Thursday, September 29, 2011

Windy McCall: Not a fart joke

Each major league team typically has a "mouth," an outspoken player who is popular with media and fans but occasionally runs his lips a sentence or two too long. As a lifelong White Sox fan, I've heard my favorite club's manager Ozzie Guillen act as the club's mouthpiece for several [too many] years. And Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has occasionally acted in such a way, which is actually probably how he found his way to Chicago1.

In most cases, the loudmouth is a veteran who earns teammates' and fans' respect with solid play. But sometimes rookies shoot off their mouths to veterans and get stuck with a nickname (or worse) as the result. John William "Windy" McCall found himself in this situation after trash-talking Ted Williams2 before a Red Sox spring training batting practice session. In an interview soon thereafter, the Splendid Splinter referred to McCall as "the windy one3."

McCall only threw six games for the Red Sox in 1948 and 1949 and two more for Pittsburgh in 1950. He toiled in the minors until 1952 before returning home in 1953 to play for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. Windy turned in the best pitching performance of his career, putting up a 3.05 ERA in 150 innings while splitting his time as a starter and reliever.

The New York Giants took notice and signed Windy McCall for the 1954 season. McCall was the bullpen's mainstay southpaw that year, throwing alongside ace right-handed relievers Marv Grissom and Hoyt Wilhelm. McCall won his first game that year and also made a handful of starts. The Giants claimed the pennant that year, and Windy looked on as Willie Mays made "The Catch4." McCall didn't appear in the '54 World Series, but he didn't really need to; the Giants swept the Cleveland Indians.

McCall made 78 appearances from the Giants' bullpen in 1955 and 1956 and added 10 starts those seasons. The Giants fell apart a bit those years, finishing 3rd and 6th places, respectively.

1957, however, was a different story. Windy struggled in five relief appearances and the Giants cut him loose. He returned to the Seals (in their final year) briefly before signing with the Phillies and finishing the '57 campaign with the Phillies' affiliate in Miami.

The Giants moved to Windy's hometown in 1958, but McCall, ironically, spent the entire season on the other coast in Miami as the Marlins' relief ace5. He threw a bit in 1959 for the Marlins and the Seattle Rainiers of the PCL, but he hung up his spikes after 22 games combined and went into the moving business in San Francisco.

Windy McCall is 86 and lives in Arizona today. His outspoken reputation followed him throughout the game and beyond: Windy gave a lengthy interview in 2006 to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), which you can read here. Link

1 The San Francisco Giants apparently did not offer to re-sign Pierzynski when his one-year deal was up at the end of 2004 due to some disagreements with the entire Giants' pitching staff. Also, I refuse to link to any pictures of Michael Barrett throwing a cheap shot after getting railroaded by Pierzynski.

2 A rookie does not simply trash-talk the greatest hitter of his generation. A rookie should probably not even talk to Williams at all.

3 Yes, I wish his nickname was flatulence-related, too.

4 Coincidentally, this post is being published exactly 57 years after Mays's catch robbed Vic Wertz of The Glory.

5 The Miami Marlins were a minor-league team at the time. Some would argue that is still the case. This was probably the Marlins' best highlight of 2011. However, it's fun to watch Mike Stanton hit baseballs5A.

5A Remember when there were rumors of a discussion to send Ozzie Guillen to manage the Marlins for Stanton (Whether or not there were actual discussions depends on who you ask)? I wish I didn't remember that.

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