There was a time when Opening Day meant two games before any others – in the American League, it was the Senators hosting and in the National League, it was Cincinnati at Crosley Field. On April 7, 1969, after the parade through downtown Cincy, it was the Reds hosting the Dodgers with Gary Nolan on the mound for Cincinnati and Don Drysdale for Los Angeles.
The Birth of the Save
1969 was the birth of a new official stat for MLB – the “save.” Jerome Holtzman, the great Chicago baseball writer and baseball’s official historian, created the stat in 1959 and ten years later, the stat was adopted by the Rules Committee in time for the 1969 season. The rule has been modified a couple of time over the years, but Holtzman’s original rule stated that a relief pitcher earned a save when he:
- Had to enter the game with either the potential tying or winning run either on base or at the plate and preserve the lead; or
- Had to pitch at least three or more effective innings and preserve the lead.
It seemed that it would be pretty unlikely that a Dodger would be earning a save in this first game. After Nolan retired the Dodger batters in order in the top of the 1st, Don Drysdale opened the season on the mound to face the hometown Reds. Before the fans could get comfortable in their seats, Pete Rose led off the season with a homer. And before they could settle down, Bobby Tolan followed with another homer and the Reds had a 2-0 lead.
But that was all the trouble the Reds could muster against Double D. Meanwhile, Jim Lefebvre drove home a run with a double in the top of the 2nd and Ron Fairly drove home two more with a triple in the top of the 3rd, and LA was leading, 3-2.
Drysdale left the game after 6.0 IP having allowed four hits and two runs. In came Bill Singer. Over the next three innings, all the Reds could muster was a walk in the 8th.
Final score: Dodgers 3 – Reds 2
|Don Drysdale, W (1-0)||6||4||2||2||2||4||2||3.00||23|
|Bill Singer, S (1)||3||0||0||0||1||1||0||0.00||10|
How many saves did Bill Singer earn that 1969 season? One.
How many relief appearances did Bill Singer make that 1969 season? One.
Not to worry, Singer did just fine that year. Bill Singer made the All-Star team in 1969. He made 40 starts and had a record of 20-12 with an ERA of 2.34 in 315.2 innings pitched. He walked 74 and struck out 247.
In 1975, while pitching for the Angels, Singer earned the only other save of his career.
A Closer’s Thought
Commissioner Bud Selig said after Jerome Holtzman’s death. “He created the save statistic which in turn increased the importance of the relief pitcher. He was a giant in his industry.”
There are many relievers who became very wealthy and if they save their money, they should be thanking Jerome Holtzman.