Relief pitching in the 1950s was much different than the relief pitching of today.
It was still the general ideology of managers that the good arms were in the starting rotation and the duds were in the bullpen.
In a way it was true. However, the relief pitchers on this list broke that rule, they could flat out pitch.
Having said that, there weren’t many career relief pitchers in this decade and many of them had seasons where they were a starting pitcher and even had spot starts during their relief seasons.
In fact, every relief pitcher on this list, except three, started 20-40 percent of their career games.
Compare that to the top 10 list relief pitchers I wrote on the 2000s; in the 2000s every relief pitcher in that top 10 started 0-10 percent of their career games.
Relief pitching was generally not like today in that facet.
There were 34 relief pitchers from the 1950s.
If a player does not appear on this list of 34, then they either didn't reach 250 games or I consider them a relief pitcher from the 1940s or the 1960s.
The 1960s will be covered in a separate article and I just wrote an article on 1940s relief pitchers.
Relief pitchers will only be in one decade. For example, Gerry Staley will appear in this article. So, he will not appear in my 1960s article, which I will write later, and he did not appear in my 1940s article.
An Explanation of the Stats
The statistics that I include will be Games Pitched, Games Started, Innings Pitched, ERA, ERA+, WHIP (OOB percent), H/9 (OBA), SV, SV/50 (per 50 Games Relieved) and K/BB (ratio). I will also letter grade their length of career.
First , I will include their raw career numbers first. These are simply their career numbers.
Second , I will include their adjusted career numbers, if they had a long career (which most didn’t.)
Adjusted career is this: Let's take Johnny Klippstein, for example. Klippstein had a long career. In order to find his real numbers, I have to exclude some late seasons during his career to find the numbers that he really carried during his career.
With Klippstein, I'd exclude his last season, that is his adjusted career. Again, this can only be done with long career players. If I don't list an adjusted career under a player's raw career numbers, then it means they didn't played long enough to adjust for their long career or it means they didn't have any bad seasons late in their career.
Third , I will include peak career numbers. Many like short peaks, not me. I include the best seasons equaling at least 250 games for a peak. It takes away the possibility of a pitcher having one or two lucky seasons. The 250-game peak will tell us how good the pitcher was at his best.
The 34 Relief Pitchers
Here are the 34 Relief Pitchers from the 1950s that reached at least 250 games (listed in alphabetical order): Jim Brosnan, Tex Clevenger, Ike DeLock, Harry Dorish, Ryne Duren, Don Elston, Mike Fornieles, Art Fowler, Tom Gorman, Bob Grim, Marv Grissom, Billy Hoeft, Ernie Johnson, Russ Kemmerer, Ellis Kinder, Johnny Klippstein, Jim Konstanty, Clem Labine, Paul LaPalme, Brooks Lawrence, Billy Loes, Turk Lown, Morrie Martin, Bob Miller, Ray Moore, Tom Morgan, Don Mossi, Ray Narleski, Steve Ridzik, Bobby Shantz, Frank Smith, Gerry Staley, Tom Sturdivant and George Zuverink
The Top 10
10. Tom Sturdivant (1955-1964)
Career Length Grade: C-
Raw Career: 335 G, 101 GS, 1,137 IP, 3.74 ERA, 102 ERA+, 1.30 WHIP, 8.1 H/9, 17 SV, 3.6 SV/50 and 1.6 K/BB
Peak Career: 276 G, 98 GS, 1,003.1 IP, 3.53 ERA, 108 ERA+, 1.28 WHIP, 7.9 H/9, 15 SV, 4.2 SV/50 and 1.6 K/BB (exclude his 1960 and 1964 seasons)
He was generally a knuckleball and fastball pitcher. It worked for him. He pitched well during his entire career, but he was magical during each of his first three seasons.
Unfortunately, he suffered from arm injuries during his fourth season and he was never the same.
Don’t get me wrong, he was still good, but he was absolutely great during his first three seasons before the injury.
Let me tell you about his first three seasons.
