All-time great Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe dies at 92

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. The Dodgers announced his death at 92 on their Twitter account.

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 have win the Cy Young, the MVP, and the Rookie of the Year award in his career. Newcombe is still the only player to have won all of those awards plus a World Series ring.

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Don Newcombe's baseball career
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Don Newcombe's baseball career
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 1949, file photo, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe, second from left, holds up Dodgers manager Burt Shotton in the Dogers dressing room after they won the National League pennant against the Philadelphia Phillies, in Philadelphia, October 2, 1949. Other players are unidentified. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - This is an undated file photo showing Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe. Newcombe, the hard-throwing Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who was one of the first black players in the major leagues and who went on to win the rookie of the year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, has died. He was 92. The team confirmed that Newcombe died Tuesday morning, Feb. 19, 2019, after a lengthy illness. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this Sept. 19, 1956, file photo, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe throws against the St. Louis Cardinals at Ebbets Field in New York. Newcombe, the hard-throwing Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who was one of the first black players in the major leagues and who went on to win the rookie of the year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, has died. He was 92. The team confirmed that Newcombe died Tuesday morning, Feb. 19, 2019, after a lengthy illness.(AP Photo/File)
The Brooklyn Dodgers pose for a team photo at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, Sept. 18, 1956. Front, on ground: Charles Di Giovanna. Seated, first row, from left: Sandy Amoros, Joe Becker, Billy Herman, Jake Pitler, Walt Alston, Pee Wee Reese, Clem Labine, Carl Erskine, Dixie Howell, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo. Second row: Lee Scott, Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Chico Fernandez, Charles Neal, Gino Cimoli, Ken Lehman, Randy Jackson, Jackie Robinson, Dale Mitchell, Harold Wendler. Last row: John Griffin, Al Walker, Ed Roebuck, Don Drysdale, Roger Craig, Don Newcombe, Jim Gilliam, Sal Maglie, Don Bessent, Roy Campanella. (AP Photo)
FILE - This is a March 1956 file photo showing Brooklyn Dodgers' Don Newcombe. Newcombe, the hard-throwing Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who was one of the first black players in the major leagues and who went on to win the rookie of the year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, has died. He was 92. The team confirmed that Newcombe died Tuesday morning, Feb. 19, 2019, after a lengthy illness. (AP Photo)
Brooklyn Dodgers relief pitcher Don Bessent jumps for joy right into the arms of catcher Roy Campanella immediately after finish of the final game of the season with Pittsburgh at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York, Sept. 30, 1956. Brooklyn's victory gave the Dodgers their fourth National League pennant in five years. Don came into the game in relief of starter Don Newcombe, who was credited with his 27th victory of the season as the Dodgers beat the Pirates, 8-6. (AP Photo/Harry Harris)
Brooklyn Dodgers center fielder Duke Snider, left, and pitcher Don Newcombe put on hats filled with beer as they celebrate in the dressing room after their World Series victory over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York City on Oct. 4, 1955. (AP Photo)
FILE - This is a Feb. 28, 1951, file photo showing Brooklyn Dodgers baseball player Donald Newcombe in Vero Beach, Fla. Newcombe, the hard-throwing Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who was one of the first black players in the major leagues and who went on to win the rookie of the year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, has died. He was 92. The team confirmed that Newcombe died Tuesday morning, Feb. 19, 2019, after a lengthy illness. (AP Photo/Harry Harris, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 2, 1949, file photo, Brooklyn Dodgers Dodger catcher Roy Campanella, left, congratulates pitcher Don Newcombe after an 8-0 win against the New York Giants, at the Polo Grounds in New York. Newcombe, the hard-throwing Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who was one of the first black players in the major leagues and who went on to win the rookie of the year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, has died. He was 92. The team confirmed that Newcombe died Tuesday morning, Feb. 19, 2019, after a lengthy illness.(AP Photo/Matty Zimmern, File)
Don Newcombe, Dodger's Ace righthander in pose before game with Phils at Shibe Park, August 9, 1949. (AP Photo)
Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe is shown in New York, June 6, 1949. (AP Photo/Harry Harris)
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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, but 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 Alcoholic 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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