McLain, Denny 1944- (Dennis Dale McLain)
McLain, Denny 1944- (Dennis Dale McLain)
Born March 29, 1944, in Chicago, IL; married Sharyn Boudreau, 1963 (divorced, 1998); children: four.
Pitcher with Chicago White Sox, 1962-63, Detroit Tigers, 1963-70, Washington Senators, 1970-71, Texas Rangers, 1971-72, Oakland Athletics, 1972, and Atlanta Braves, 1972-73. Cohost of "The Eli & Denny Show" (with Eli Zaret), beginning 1988; Organist in Las Vegas, NV, and in Detroit, MI; First Fidelity Financial Services, Lakeland, FL, partner; convicted of federal racketeering, money laundering, and other charges, and served time in a federal penitentiary in Bradford, PA, 1996-2003.
American League Most Valuable Player award, Baseball Writers' Association of America, 1968; American League Cy Young Award, Baseball Writers' Association of America, 1968 and 1969; Major League Player of the Year citation, Sporting News, 1968; American League Pitcher of the Year award, Sporting News, 1968 and 1969; named pitcher on Sporting News American League All-Star Team, 1968, and right-handed pitcher, 1969.
(With Dave Diles) Nobody's Perfect, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1975.
(With Mike Nahrstedt) Strikeout: The Story of Denny McLain, Sporting News Publishing (St. Louis, MO), 1988.
(With Eli Zaret) I Told You I Wasn't Perfect, Triumph Books (Chicago, IL), 2007.
Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain has earned two reputations—one as a baseball player whose performance in the 1968 American League pennant race was the stuff of legend, and one as a devil-may-care hellraiser and radio and television personality who was convicted on federal racketeering charges. McLain gives the details of his success, his fall from grace, and his steps toward rehabilitation in two volumes of memoirs: Nobody's Perfect, written with Dave Diles and published in 1975, and I Told You I Wasn't Perfect, written with his erstwhile sports-casting partner Eli Zaret, and published in 2007.
McLain began his career as a gawky, street-wise kid in the Chicago suburb of Markham. He played ball for Mount Carmel High School in the late 1950s and early 1960s before being signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1962. The following year he was snapped up by the Detroit Tigers, where he spent the glory years of his career. "In 1964," wrote ESPN Web site commentator Nick Acocella, "McLain was farmed out to Syracuse of the International League but was called up in late May. In an injury-ridden season, he went 4-5. The following year he came into his own, going 16-6 with a 2.61 ERA as he learned to throw a curveball and changeup to go with his outstanding fastball."
In 1968, according to Detroit News Online writer Mary Bailey, McLain was a man who, in Detroit at least, could do no wrong. "The twenty-four-year-old right-hander won thirty-one of thirty-six games—Detroit's first and only thirty-game winner, the major league's biggest winner in thirty-seven years and the major's first thirty-game winner since Dizzy Dean in 1934. He won the Cy Young award, the Most Valuable Player Award and the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year Awards." He was the last pitcher of the twentieth century to win more than thirty games in a single season.
At the same time, Detroit's star ballplayer maintained a very active social life away from the ball field. When McLain was not pitching, Bailey continued, he was playing the organ in the ballpark or placing bets over the phone in the dugout. "He had played the organ from childhood," Ira Berkow stated in the New York Times, "and within a week after the 1968 World Series was performing in Las Vegas, Nevada." "Many thought that his nonstop off-season partying would adversely affect McLain," noted a contributor to the Baseball Library Web site, "but his lifestyle didn't stop Tiger management from awarding their cocky ace the team's first 100,000 dollar contract." "In 1969," stated Acocella, "McLain again led the AL in victories, going 24-9 with a 2.80 ERA, and shared a second Cy Young prize, with Baltimore's Mike Cuellar." "But within sixteen months," Acocella continued, "McLain's image was badly tarnished. In February of 1970, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him until July 1 for bookmaking activities, one of three suspensions he was hit with that year." "As McLain could do no wrong in 1968," Bailey concluded, "he could do no right in 1970." Misfortune (within two years his pitching arm gave out) piled upon misstep (in 1985 he was sentenced to federal prison on racketeering charges) until in 1996 he was convicted for involvement in an unsavory event involving embezzlement from a meat-packing company's pension fund.
McLain and sportscasting partner Eli Zaret tell the former pitcher's story in I Told You I Wasn't Perfect, an autobiography "as brash as McLain was in his playing days," wrote Martin Brady on the BookPage Web site. "He tells his tale frankly, sparing no feelings where his former teammates and managers are concerned," but he is also, Brady continued, very forthcoming about his involvement in drugs, racketeering, and embezzlement that sent him to prison. "McLain's life has been an often heartbreaking, self-destructive journey," Wes Lukowsky declared in a Booklist review, "and he relates it all with humor (as appropriate) and stunning honesty." "His book's a great read," stated Toledo Blade reviewer Tom Henry, "worthy of comparison to Jim Bouton's classic Ball Four, although this isn't an expose. If anything, it's a long overdue explanation and a fascinating tale." "Blunt and outspoken," Henry concluded, "he offers a story that's worth reading."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2007, Wes Lukowsky, review of I Told You I Wasn't Perfect, p. 40.
New York Times, August 14, 1988, Ira Berkow, "Denny McLain, a Fallen Star, Tries Again."
Sporting News, August 29, 1988, Mike Nahrstedt, "Strikeout: High Rolling … before the Good Times Turned Bad," p. 12.
Toledo Blade, September 9, 2007, Tom Henry, "Denny McLain: Perfect Pitch."
Baseball Almanac,http://www.baseball-almanac.com/ (December 1, 2007), "Denny McLain Stats."
Baseball Library,http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ (December 1, 2007), author biography.
Baseball Page,http://www.thebaseballpage.com/ (December 1, 2007), author biography.
Baseball Reference,http://www.baseball-reference.com/ (December 1, 2007), "Denny McLain."
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (December 1, 2007), Martin Brady, "Baseball Books Hit the Shelves for Opening Day."
Click on Detroit,http://www.clickondetroit.com/ (December 1, 2007), "Local 4 Catches Up with Denny McLain: Former Tiger Great Plans to Pursue Radio Job."
Detroit News Online,http://info.detnews.com/ (December 1, 2007), Mary Bailey, "When Denny McLain Stood Baseball on Its Ear."
ESPN,http://espn.go.com/ (December 1, 2007), Nick Acocella, "From the Big Time to the Big House."
Retrosheet,http://retrosheet.org/ (December 1, 2007), "Denny McLain."
Stanton Peel Addiction,http://www.peele.net/ (December 1, 2007), "Denny McLain."