ELKHART — A baseball legend was in Michiana Saturday.
Denny McLain, the last 30-game winner in the major leagues, was at a card show at the Concord Mall signing autographs and sharing tales about his legendary playing career with fans.
“He was very nice. He signed everything I brought,” said Chuck Konopinski of Granger. “Denny even gave my grandson some advice. He said he should become a left-handed pitcher. He should tie his right arm behind his back and not use it. Denny said you can make a lot of money being a left-handed pitcher.”
Konopinski remembers the 1968 season, the one McLain is best known for when he won 31 games pitching for the Detroit Tigers.
“I remember watching the games when I was in junior college,” he said. “Denny only won one game in the World Series, but his teammate Mickey Lolich won three and beat Bob Gibson in Game 7.”
McLain won 31 games in 1968 to become the first pitcher to win 30 games since Dizzy Dean of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1934.
“It’s a terrific feeling being the last 30-game winner,” McLain said. “A funny thing is my Dad was a great athlete. He had a chance to play pro baseball, but my mom said ‘You are gong to leave me for $200 a month?’
“Dad told me to win 20 games. He said you don’t have to do anymore than that. You don’t want to be in the spotlight.”
Does McLain think there will ever be another 30-game winner in the majors?
“Not the way the game is setup now,” he said. “After the 1968 season they lowered the height of the mound when baseball decided they wanted touchdowns. Lowering the mound really decreased the velocity of the pitchers.”
McLain pointed out how the change affected his game.
“In 1968, I struck out 280 batters,” he said. “The next year with the lower mound my strikeouts were down to 181.”