Tiant, Luis (1940–)

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Tiant, Luis (1940–)

Luis Tiant was one of the most memorable characters and pitchers in the history of major league baseball; he had the most distinctive wind-up of any pitcher. He was born in Marianao, Cuba, the son of a star of the Negro Leagues who was on the New York Cubans when they won the league's World Series in 1947. Tiant played in the Mexican League in 1959 and 1960 before being signed by the Cleveland Indians organization in 1961. He broke into the majors in 1964. A hard-throwing strikeout pitcher in this stage of the career, he had a brilliant season in 1968 with a 21-9 record and a 1.60 earned run average (ERA). He gradually developed a deceptive pitching style that involved extensive physical gyrations and unpredictable hesitations. It was said that wherever you sitting in the stadium he would look straight at you at some point during his delivery. He suffered a stress fracture in his rib cage in May of 1970 with the Minnesota Twins. He joined the Boston Red Sox in the following year. Injury problems continued to plague him, but he reemerged as a crafty pitcher, known for his guile and "heart." He had a sparkling ERA of 1.91 in 1972; he won 20 games in 1973, 22 in 1974 (including seven shutouts), and 21 in 1976. He entered the national spotlight during the 1975 postseason when he pitched a three-hitter in the American League Championship Series sweep of the Oakland Athletics. In the classic 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, he pitched an opening game shutout against the Big Red Machine. Even though he was not fully in command in the fourth game, he still won another completegame victory. He was even called on to pitch seven innings in the sixth game, as well. By the time he left the Red Sox, he was second only to Cy Young on the team's all-time strikeout list, with 1,095. Tiant joined the New York Yankees in 1979 and stayed through the 1980 season, but he was no longer the star he had been. He pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1981 and ended his career with the California Angels in 1982. In nineteen years in the majors, he had a 229-172 record and a 3.30 ERA. Many think that he should be in the Hall of Fame. Since his retirement he has been the baseball coach for the Savannah College of Art and Design. He also has been a pitching coach for Red Sox minor league teams and for the Nicaraguan team in the 1996 Olympics.

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Gammons, Peter. "Luis Tiant." In Cult Baseball Players: The Greats, The Flakes, The Weird, and the Wonderful, edited by Donald Perry. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.

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Hornig, Doug. The Boys of October: How the 1975 Boston Red Sox Embodied Baseball's Ideals and Restored Our Spirits. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2003.

Preston, Joseph. Major League Baseball in the 1970s: A Modern Game Emerges. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2004.

Stout, Glenn, and Richard A. Johnson. Red Sox Century: The Definitive History of Baseball's Most Storied Franchise. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

                                Andrew J. Kirkendall