Our historical venture into the annals of Springfield College athletic lore has brought the lives and careers of star athletes and coaches, and those of founders and innovators of sport into the spotlight.
We have seen many athletes who made their legacy while passing, running, and jumping their way to glory on Alden Street, and this week we look at an athlete whose biggest successes came after he threw his final pitch for the Pride.
Wayne Granger pitched for Archie Allen’s SC baseball team in 1964. Despite underwhelming size, the St. Louis Cardinals still believed that Granger could be an effective Major League pitcher and signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1965.
He was assigned to their Carolina League affiliate and quickly established himself as a reliable pitcher for them.
The Springfield native spent the next couple of seasons working his way toward the big leagues, finally arriving on June 5, 1968 just three months after turning 22. He worked one inning and struck out two batters that day against the Houston Astros, all without allowing a baserunner.
He spent the rest of the season proving he deserved to be with the Cardinals, pitching 44 very effective innings. He finished the season with an ERA of just 2.25 and earned four wins and four saves for St. Louis.
The Cardinals finished the season with 97-65 record, the best in the National League, and the Cardinals won the NL pennant that October.
The team’s run at success ended in Game Seven of the World Series when they lost to the Tigers.
Granger was one of the best pitchers on the roster that season, and only Hall of Famer Bob Gibson and the team’s closer, Joe Hoerner, posted better ERAs that season. Granger’s mark was even better than eventual hall of famer Steve Carlton.
Wayne Granger continued to thrive at baseball’s highest level the next season, but before the 1969 season began, the Cardinals traded him to the Cincinatti Reds.
The change of scenery didn’t change his effectiveness, as Granger appeared in 90 games for the Reds, something only three pitchers have ever done in the history of Major League Baseball.
In addition to pitching often, he was also very successful. He worked 144 innings, saved 27 games, and posted an ERA of 2.80. His work on the mound saw him finish 15th in NL MVP voting that season, and it allowed him to garner the first ever Sporting News Fireman of the Year award.
A year later, Granger continued to rank as one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball, putting together a third consecutive successful campaign. He recorded 35 saves for the Reds, which at the time, established a Major League record.
He again posted a stellar ERA-this time at 2.66, and finished eighth in Cy Young voting. He also collected his straight Fireman of the Year from the Sporting News, once again naming him the top reliever in baseball.
Granger once again was a part of a team that won the NL pennant and found his way back to the World Series.
Despite losing to the Baltimore Orioles, Granger was part of a very important Cincinatti Reds team that year. That team laid the groundwork for the organization’s success to be had for the rest of the decade.
The team’s prowess in the 70s earned them the nickname "The Big Red Machine".
Granger continued to be an effective big leaguer, though his star wasn’t quite as bright after that season.
He spent one more year with the Reds before taking his game to Minnesota.
Before his career he ended in 1976 Granger had made a return trip to St. Louis and also pitched for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, and the Montreal Expos.
He finished his career 35 wins and over 100 career saves. His ERA was just 3.16 in a time when the league average was 3.55. He was also inducted into the Cincinatti Reds Hall of Fame in 1982.
Granger went on to great things in the game of baseball after taking his Springfield baseball jersey off for the last time.
He became one of the most elite pitchers in baseball, and having an MLB team recognize that certainly means Granger and his legacy should be discussed any time great SC athletes and innovators are being talked about.