During his first season in 1955, he was a relief pitcher. He pitched over 30 G, 1 GS and almost 70 IP. He posted a 119 ERA+ and 6.3 H/9. A great way to start a career and a heck of a relief season.
During his second season in 1956, he was a starting pitcher. He led the League with 2.1 K/BB that season. He pitched over 30 G, almost 20 GS and 160 IP. He recorded a .667 W percent, 117 ERA+ and 1.18 WHIP. Great numbers for a starting pitcher.
During his third season in 1957, he was again a starting pitcher. He led the League with a .727 W percent that season. He started in almost 30 G and over 200 IP. He posted a 2.54 ERA and 141 ERA+.
As you can see, those are three great seasons to start his career.
So, during his first two seasons as a starting pitcher combined, the second and third season of his career, he pitched in 60 G, 45 GS and 360 IP. He combined those two seasons as a starting pitcher to record over a .695 W percent, 30 W, 2.88 ERA and 129 ERA+.
He was arguably on his way to a great career. Again, he suffered from arm injuries during his fourth season and still had a good career, but not likely as good as it would have been.
By the time his career was through he pitched 10 seasons. He was basically a relief pitcher for six seasons and a starting pitcher for four seasons.
He had a nice career, especially his first three or four seasons before his injury.
There are certainly some pitchers on the HM list that have arguments to take this 10th and final spot from Sturdivant. But the serious contenders for this spot are guys like Marv Grissom, Frank Smith and Ray Narleski.
Each of those three were higher caliber pitchers than Sturdivant, but the three of them had extremely short careers; and while they were slightly higher caliber pitchers, their career lengths are a failure.
Sturdivant didn’t really have a long career either, but it was slightly below average in length, not a failure like those three. This is part of the reason that Sturdivant gets this 10th and final spot.
9. Tom Morgan (1951-1963)
Career Length Grade: C-
Raw Career: 443 G, 61 GS, 1,023.1 IP, 3.61 ERA, 106 ERA+, 1.31 WHIP, 9.1 H/9, 64 SV, 8.4 SV/50 and 1.2 K/BB
Peak Career: 261 G, 47 GS, 646.1 IP, 3.16 ERA, 120 ERA+, 1.23 WHIP, 8.7 H/9, 35 SV, 8.1 SV/50 and 1.4 K/BB (exclude his 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1963 seasons)
He was basically a relief pitcher during each of his last nine seasons and he was a starting pitcher during each of his first three seasons.
He was actually an extremely good starting pitcher to start his career. Again, he was basically a starting pitcher during each of his first three seasons and he combined those three seasons by pitching in 75 G, 45 GS and over 360 IP. He combined those first three seasons to post over a .675 W percent and losing just over 10 G in those first three seasons as a starter combined.
Obviously, he was an extremely good starter.
He certainly had a couple of great seasons as a relief pitcher, too. Take his 1961 season, for example.
He pitched in almost 60 games of relief and over 90 IP. By the time that 1961 season was through, he recorded a 2.36 ERA, 191 ERA+, 0.99 WHIP and 7.3 H/9. What a season.
Obviously, this guy could pitch well from the bullpen or the starting rotation.
8. Billy Hoeft (1952-1966)
Career Length Grade: B+
Raw Career: 505 G, 200 GS, 1,847.1 IP, 3.94 ERA, 98 ERA+, 1.36 WHIP, 8.9 H/9, 33 SV, 5.4 SV/50 and 1.7 K/BB
Peak Career: 280 G, 136 GS, 1,205.2 IP, 3.50 ERA, 112 ERA+, 1.33 WHIP, 8.5 H/9, 16 SV, 5.5 SV/50 and 1.7 K/BB (exclude his 1953, 1954, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1966 seasons)
He started his Major League Baseball career as a teenager during the 1952 season and he ended up having a nice long 15 season career.
Basically, he was a relief pitcher for nine seasons, his first season and his last eight seasons and he was a starting pitcher for six consecutive seasons from 1953-1958.
He had three or four great seasons as a starting pitcher.
Take his 1954 season as a starter, for example. He pitched in almost 35 G, 25 GS and 175 IP, while leading the League with 1.9 K/BB.
