Debunking Urban Legends About Warren Spahn

From SABR member Jim Kaplan at The Buffalo News on May 13, with an appearance from SABR member Paul Motyka:

Warren Spahn (1921-2003), the Hall of Fame left-hander, was probably the most famous athlete born and raised in Buffalo. In a 21-year career from the early 1940s to the mid ’60s, he won 363 games — the fifth most all-time and most ever by a left-hander. Only Christy Mathewson won 20 games in a season as often (13) as Spahn, a baseball legend. Sometimes the legend exceeded the truth.


Thanks to a review of public records and research assistance from Buffalonians Michael Billoni, former general manager of the minor league Buffalo Bisons, and brothers Lou and Paul Motyka, a different but equally interesting picture emerges.


The scout who landed him was Billy Meyers (not Myers), who left employment with the Red Sox to sign Sisti with Boston’s National League team, but it was known as the Bees in 1936-40, not the Braves. Meyers signed Spahn for $80 a month, plus a $150 bonus and two sets of clothes, according to his father.

 After a brief stint in the minors and a cup of coffee with Boston in 1942, Spahn enlisted for World War II, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and for the vital bridge at Remagen, receiving a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for bravery. He returned to baseball in 1946, had his way with major-league hitters, and in 1973 was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. That’s not just legend. It’s fact.

Read the full article here:

See also: Jim Kaplan will give a talk about his book, The Greatest Game Ever Pitched: Juan Marichal, Warren Spahn and the Pitching Duel of the Century (Triumph Books), at 7 p.m. May 24 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave., Buffalo.

Originally published: May 13, 2011. Last Updated: May 13, 2011.