Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Maeda, Stripling to join rare group of 26-and-older starting pitchers to debut with Dodgers

Nomo Ishii

Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii each pitched shutout ball in their Dodger debuts.

Dodgers at Padres, 6:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Kenta Maeda, P

By Jon Weisman

Kenta Maeda, who turns 28 on Monday, tonight will be the 18th Dodger starting pitcher in the past 100 years to make his Major League debut at age 26 or above.

And 48 hours later, barring anything unforeseen, 26-year-old Ross Stripling will become the 19th in that group on Friday.

That list includes such Asian pitchers as Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hiroki Kuroda, Kazuhisa Ishii and Hideo Nomo, who combined to pitch 24 innings and allow only two runs while striking out 26.

The 26-year-old Nomo came first in this foursome and threw one-hit, shutout ball over five innings in a memorable May 2, 1995 game in which the Dodgers took a 3-0 lead in the 15th inning at San Francisco, only to lose.

But Nomo was surpassed by his countryman Ishii, who at age 28 went 5 2/3 shutout innings — at Colorado, no less — and struck out 10, 14 years ago today. That game, won by the Dodgers, 9-2, happened to be Dave Roberts’ fifth as a Dodger outfielder.

At age 33, Kuroda not only matched his predecessors by going five scoreless innings on April 4, 2008, he went two innings more and left for a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth with a 7-1 lead. Kuroda struck out four, walked none and allowed three hits, including a Brian Giles homer with two out in the seventh.

Eight days after his 26th birthday, Ryu took a 3-0 loss against the Giants on April 2, 2013, pitching 6 2/3 innings and allowing three runs (one earned) on 10 hits, no walks and five strikeouts.

The inaugural name in this fraternity, 29-year-old Ray Gordiner, didn’t fare so well. Pitching for Brooklyn against the Cubs with a 5-0 first-inning lead on September 17, 1921, Gordiner walked the first three batters he faced and was pulled from the game. He ended his MLB career a year later with a 6.94 ERA in 23 1/3 innings, though with a perfect 1-0 record.

A pair of pitchers threw shutouts, however: 31-year-old Tot Pressnell on April 21, 1938 and 29-year-old Joe Hatten exactly eight years later to the day. Despite not beginning his big-league career until his 30s, Pressnell had a reasonably useful five seasons with the Dodgers and Cubs. Hatten spent seven years in the Majors with the same two teams.

The most recent name is Red Patterson, whose one and only big-league appearance so far came in the second game of a doubleheader at Minnesota in 2014, when he was nearly 27. But the oddest is Ben Chapman, a longtime big-league outfielder who later would become notorious as a 38-year-old Phillies manager for mercilessly baiting and heckling Jackie Robinson in 1947.

Chapman, who had become a player-manager in the minor leagues for Richmond during World War II, was suspended for the 1943 season for assaulting an umpire. He returned to Richmond in 1944, not only playing outfield and managing but also pitching. That summer, at age 35, the Dodgers acquired him, and he made his debut for 39-61 Brooklyn on the mound on August 4, 1944 — and threw a complete game, 9-4 victory.

Pitching during World War II, Chapman not only finished the 1944 season with a 3.40 ERA in 79 1/3 innings for Brooklyn, he batted .368 with a .916 OPS in 44 plate appearances. A year later, he was traded to Philadelphia, setting the stage for his confrontation with Robinson during the groundbreaking legend’s rookie season.


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1 Comment

  1. oldbrooklynfan

    A truly nice article.

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