Five of the greatest pitchers in baseball history will be honored this fall by the Negro League Baseball Museum when Dwight Gooden, Vida Blue, Al Downing, Mike Norris and Dontrelle Willis are inducted into the Museum’s “Hall of Game” on September 9th in Kansas City.
The pitchers are part of the “Black Aces,” a term coined by former MLB pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant. It describes the 15 Black pitchers that have won 20 or more games in an MLB season. Grant, a 2x All-Star who spent 14 years in the majors, was the first to join that club in 1965 as a member of the Minnesota Twins. That year he went 21-7 with an ERA of 3.30 and 142 strikeouts.
Gooden, who spent 16 years in the majors, became a 20-game winner in his second year in the league in 1985 at the age of 20. That year he went 24-4 with the New York Mets and had a ridiculous ERA of 1.53. He also was an All-Star and won the NL Cy Young Award.
Vida Blue, who passed away this past May, accomplished the feat three times in his 17-year career- 1971 (24-8), 1973 (20-9) and 1975 (22-11).
Al Downing, who played in the league for 17 years, won 20 games in 1971 when he was a member of the LA Dodgers. That year Downing went 20-9 with an ERA of 2.68 and 136 strikeouts.
Mike Norris, a 10-year MLB veteran, joined the club in 1980 as a member of the Oakland A’s. That year Norris went 22-9 with an ERA of 2.53 and an incredible 180 strikeouts.
In his third year in the league in 2005, Dontrelle Willis went 22-10 with the Florida Marlins and had an ERA of 2.63 and 170 strikeouts.
The other 10 Black Aces are Bob Gibson (5x 20+ game-winner), Ferguson Jenkins (7x), Sam Jones, Don Newcombe (3x), J.R. Richard, Dave Stewart (4x), Earl Wilson, David Price and C.C. Sabathia.
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