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Dennis Eckersley      

Baseball Hall of Famer and Sports Analyst; 24 year career in the MLB; Served as a coach with the Massachusetts Special Olympics

Dennis Lee Eckersley was born October 3, 1954 in Oakland, California and nicknamed "Eck," was a Major League Baseball player elected to Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.

He enjoyed success as a starter and overwhelming success as a closer, becoming the first of only two pitchers in Major League history to have both a 20-win season and a 50-save season in a career. He is also noted as the pitcher who gave up Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Dennis Eckersley was drafted by the Cleveland Indians, out of Washington High School of Fremont in the third round of the 1972 amateur draft and made his Major League debut on April 12, 1975. Dennis pitched well throughout the year, compiling a 13-7 record and 2.60 ERA. His unstyled, long hair and live fastball made him an instant and identifiable fan favorite. Eckersley pitched reliably over three seasons with the Indians, including a no-hitter on May 30, 1977 against the California Angels.

He was traded on March 30, 1978 to the Boston Red Sox. Pitching for a contender boosted Eckersley's stats over the next several seasons. He won a career-high 20 games in 1978 and 17 games in 1979, both years compiling a 2.99 ERA.

During the remainder of his tenure with Boston, from 1980 to 1984, Eckersley pitched poorly. His fastball wasn't as intimidating as it once had been and his 43-48 record over this span reflected this.

Eckersley was traded on May 25, 1984 with Mike Brumley to the Chicago Cubs for Bill Buckner. Eckersley signed with Chicago in the off-season as well. He enjoyed some success with the new team, as the Cubs won the divisional title in 1984. Eckersley's performance deteoriated after re-signing with the Cubs in 1985. In 1986, Eckersley posted a 6-11 record with a 4.57 ERA. After the season, he checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic to treat alcoholism. He returned to the Cubs for spring training in 1987.

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 man or long reliever. An injury to then-closer Jay Howell, however, opened the door for Eckersley to move into the closer's role, a role he wouldn't relinquish during his tenure with the Athletics. LaRussa and Eckersley revolutionized the strategy of relief pitching. Eckersley was the first prominent reliever to be used almost exclusively in the "protecting the 9th inning lead" role which is now commonplace, in part because of Eckersley's overwhelming success.

Eckersley was one of the most dominant closers in the game from 1987 to 1992, saving 236 games and never posting an ERA higher than 3.03 (and posting a low of 0.61). Eckersley's control, which had always been above average even when he was not otherwise pitching well, became his trademark; he walked only 3 batters in 57.7 innings in 1989, and only 4 batters in 73.3 innings in 1990. In that 1990 season, Eckersley became the only relief pitcher in baseball history to have more saves than baserunners allowed (48 SV, 41 H, 4 BB, 0 HBP).

He was the American League's Cy Young Award winner and MVP in 1992, a season in which he posted 51 saves. No pitcher since has won the two honors in the same season. Only two relievers had previously accomplished the double feat: Rollie Fingers in 1981, and Willie Hernandez in 1984.

Jim Konstanty won the 1950 NL MVP, the first reliever to do so, but this was before the Cy Young Award was instituted. (Starting pitchers Don Newcombe (1956), Sandy Koufax (1963), Bob Gibson (1968), Vida Blue (1971) and Roger Clemens (1986) also won both awards in the same year. Several other pitchers won MVP awards before the first Cy Young award. Presumably they all would have won that year's nonexistent Cy Young balloting, with the exception of Dazzy Vance and Walter Johnson in 1924, both of whom won league MVPs, but one of whom would have lost a Cy Young vote to the other (until 1967, there was only one Cy Young Award given for both leagues).

Only one reliever since Eckersley has been awarded the Cy Young: Éric Gagné won NL honors in 2003.

In 2002, Atlanta's John Smoltz matched Eckersley's feat of having had a 20-win season and a 50-save season.

Eckersley enjoyed marginal success from then until his retirement in 1998. Nevertheless, his 390 career saves ranks 3rd on the all-time list. He currently works as a studio analyst for the Boston Red Sox on NESN.

In 1999, he ranked Number 98 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

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.

On August 13, 2005, Eckersley had his uniform number 43 officially retired by the Oakland Athletics.

Eckersley wore number 43 for most of his career, except during his early MLB years with the Indians, when he wore

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