A tall, charismatic sidearmer, Drysdale combined an explosive fastball with great control to become one of baseball’s premier power pitchers. His greatest personal achievement came in 1968, “the year of the pitcher.” He logged six consecutive shutouts en route to a since-broken record 58.2 consecutive scoreless innings. He pitched his record-tying fifth shutout on the day of the California presidential primary and was congratulated by Robert Kennedy in the speech he gave just before he was assassinated. Drysdale’s real glory days were earlier, when he was paired with Sandy Koufax as the most feared pitching duo of the 1960s. The Dodgers finished the regular season in first place in four out of five years from 1962 to 1966 without an overwhelming offense. The two staged a highly publicized joint holdout following their combined 49-20 record in 1965. They sought a three-year, $1.05 million contract to be divided evenly. Drysdale eventually signed for $110,000, quite a bit better than the $35,000 he made when he won 25 in 1962. He summed up his perspective in 1980: “When we played, World Series checks meant something. Now they just screw up your taxes.”
Drysdale was a workhorse, leading the NL in games started every year from 1962 to 1965, as well as in innings pitched in 1962 and 1964. He never missed a start. He also led in shutouts in 1959. One of the best-hitting pitchers of his day, he led NL pitchers in homers four times, twice tying the NL record of seven. His career total of 29 ranks second to Warren Spahn’s in NL history. In 1965 he hit .300 and slugged .508, pinch hit frequently, and achieved the rare feat of winning 20 and hitting .300 in the same year. In 1958 he slugged .591.
Drysdale’s tenure spanned Dodger eras. He won 17 in their last year in Brooklyn, and pitched the team’s first West Coast game (a loss at San Francisco). When he retired, he was the last Brooklyn player left on the Dodgers. He had the longest career played under a single manager – 13 years with Walter Alston. When Drysdale came up, he played with Duke Snider and the “Boys of Summer.” He retired from a staff that included Don Sutton, who pitched through the 1980s.
Knocking down hitters was a major tool in Drysdale’s pitching repertoire. He set the 20th-century NL career record by hitting 154 batters, and led the NL in that category a record five times. His philosophy on the knockdown pitch was simple – “If one of our guys went down, I just doubled it. No confusion there. It didn’t require a Rhodes scholar.”
A fixture at All-Star time, Drysdale holds All-Star records with eight games pitched, five starts, 19.1 innings, and 19 strikeouts. He went 2-1, 1.40, allowing only 10 hits.
Drysdale was one of the most appealing Dodgers to the Hollywood entertainment community. He appeared on numerous TV shows including “You Bet Your Life,” “The Donna Reed Show,” and “The Brady Bunch.” After his playing days, Drysdale became an announcer for the Angels and the White Sox before returning to the Dodgers. “Interviews were the hardest thing for me at first,” he said. “I felt so damn funny asking players questions when I already knew the answers.” (TG)