set-up pitcher or long reliever. Indeed, Eckersley started two games with the A's before an injury to then-closer Jay Howell opened the door for Eckersley to move into the closer's role. He saved 16 games in 1987 and then established himself as a dominant closer in 1988 by recording a league-leading 45 saves. He recorded saves in all four games as the A's swept the Red Sox in the 1988 ALCS (which was matched by Greg Holland in the 2014 ALCS), but he found himself on the wrong end of Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run as the A's lost to the Dodgers in 5 games. In the 1989 World Series he secured the victory in Game Two, and then earned the save in the final game of the Series, as the A's swept the San Francisco Giants in four games.

Eckersley was the most dominant closer in the game from 1988 to 1992, finishing first in the A.L. in saves twice, second two other times, and third once. He saved 220 games during the five years and never posted an ERA higher than 2.96. He gave up five earned runs in the entire 1990 season, resulting in a microscopic 0.61 ERA. Eckersley's control, which had always been above average even when he was not otherwise pitching well, became his trademark; he walked only three batters in 57.2 innings in 1989, four batters in 73.1 innings in 1990, and nine batters in 76 innings in 1991. In his 1990 season, Eckersley became the first relief pitcher in baseball history to have more saves than baserunners allowed (48 SV, 41 H, 4 BB, 0 HBP). In a statistical anomaly, he had exactly the same WHIP and ERA: both were 0.613636364.

He was the American League's Cy Young Award winner and the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1992, a season in which he posted 51 saves. Only two relievers had previously accomplished the double feat: Rollie Fingers in 1981 and Willie Hernández in 1984. Since Eckersley, one other reliever, Éric Gagné, has won Cy Young honors (Gagné won the National League award in 2003 with the Los Angeles Dodgers). His numbers slipped noticeably following 1992: although Eckersley still was among the league leaders in saves, his ERA climbed sharply, and his number of saves never climbed above 36.

After the 1994 season, the Athletics elected not to exercise a $4,000,000 option on Eckersley, making him a free agent. The team indicated that it would be interested in signing him at a lower salary.[6] Oakland signed him to a one-year contract in early April 1995. His contract was the first MLB deal after a three-month signing ban resulting from a labor dispute between owners and the players union.[7]

Final playing years

When Tony La Russa left the A's after the 1995 season, he became the St. Louis Cardinals' new manager and arranged to bring Eckersley along with him. Eckersley continued in his role as closer and remained one of the league's best, but following the 1997 season, he signed on with the Red Sox for one final season.

Eckersley announced his retirement in December 1998. He commented on his career, saying, "I had a good run. I had some magic that was with me for a long time, so I know that I was real lucky to not have my arm fall off for one thing, and to make it this long physically is tough enough. But to me it's like you're being rescued too when your career's over. It's like, 'Whew, the pressure's off."[8]

He retired with a career 197-171 win-loss record, a 3.50 ERA and 390 saves. Eckersley's career saves total ranks sixth on the all-time list as of early 2014.[4] Eckersley had appeared in more games (1,071) than any pitcher in MLB history, though he ranks fifth all-time as of early 2014.[4][9]

Post-playing career

Dennis Eckersley's number 43 was retired by the Oakland Athletics in 2005.

In 1999, he ranked Number 98 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players.[10] He was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.[11] On January 6, 2004, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, with 83.2% of the votes.[12] On August 13, 2005, Eckersley's uniform number (43) was officially retired by the Oakland Athletics.[13] The baseball field at his alma mater, Washington High School, has been named in his honor.[14]

Eckersley works as a studio analyst for the Boston Red Sox on NESN, where he primarily provides post-game coverage, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the team's play. He also has a multi-year deal with TBS to serve as an analyst for their post-season coverage.[15] In the spring of 2009, regular NESN commentator Jerry Remy took time off for health reasons. Eckersley filled in for Remy, providing color commentary alongside Don Orsillo.[16] Since then, Eckersley has been the primary substitute for Remy when he is unavailable, most recently filling in for the remainder of the 2013 season when in early August, Remy's son, Jared, was indicted on murder charges, after which, Jerry chose to take off the rest of the year.


Eckersley was married to his first wife Denice until she left him for Rick Manning, his then-Cleveland Indians teammate, in 1978; the affair precipitated Eckersley's trade to the Red Sox that year.[17] Two years later, Eckersley married model Nancy O'Neil.[5] They divorced shortly after his retirement from baseball.[18] His third wife, Jennifer, is a former lobbyist and manages Eckersley's business and charitable affairs.[19]

Eckersley's brother, Wally "Glenn" Eckersley, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1989 following a conviction for attempted murder and kidnapping. Dennis Eckersley testified at his brother's trial to show that alcoholism ran in his family.[18]

See also


  1. ^ Jim Ison. Mormons in the Major Leagues. p.37
  2. ^ "This Series has loads of hometown heroes".  
  3. ^ "Eckersley: No-hitter".  
  4. ^ a b c d "Dennis Eckersley Statistics and History".  
  5. ^ a b Gammons, Peter (December 12, 1988). "One Eck of a Guy".  
  6. ^ "Eckersley a free agent, but A's want him back".  
  7. ^ "Eckersley re-signs to break the ice".  
  8. ^ "Pitcher Dennis Eckersley retires after a 24-year career".  
  9. ^ Verducci, Tom, Kennedy, Kostya (December 21, 1998). "Eckstraordinary".  
  10. ^ "Baseball's 100 Greatest Players by The Sporting News (1998)".  
  11. ^ "The All-Century Team".  
  12. ^ Blum, Ronald (January 7, 2004). "Molitor, Eckersley each elected to Hall of Fame on first ballot". Peninsula Clarion. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  13. ^ Bowles, C. J. "Forever No. 43".  
  14. ^ Leatherman, Gary (September 5, 2006). "Dennis Eckersley Field dedication set for Friday at WHS". Tri-City Voice. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  15. ^ Eckersley Extends Contract As An Analyst Yahoo Sports, February 23, 2009
  16. ^ Eckersley to fill in for Remy, May 4, 2009
  17. ^ The Curse of Rocky Colavito: A Loving Look at a Thirty-Year Slump, Terry Pluto, p.167–169, Gray & Company, ISBN 978-1-59851-035-5
  18. ^ a b Doyle, Paul (July 25, 2004). "A closer who needed a save".  
  19. ^ "Alumni Profiles: Jennifer Eckersley '93".  

External links

  • Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
  • Dennis Eckersley interviewed at
  • Dennis Eckersley at the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • - Article by Hal Bodley about Eckersley's alcoholism
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Jim Colborn
No-hitter pitcher
May 30, 1977
Succeeded by
Bert Blyleven
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