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Big game-pitching Tiant thrived on the stage

Flamboyant right-hander won 229 games and posted a 3.30 ERA in 19 seasons 

February 21, 2007 | Ian Browne

COOPERSTOWN, NY:   Before the Red Sox had Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling, they had another money pitcher who always seemed to come through when the pressure was at its most intense point. Luis Tiant -- the pride of Cuba � was Boston�s ace for most of the 1970s.

Luis Tiant

Right-hander Luis Tiant won 20 games three times for the Red Sox, and once for Cleveland. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

He performed similar heroics for the Cleveland Indians. With a herky jerky delivery that made him overwhelmingly deceptive, Tiant baffled opposing hitters during his career.

Thus far, it has not been enough for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Tiant stayed on the Baseball Writers Association of American�s ballot for the maximum of 15 years (1988-2002). He is now making his second attempt at being voted in by the Veterans Committee. Tiant received 25 percent of the votes two years ago. An electee must get 75 percent of the votes.

Results of the 2007 Veterans Committee election will be announced on February 27, and the Induction Ceremony will take place on July 29 in Cooperstown.

"Luis is definitely a Hall of Famer," said former Sox right fielder Dwight Evans. "His numbers support it. When that bullpen door unlatched, [Fenway Park] would go crazy. It was the same way every time, the same way they do it for Schilling now. You talk about pitch counts. I remember in the World Series in '75 (Game Four), he threw 172 pitches. He had a big heart."

Tiant split his 19-year career between the Indians (1964-1969), Twins ('70), Red Sox ('71-78), Yankees ('79-80), Pirates ('81) and Angels ('82), going 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA. He was a 20-game winner four times and posted a ridiculous 1.62 ERA in 1968, which was, to be fair, a season in which offensive stats were down throughout baseball.

"All of the fans who watched me and players who played with me, they all know," said Tiant, who is an instructor in the Red Sox organization. "I don't have to tell you anything else. That's the way it was. Everybody who saw me pitch knows what I did. Everyone who talks to me says, 'Why aren't you in the Hall of Fame?'"

By comparison, Hall of Fame righty Catfish Hunter -- who won five World Series rings and was fortunate enough to play on more good teams than Tiant -- went 224-166 with a 3.26 ERA while pitching slightly less innings (3449 1/3) than Tiant (3486 1/3). Hall of Fame right-hander Jim Bunning? He went 224-184 with a 3.27 ERA.

"Not too many people have [entered the Hall]," said Tiant. "Those are the best players in the world there. That's as big an honor as any player could have. I'm not going to lose a day of sleep. I'm proud of what I do. I did what I never thought I would do in my life. If they pick me, fine; if not, fine. The game gave me a lot, more than I ever expected. I'm still making money from baseball; I still work in baseball. I'm proud the way I did it because it took a lot of sacrifice."

He also takes pride in how much the savvy baseball fans of Boston appreciated his work.

"Boston is my town, my second country," said Tiant. "People there have been nice to me. People respect me, show me love. They show appreciation for what I did."

Ian Browne is a reporter for

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