Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday School: Phillies History Lesson 95

John Denny was a starting pitcher with the Phillies from 1982-1985. The right-hander was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1970. He debuted in the Majors in 1974, appearing in 2 games as a reliever. By the following year, at age 22, he was a regular in the Cards' rotation.

In 1976, Denny won the National League ERA crown with a 2.52 mark. In the three seasons that followed, Denny notched just one winning record and posted an ERA under 4.50 only once.

That sort of up and down production got Denny dealt out of town. After the 1979 season, the Cardinals traded him, along with outfielder Jerry Mumphrey to Cleveland for veteran slugger Bobby Bonds.

As a member of the Indian's starting rotation, Denny, tallied a 24-23 record with a 4.15 ERA in 3 seasons.

In the final month of the 1982 season, Denny was sent to Philadelphia for pitcher Jerry Reed and two minor leaguers. Following that swap, Denny went without a win in four September starts with the Phillies. However, the following season, Denny wouldn't have much trouble recording victories.

The 6-foot-3-inch 185-pounder made his mark on history in his first full season with Philadelphia. Having spent time in the 1982-1983 off-season working out with eventual Hall of Famer Steve Carlton and becoming a born-again Christian, Denny made improvements in himself as a pitcher and as a person.

Early in his 1983 campaign Denny showed what was on tap for the long haul that year. In his fifth start of the season, the Arizona native tossed the first of a pair of two-hitters he would drop that year. In the second half of the season, Denny was superb, recording a 13-2 record in 19 starts following the All-Star break.

His 19-6 overall record that season was striking, but not fully indicative of the strength he put on display throughout his full campaign. Denny allowed one earned run or less in half of his 36 starts and as a result the Phillies went 27-9 in his games that season. In addition, Denny's 6 losses where more attributable to the offense, as the team scored a total of 7 runs in support of their starting hurler in those contests.

All of that locked Denny in as the clear choice for National League Cy Young Award winner. He became the second Phillie ever to receive that honor.

In the postseason, Denny dropped a game against the Dodgers in the league championship series before tossing 8 innings of 1-run ball and earning the win in game 1 of the World Series against Baltimore. Denny later fell in game 4, allowing 4 earned runs in 5 innings.

With high hopes of bouncing back the following season, Denny started out strong, but an elbow injury in May cost him a couple months of the season. His 7-7 record in 1984 did not match his strong 2.45 ERA. The Phillies offense provided Denny with similar run support, plating a grand total of 8 runs in his 7 losses.

The 1985 season saw a stretch of difficult times for Denny, as he was victorious only once in his first 10 starts. Struggling to regain the command that made him a household name just two years prior, Denny went just 11-14 with a 3.82 ERA.

The following off-season, Denny was traded to Cincinnati for outfielder Gary Redus and pitcher Tom Hume. With the Reds, Denny lasted just one season before he retired at age 34.

After his playing days, Denny worked in baseball, including a gig with the Arizona Diamondbacks as their pitching coach.

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