Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday School: History Lesson 53

Claude Passeau was a pitcher with the Phillies from 1936-1939. He was included as a throw-in in a trade with Pittsburgh that sent Earl Grace to the Phils for Al Todd. Passeau spent the first half of his first season with Philadelphia as a relief pitcher, and was given his first start against Brooklyn on July 4th. On that day he shut out the Dodgers 4-0. Passeau would go on to win 4 of his next 6 games and had locked his place in the Phillies' starting rotation.

The following season, in 1937, Passeau would fast become the work horse of the Phils' staff. His 34 starts and 292 1/3 innings pitched led the National League. Passeau's win-loss record was not outstanding at 14-18, but he completed 18 games including a shutout of the Giants.

Passeau, a Mississippi native, experienced success thanks to the speed of his pitches. After his playing days were over, he recalled, "I never learned to throw a curveball. I'd throw a fastball and it would sail. That's what I got by on. I was one who would start you off with a fastball. They knew what I was throwing. I would throw for the middle of the plate and it would sail one way or the other. They didn't take very many pitches on me."

Passeau developed a reputation for intimidating hitters. He told stories of intentionally hitting Leo Durocher for trying to bunt, to speed up a game. Passeau said, "I let him have it. I guarantee you, right in the chest."

Through three full seasons with the Phillies, Passeau put together a 36-51 record. After starting the 1939 season with a 2-4 record through 8 starts, Passeau was traded to the Cubs for Ray Harrell, Kirby Higbe and Joe Marty. This would prove to be a poor trade for the Phillies as Harrell only pitched that one year with the Phils, Higbe pitched 1 1/2 seasons with the Phils, and Marty, an outfielder, was never a star in his 2 1/2 seasons with the team.

With the Cubs, Passeau excelled. During his first full season with Chicago, Passeau won 20 games and posted a 2.50 ERA, which was 2nd lowest in the league. Passeau also went on to become a 4-time All-star for the Cubs. The highlight of his career came in game 3 of the 1945 World Series, when he threw a complete game one-hit shutout in one of his two starts against the eventual champion Detroit Tigers.

The Passeau to Chicago deal was just one on a long list of poor deals the Phillies have made over their long history.

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