For other uses, see Myron (disambiguation).

Myron Walter Drabowsky (July 21, 1935 – June 10, 2006) was a Major League Baseball (MLB) right-handed relief pitcher. He is one of only four players who played for both the Kansas City Athletics and Kansas City Royals.

Early life

Moe was born Miroslav Drabowski in Ozanna, a village in southern Poland. His Jewish mother was an American citizen,[1][2] and the two fled to the U.S. in 1938 when Adolf Hitler began mobilizing in Eastern Europe. His father joined them a year later,[3] and the family settled in Wilson, Connecticut, just north of Hartford.

Drabowsky went to the Loomis Chaffee School in nearby Windsor, and later attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, playing on their varsity baseball team. He played summers in Canada, in the Halifax and District League, for Truro. He pitched a no-hitter for Trinity in which he struck out 16, and shortly thereafter accepted a $75,000 ($653,000 today) bonus to sign with the Cubs.[4]

Baseball career

Drabowsky was scouted for the Chicago Cubs by former Cubs shortstop Lenny Merullo in 1956. He joined the Cubs' starting rotation in 1957 and posted a 13–15 record. His 170 strikeouts placed him second in the National League behind another rookie, Jack Sanford of the Philadelphia Phillies, who had 188. A sore arm cost Drabowsky his fastball in 1958, and over the next seven seasons he pitched for four different teams before the Orioles selected him from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft on November 29, 1965.[5]

Now pitching out of the bullpen, Drabowsky won six with no losses and seven saves, and struck out 96 in 98 innings pitched. In the opening game of the 1966 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Drabowsky entered the game in the third inning with one out and the bases loaded. After striking out the first batter, he walked Jim Gilliam to force in Lou Johnson for a run to cut Baltimore's lead to 4–2. That would be the last run the Dodgers scored in the entire series, however, as the Orioles would sweep the Dodgers 4–0, their next three wins coming on shutouts from Jim Palmer, Wally Bunker and the starter Drabowsky had relieved in Game 1, Dave McNally. He set a still-standing one-game World Series record for relievers by striking out 11 batters, including tying Hod Eller's 47-year record of six consecutive strikeouts in the 1919 World Series.

Over the next two seasons, Drabowsky continued to perform excellently in relief. In 1967, he posted a 1.60 earned run average striking out 96 in 9523 innings pitched, and in 1968 he posted a 1.91 ERA. After the 1968 season, he was selected by the Royals in the expansion draft; he led all relief pitchers in 1969 with 11 victories (including the first-ever game in Royals history, on April 8 against the Minnesota Twins) and also saved 11 games. Drabowsky returned to the Orioles in 1970 where he won a second World Series title against the Cincinnati Reds.

Drabowsky was traded to St. Louis after the 1970 season and pitched for both the Cardinals through the middle of the 1971 season. Then he finished his major league career with the Chicago White Sox in 1972.

Even though he was signed as a Bonus Baby, Drabowsky spent parts of four seasons in the minors in the early 1960s where he won 27 games and lost 9.

One particularly memorable at-bat against Drabowsky came on May 6, 1964 in Chicago, where outfielder Dave Nicholson of the White Sox hit a home run off him that either bounced atop Comiskey Park's left-field roof or completely cleared it. Considered one of the longest home runs in Major League history, the distance remained in dispute over the years, but was officially measured at 573 feet.

In 17 seasons Drabowsky won 88 games, lost 105, saved 55, struck out 1,162 and walked 702 in 1,641 innings pitched with a 3.71 ERA.

Drabowsky served as a Chicago White Sox coach in 1986. In 1987, he returned to Poland as a baseball ambassador and helped his birth nation form its first team for Olympic competition. In 1989 he was the pitching coach of the Vancouver PCL team.[6] He later became a coach again with the 1994 Cubs.

Drabowsky was well known as a flake whose jokes involved, among other things, being rolled to first base in a wheelchair after claiming to be hit on the foot by a pitch while with the Cubs. (Teammate Dick Drott obtained the wheelchair and pushed Drabowsky to first—and was ejected from the game.[7]) One of his specialties was the Hot foot; he even victimized Commissioner Bowie Kuhn during the Orioles' 1970 World Series celebration. After retiring, he once called the bullpen phone and imitated Oriole manager Earl Weaver to get a reliever working. Weaver was shocked to see a reliever warming up in the pen and called his bullpen coach to find out what was going on. In the Jim Bouton book "Ball Four", one of Drabowsky's teammates claimed that Drabowsky got sick on a team flight and "puked up a panty girdle."

In Chicago columnist Mike Royko's annual Cubs quiz, April 11, 1968 (One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko, University of Chicago, 1999, p. 29–31), he stated that Drabowsky "is still considered the best pitcher that Ozanna, Poland, ever produced." Drabowsky was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.[8]

While with the Cubs, Drabowsky gave up Stan Musial's 3,000th career base hit in 1958. He was also the losing pitcher, as a Kansas City Athletic in 1963, in Early Wynn's 300th career victory.

Personal life

In 1957 Drabowsky met his wife, Elisabeth Johns, a flight attendant for United Airlines, while traveling with his teammates. They were married in 1958 and welcomed three daughters into the world. Deborah Lynn (1959), Myra Beth (1965) and Laura Anne (1972). Elisabeth was always the one true love of his life, and though they had gone separate ways, they were each other's soul mates and had reconnected before he died in 2006.

Drabowsky died in Little Rock, Arkansas following a long battle with multiple myeloma at age 70 on June 10, 2006.[9]