His 1955 season as a starter; he pitched over 30 G, all but three as a starter and 220 IP. He recorded over a .695 W percent, 130 ERA+, 1.19 WHIP and led the League with 7 SHO.
His 1957 season as a starter; he pitched in almost 40 G, 35 GS and 250 IP. He posted almost a .590 W% and 20 wins.
Obviously, those are three fabulous seasons as a starter; three of the four seasons from 1954-1957.
He also had two or three great seasons as a relief pitcher, too.
Arguably his best season as a relief pitcher was his 1961 season. During that 1961 season, he pitched 35 G, over 10 GS and almost 140 IP. He recorded a 2.02 ERA, 191 ERA+, 1.17 WHIP and 6.9 H/9.
He’s another guy, he could pitch from the bullpen or the starting rotation.
7. Jim Konstanty (1944-1956)
Career Length Grade: D+
Raw Career: 433 G, 36 GS, 945.2 IP, 3.46 ERA, 112 ERA+, 1.30 WHIP, 9.1 H/9, 74 SV, 9.4 SV/50 and 1.0 K/BB
Peak Career: 298 G, 14 GS, 629.1 IP, 3.00 ERA, 128 ERA+, 1.24 WHIP, 8.5 H/9, 56 SV, 9.8 SV/50 and 1.0 K/BB (exclude his 1946, 1952, 1953 and 1956 seasons)
He was a starting pitcher during his first season and he was a relief pitcher during each of his last 10 seasons.
You didn’t see that much back then, but Konstanty was basically a career relief pitcher.
As I said, he was a starting pitcher during his first season and it was the only season during his career that he was a starting pitcher.
He actually pitched great during his only season as a starter. He pitched in 20 G, over 10 GS and 110 IP. He posted a .600 W percent, 2.80 ERA and 125 ERA+.
Arguably his best season as a relief pitcher was his magical 1950 season.
During that 1950 season, he led the League with 74 games pitched, which was a Major League record at the time, and over 150 IP. He recorded a 2.66 ERA, 152 ERA+, 1.04 WHIP, 6.4 H/9 and led the League with 22 SV.
What a magical season. He made the All-Star team that season and picked up the League MVP award.
He also helped lead his team to the 1950 World Series.
They lost the World Series, but it wasn’t his fault. He pitched great. He pitched so well during that 1950 season that they decided to have him start during game one of the World Series, even though he hadn’t started a single game during the regular season.
During that game one start, he went eight innings and had a four hit single run game going when he was pulled.
Unfortunately, he got the loss, as his team was shutout. He pitched two games in relief in the World Series, also.
So he combined that World Series for 3 G, 1 GS and 15 IP. He posted a combined 2.40 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 5.4 H/9. Great World Series numbers.
There are some great stories about Konstanty and his magical 1950 season is certainly one of them.
What a pitcher.
6. Clem Labine (1950-1962)
Career Length Grade: C+
Raw Career: 513 G, 38 GS, 1,079.2 IP, 3.63 ERA, 112 ERA+, 1.33 WHIP, 8.7 H/9, 96 SV, 10.1 SV/50 and 1.4 K/BB
Adjusted Career: 510 G, 38 GS, 1,075.2 IP, 3.60 ERA, 113 ERA+, 1.33 WHIP, 8.7 H/9, 96 SV, 10.2 SV/50 and 1.4 K/BB (exclude his last season)
Peak Career: 273 G, 24 GS, 607 IP, 3.14 ERA, 130 ERA+, 1.25 WHIP, 8.2 H/9, 60 SV, 12.0 SV/50 and 1.7 K/BB (include his 1951, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1960 seasons)
He was basically a relief pitcher during every season of his career. He’s the only relief pitcher on this list that can be said about. He was a true career relief pitcher, like most relief pitchers today.
Sure, he had some spot starts here and there throughout his career, but year in and year out, he was a relief pitcher.
And man, was he good.
He had an arsenal of pitches that included a sinkerball, fastball and curveball. His sinkerball was, more or less, a split fingered fastball and his curveball was a slow curve.
