Thursday, March 5, 2009

Random Thursday: Howie Nunn

A couple of weeks ago, when The Common Man began his quest to highlight some truly random corners of the dust baseballreference basement, friend of the blog lar wondered what would happen if The Common Man ran across a truly non-descript player. This week, The Common Man found him, Howie Nunn, a reliever in the early 1960s for the Cardinals and the Reds.

Nunn played in just three seasons, going 4-3 with a 5.11 ERA in 68.7 innings. He was, by and large, an afterthought then and now. What is remarkable about Nunn is not his career, but who he played for.

In 1961, Nunn had an extended run of success (2-1, 3.58 in 37.7 innings) as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, one of the great surprise teams of baseball history. Cincinnati was coming off of four straight losing seasons (and 14 out of 16), when they struck gold. In what was essentially a three-team deal, the Reds traded starting Walt Weiss-ish shortstop Roy McMillan to the Braves, acquiring pitchers Joey Jay and Juan Pizzaro. Pizzaro was immediately flipped to the White Sox for power-hitting third baseman Gene Freese. Jay would win 21 games that year for the Reds, combining with Jim O'Toole for 40 of the team's 93 wins. Freese would provide solid offense at 3B, hitting .277/.307/.466, with 26 homers and 87 RBI, and would allow Eddie Kasko to slide over to short, where he'd be selected to the All Star team. 1B Gordy Coleman went from a 89 OPS+ to a 119 mark, and hit 26 homers, and his emergence sent Frank Robinson back to the outfield and Gus Bell (who was done at this point) to the bench. And Jerry Lynch would go off in 210 plate appearances, hitting .315/.407/.624 with 13 homers (including a mind-boggling .404/.525/.851 with 5 homers as a pinch hitter). It was a perfect storm that catapulted the Reds into the World Series, where they would be disemboweled by the Mantle/Maris Yankees (Nunn would not see any action in that series).

Despite improving by five victories in 1962, the Reds played third fiddle to the Giants and Dodgers, as they would for much of the rest of the decade. But 1961's surprise signalled a return to relevance for the Cincinnati franchise, who would go on to finish above .500 every year (save for 1966 and 1971) until 1982.

Nunn, sadly, would not be around to see much of it. Despite enjoying extended success for the first time in 1961, he would fade quickly. Purchased by the Mets in December of 1961, he was uncerimoniously returned in April like the extra food processor that The Common Man and The Uncommon Wife received as a wedding present. Though good enough to pitch for the National League champs in '61, he apparently wasn't enough of a pitcher for a team that went 40-120 and sported a 5.04 ERA. Rejected by the ugliest girl at the dance, Nunn threw 9.7 innings for the Reds in '62, with a 5.59 ERA and was done in Major League Baseball. The details on the end of his career are unavailable at this time.

This isn't the last you will hear of Howard Nunn, however. Check back on Saturday afternoon for a post that The Common Man thinks will be well worth your time.

1 comment:

lar said...

That didn't take too long, eh, TCM? Still, great job in finding something interesting out of someone so nondescript. I'm liking this series.

(His BR page can be sponsored for $5. Just think, there are thousands of players whose pages are only $2)