Don Newcombe, the Cy Young-winning pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Cincinnati Reds, died at his home in New Jersey on Tuesday. He was 92.
The Dodgers announced his death via Twitter.
Don Newcombe, one of the greatest pitchers in Dodger history, and one of the franchise’s final links to Brooklyn and the days of Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson, has passed away after a lengthy illness this morning. Newcombe, who was born in Madison, New Jersey, was 92. pic.twitter.com/thW3mw4jkS
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) February 19, 2019
Newcombe spent ten seasons in the majors, which spanned 12 years. Newcombe made his debut in 1949, and was just the third African-American pitcher to ever appear in an MLB game (behind Dan Bankhead and Satchel Paige), and was the first to start a World Series game that same year. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1949, and pitched for the Dodgers for three seasons before spending two years out of baseball and in the military.
The best year of Newcombe’s career was 1956. He started 36 games and won 27 of them. He had a 3.06 ERA and a 0.989 WHIP, and he took home both the Most Valuable Player award and the brand new National League Cy Young award. Justin Verlander is the only other player besides Newcombe to win the Cy Young, the MVP and the Rookie of the Year award in his career.
Newcombe’s career was cut short by alcoholism. He hid it from his teammates and coaches for years, telling the Washington Post in 1977 that while he never pitched drunk, he would sometimes pitch with major hangovers. He was a functioning alcoholic, but once his career ended in 1960 his drinking became a serious problem. He bought a liquor store in 1956, and he and it were both bankrupt by 1965 as Newcombe pawned jewelry to pay for his drinking habit.
Newcombe quit drinking cold turkey not long after that. He told the Post that he woke up on the floor one morning in 1966 and looked up to see his wife and three children standing in the doorway holding suitcases.
“I took a vow on the head of my son, Don, to my wife and God that I would never drink again if they would stay.”
Newcombe kept his word, and became a staunch advocate in the fight against alcoholism. In 1980 he created the Dodger Drug and Alcohol Awareness Program, and would go on to serve as a consultant for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the director for special projects for the New Beginning Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program.
Newcombe is survived by his wife, three children, two grandchildren and a stepson.
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