Some argue that his slow curve was the best curveball by any pitcher of the decade, starter or reliever.
His pitch arsenal worked for him and he led the League in SV during consecutive seasons in 1956 and 1957.
He was a consistent relief pitcher and seemed to be good, year after year. But the best season of his career was arguably his 1953 season.
During that season, he pitched in almost 40 G, 10 GS and over 110 IP. He posted a 2.77 ERA, 155 ERA+ and 1.11 WHIP.
What a season, what a career.
He’s really the first career relief pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball, and man was he good.
5. Johnny Klippstein (1950-1967)
Career Length Grade: A
Raw Career: 711 G, 161 GS, 1,967.2 IP, 4.24 ERA, 94 ERA+, 1.47 WHIP, 8.8 H/9, 66 SV, 6.0 SV/50 and 1.2 K/BB
Adjusted Career: 706 G, 161 GS, 1,961 IP, 4.24 ERA, 94 ERA+, 1.47 WHIP, 8.8 H/9, 66 SV, 6.1 SV/50 and 1.2 K/BB (exclude his last season)
Peak Career: 263 G, 15 GS, 508.1 IP, 2.73 ERA, 136 ERA+, 1.25 WHIP, 7.3 H/9, 33 SV, 6.6 SV/50 and 1.5 K/BB (include his 1955, 1960, 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966 seasons)
There were two Johnny Klippstein’s.
The Johnny Klippstein during the first half of his career, which was OK, but really not that great; and the Johnny Klippstein during the second half of his career, which was dominant, and among the best relief pitchers in the League.
During his nice long 18 season Major League Baseball career, he was basically a relief pitcher for 15 seasons and he was a starting pitcher for three seasons.
Like many relief pitchers of the decade, he had plenty of spot starts during his relief seasons.
He was OK as a starting pitcher, but his best seasons were as a relief pitcher.
Arguably, his two best seasons as a relief pitcher were his 1960 and 1963 seasons.
During his 1960 season, he pitched almost 50 games in relief and 75 IP. He posted a 2.91 ERA, 129 ERA+, 1.18 WHIP, 6.4 H/9 and led the League in SV.
It was a great season, no question.
But he might have been even better during his 1963 season. He pitched almost 50 G, 1 GS and over 110 IP. He recorded a 1.93 ERA, 169 ERA+, 1.13 WHIP and 6.4 H/9.
It was an extraordinary season.
By the time his career was through, he had helped his team to the World Series twice and captured one World Series championship.
During the two combined World Series, he pitched in 3 G and posted a 0.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 5.8 H/9 and never allowed a run.
Amazing World Series numbers.
4. Don Mossi (1954-1965)
Career Length Grade: B
Raw Career: 460 G, 165 GS, 1,548 IP, 3.43 ERA, 114 ERA+, 1.21 WHIP, 8.7 H/9, 50 SV, 8.5 SV/50 and 2.4 K/BB
Peak Career: 271 G, 95 GS, 929 IP, 3.05 ERA, 131 ERA+, 1.17 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, 35 SV, 10.0 SV/50 and 2.4 K/BB (exclude his 1957, 1958, 1962, 1963 and 1965 seasons )
He was basically a starting pitcher for six seasons and a relief pitcher for six seasons during his 12 season Major League Baseball career.
He would have spent more time as a starter, but at the start of his career his team had an overabundance of great starting pitchers.
For example, during his first season in 1954, his team had four future Hall of Fame starting pitchers on the team: Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Hal Newhouser and Early Wynn; and they had Mike Garcia, who’s not a HOFer, but he was a great starting pitcher, too.
Doesn’t leave much room for a rookie pitcher in the rotation, does it?
This is, more or less, why Mossi wasn’t a starting pitcher for more than half of his career.
He pitched brilliantly from the bullpen and when he finally got the chance to pitch from the starting rotation, he pitched brilliantly as a starting pitcher also.
