Portland should be on the short list for an MLB franchise during the next MLB expansion. Until then, Oregon will continue with Minor League and Independent League Baseball. The Beaver State is no stranger to baseball despite not having an MLB team. Oregon has sent 137 players to the Majors. The greatest pitcher born in the Beaver State is Mickey Lolich. His 48.01 career WAR ranks as the 31st highest among state and territory pitching leaders. The greatest position player born in Oregon is Dale Murphy. His 46.54 career WAR is the 39th highest among state and territory position player leaders. The Beaver State has a combined 94.55 WAR, ranking Oregon 36th highest among all states and territories in the United States of Baseball.
Mickey Lolich might not have made the Major Leagues if not for a childhood accident. An injury to his right arm, caused Lolich to begin pitching Southpaw. The Portland native signed with the Detroit Tigers for $30,000 out of high school. The unnatural Lefty pitched for 16 seasons with three teams: Detroit Tigers (1963-1975), New York Mets (1976), and San Diego Padres (1978-1979). Sticking in the Majors in 1964, Lolich laid the foundation for his career by pitching a 30 ⅔ scoreless innings streak. It was a sign of things to come. Lolich pitched in 586 career Games, made 496 Starts, Finished 40 Games, threw 195 Complete Games, including 41 Shutouts, in 3,638.1 Innings Pitched, allowed 3,366 Hits, 1,537 Runs, 1,390 Earned Runs, 347 Home Runs, 2,832 Strikeouts, 1,099 Walks, posted a 217-191 record, 3.44 ERA, 1.227 WHIP, and 104 ERA+. His numbers could have been even better had Lolich not retired following the 1977 season rather than pitching another season for the Mets. He returned a year later with the Padres.
Lolich was a disciple of pitching coach Johnny Sain. Sain transformed numerous pitchers from good to great during his long coaching career. He worked magic as Lolich won an American League strikeout title and finished second four times. Lolich held the American League strikeout record with 2,679 until 2007. Unlike the strikeout artists of today, Lolich was also an innings eater, throwing Complete Games in 40% of his Starts.
Lolich was named to three All Star teams. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years from 1985 to 1999, peaking with 25.5% of the vote in 1988. Lolich also appeared on the Veterans Committee Ballot three times, but failed to receive the necessary votes for induction.
The best season of Mickey Lolich’s career came with the 1971 Detroit Tigers. He made 45 Starts, threw 29 Complete Games, including 4 Shutouts, in 376 Innings Pitched, he allowed 336 Hits, 133 Runs, 122 Earned Runs, 36 Home Runs, 308 Strikeouts, 92 Walks, posted a 25-14 record, 2.92 ERA, 1.138 WHIP, and 124 ERA+. Lolich led the American League in Wins, Starts, Complete Games, Innings Pitched, Hits allowed, Strikeouts, and Batters Faced. He was an All Star and finished second to Vida Blue for the Cy Young Award and fifth for the American League MVP award.
The Fall Classic allowed Lolich to shine. He pitched in two World Series, making 5 Starts, throwing 3 Complete Games, in 46 Innings Pitched, allowing 34 Hits, 9 Runs, 8 Earned Runs, 3 Home Runs, 31 Strikeouts, 11 Walks, posted a 3-1 record, 1.57 ERA, and 0.978 WHIP. Lolich shined brightest in the 1968 Fall Classic, outdueling Bob Gibson and the Cardinals. He made 3 Starts, threw 3 Complete Games, in 27 Innings Pitched, allowed 20 Hits, 5 Runs, 5 Earned Runs, 2 Home Runs, 21 Strikeouts, 6 Walks, posted a 3-0 record, 1.67 ERA, and 0.963 WHIP. He also hit a Home Run in Detroit’s Game 2 victory. Lolich became the 12th pitcher with three victories in the same World Series. He remains the most recent pitcher to win three Complete Games in the same World Series. The Tigers won the 1968 World Series with Lolich winning the World Series MVP.
Dale Murphy is a superstar and a quiet family man. The Portland native was selected fifth overall in the 1974 MLB Draft by the Braves who convinced him to sign instead of attending Arizona State University. The highly touted Murphy began his professional career as a Catcher. However, throwing problems soon necessitated a move to First Base and eventually the Outfield. Murphy shined in the Outfield, becoming one of the best players in baseball. He played 18 Major League seasons with three teams: Atlanta Braves (1976-1990), Philadelphia Phillies (1990-1992), and Colorado Rockies (1993). In 2,180 career Games, Murphy scored 1,197 Runs, collected 2,111 Hits, including 350 Doubles, 39 Triples, 398 Home Runs, with 1,266 RBI, 161 Stolen Bases, drew 986 Walks, 1,748 Strikeouts, while posting a .265 BA, .346 OBP, .469 SLG, .815 OPS, and 121 OPS+.
The confidence the Braves had in Murphy coming out of high school was well placed. He became a seven time All Star, won five Gold Gloves, and four Silver Sluggers. Murphy won back to back National League MVPs in 1982 and 1983. He is the youngest player to win back to back MVPs. Murphy remains the only Braves player to win multiple MVPs. He was traded to the Phillies in 1990. Murphy missed out on the 1991 and 1992 Braves Pennants and the Phillies 1993 Pennant after moving on to Colorado. Ultimately Murphy is best remembered in Atlanta where he was the fifth Braves player to have his number retired after Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Henry Aaron, and Phil Niekro. He is often heralded as the best player not in Cooperstown. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot from 1999 to 2013, peaking at 23.2% in 2000. Perhaps he will get in some day.
The best season of Murphy’s career came with the 1983 Braves. He played in 162 Games, scored 131 Runs, collected 178 Hits, including 24 Doubles, 4 Triples, 36 Home Runs, 121 RBI, 30 Stolen Bases, drew 90 Walks, 110 Strikeouts, posting a .302 BA, .393 OBP, .540 SLG, .933 OPS, and 149 OPS+. He led the National League in Games Played, RBI, SLG, and OPS. Murphy was named to his third All Star team, won his second consecutive Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and MVP awards. He was unstoppable.
The Postseason was elusive, as Murphy played on bad Braves teams. His lone October appearance was the 1982 NLCS, as the Cardinals swept the Braves. Murphy played in all 3 Games, scored 1 Run, collected 3 Hits, with 1 Stolen Base, 2 Strikeouts, posting a .273 BA, .273 OBP, .273 SLG, and .545 OPS. Murphy was a great player on a bad team, like so many in baseball.
Dale Murphy could be Oregon’s first Hall of Famer. Hopefully a future Veterans Committee elects him. In the meantime, Cooperstown continues to wait for its first member from the Beaver State. Next week the United States of Baseball heads across the country to the Keystone State. Pennsylvania is next.