As I said, he started his career as a relief pitcher because his team had some kind of habit of collecting HOF starting pitchers; and his first couple of seasons were arguably the two best seasons of his entire career as a relief pitcher.
During his first season in 1954, he pitched 40 G, 5 GS and over 90 IP. He posted a 1.94 ERA, 190 ERA+, 1.02 WHIP and 5.4 H/9. Folks, that’s an amazing first season. Mariano Rivera would take those numbers this year, if you’d allow him.
Also during his first season in 1954, his team made it to the World Series.
Unfortunately, they lost, but it wasn’t Mossi’s fault.
In fact, during that World Series, Mossi pitched 3 games in relief and posted a 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 6.8 H/9 and never allowed a run.
Obviously, great World Series numbers.
Mossi’s second season was arguably as good. During his second season in 1955, he pitched almost 60 G, 1 GS, over 80 IP. He recorded a 2.42 ERA, 165 ERA+ and 3.8 K/BB.
So, during his first two seasons combined, he pitched almost 100 G, over 5 GS and almost 175 IP. He posted a combined 2.16 ERA, 177 ERA+, 1.11 WHIP and 7.1 H/9.
That’s a nice way to start a career as a relief pitcher, huh?
During the fourth or fifth season of his career, he finally was moved to the starting rotation. His best season as a starting pitcher was arguably his 1961 season.
During that 1961 season, he pitched over 35 G (all but one as a starter) and 240 IP. He recorded a 139 ERA+, 1.18 WHIP, over a .680 W percent and he led the League with 2.9 K/BB.
As you can see, this guy had two or three dominant seasons from the bullpen and he had one or two dominant seasons as a starting pitcher.
He was the real deal.
3. Ellis Kinder (1946-1957)
Career Length Grade: B-
Raw Career: 484 G, 122 GS, 1,479.2 IP, 3.43 ERA, 125 ERA+, 1.33 WHIP, 8.6 H/9, 102 SV, 14.2 SV/50 and 1.4 K/BB
Peak Career: 292 G, 42 GS, 705.2 IP, 2.81 ERA, 152 ERA+, 1.25 WHIP, 8.2 H/9, 76 SV, 15.2 SV/50 and 1.5 K/BB (include his 1949, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956 seasons)
It’s almost amazing that he ended up having a slightly above average length of career because he didn’t throw his first pitch in Major League Baseball until the 1946 season, he was 31-years-old.
Even with his late start in MLB, he managed to pitch for 12 seasons.
Basically, he was a relief pitcher for nine seasons; his first season and his last eight seasons. He was a starting pitcher during the last three seasons of the 1940s, from 1947-1949.
He certainly had some great seasons as a starting pitcher and as a relief pitcher.
His best season as a relief pitcher was arguably his 1953 season.
During that season, he led the League by pitching in 69 games of relief, it was the first season of his career that he didn’t start a single game and he could concentrate solely on pitching from the bullpen.
Well, it worked. By the time that magical 1953 season was through, he posted a 1.85 ERA, 227 ERA+, 1.14 WHIP, 7.1 H/9 and led the League with 27 SV.
He had already pitched well in relief in 1951 and 1952, the two seasons leading up to his magical 1953 season. In fact, during the three consecutive seasons combined from 1951-1953, he pitched in 155 G, over 10 GS and 330 IP. He recorded a combined 2.33 ERA, 181 ERA+, 1.17 WHIP and led the League in SV during two of those three seasons.
An amazing three consecutive season stretch as a relief pitcher for him during the early to mid 1950s.
By the time his career was through, he posted over 100 SV and he was one of only three relief pitchers in the history of MLB to ever post over 100 SV during a career at the time.
I’ve been mainly writing about his dominance as a relief pitcher, but he also had a dominant season or two as a starting pitcher during his career.
Take his 1949 season, for example. Amazingly, it was his last season as a starter of the three seasons that he spent in the starting rotation.
During that 1949 season, he pitched in over 40 G, 30 GS and over 240 IP. He recorded a 130 ERA+, led the League with a .793 W percent and led the League with six SHO.
What an extraordinary season as a starting pitcher. Again, almost amazing that he was sent to the bullpen for the rest of his career after that season.
What a pitcher; he could pitch from the starting rotation or the bullpen with dominance.
2. Bobby Shantz (1949-1964)
Career Length Grade: A-
Raw Career: 537 G, 171 GS, 1,935.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 119 ERA+, 1.26 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, 48 SV, 6.6 SV/50 and 1.7 K/BB
Peak Career: 257 G, 68 GS, 899.2 IP, 2.58 ERA, 148 ERA+, 1.11 WHIP, 7.2 H/9, 36 SV, 9.5 SV/50 and 1.9 K/BB (include his 1949, 1952, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1962 and 1963 seasons)
He had a nice long 16 season Major League Baseball career. Basically he was a relief pitcher for nine seasons and he was a starting pitcher for seven seasons.
He certainly had some amazing seasons as a starting pitcher and he had some amazing seasons as a relief pitcher.
He had two or three magical seasons as a starting pitcher.
Take his 1952 season, for example. It was a truly magical season. During that 1952 season, he pitched in over 30 games, all as a starter, and almost 280 IP. He posted a 2.48 ERA, 159 ERA+, 7.4 H/9, led the League with 24 wins, led the League with a .774 W%, led the League with a 1.05 WHIP and led the League with 2.4 K/BB.
He won the League MVP award that season.
It was surely a magical season.
His 1957 season, as a starting pitcher, was also an incredible season for him. During that 1957 season, he pitched in 30 G, over 20 GS and 170 IP. He recorded almost a .690 W percent, 1.14 WHIP, led the League with a 2.45 ERA and led the League with a 147 ERA+.
What a starting pitcher this guy was.
He also pitched great from the bullpen, and had five or six great seasons as a relief pitcher.
His best season as a relief pitcher was arguably his 1962 season. During that 1962 season, he pitched in over 30 G, 3 GS and almost 80 IP. He posted a 1.95 ERA, 212 ERA+, 1.09 WHIP and 6.9 H/9.
What a season; what a career. He was simply an extraordinary pitcher from the bullpen or the starting rotation.
At the time he retired, he was the best left handed relief pitcher in the history of MLB, the first 90 seasons of MLB.
There have been a lot of great left handed relief pitchers that have pitched since he retired, but Bobby Shantz still remains as one of the 20 best left handed relief pitchers to ever grace the fields of MLB.
1. Gerry Staley (1947-1961)
Career Length Grade: A+
Raw Career: 640 G, 186 GS, 1,981.2 IP, 3.70 ERA, 108 ERA+, 1.31 WHIP, 9.4 H/9, 61 SV, 6.7 SV/50 and 1.4 K/BB
Peak Career: 268 G, 28 GS, 639.1 IP, 2.56 ERA, 154 ERA+, 1.15 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, 37 SV, 7.7 SV/50 and 1.7 K/BB (include his 1947, 1949, 1956, 1957, 1959 and 1960 seasons)
His name is spelled Gerry, but it’s pronounced Jerry.
During his long 15 season career, he was basically a relief pitcher for 10 seasons and a starting pitcher for five seasons.
He was definitely a good starting pitcher, but unlike Shantz, in the two spot, Staley actually had his best seasons from the bullpen.
His best season as a relief pitcher was arguably his 1949 season. During that 1949 season, he pitched in 45 G, almost 20 GS and over 170 IP. He posted a 2.73 ERA, 152 ERA+, 1.14 WHIP and he led the League in H/9.
It was a great season, no question. Ten years later, during the 1959 season, he arguably had a relief season just as good.
During that 1959 season, he led the League with 67 games of relief; he had over 115 IP and recorded a 2.24 ERA, 169 ERA+ and 1.17 WHIP.
During that 1959 season, he helped his team to the World Series. They lost, but Staley pitched very well. He pitched cour games in relief and posted a 2.16 ERA and 0.96 WHIP.
Those are two dominant seasons as a relief pitcher that quickly come to mind for me, and they’re 10 seasons removed from each other.
It’s amazing how forgotten this guy is; sad and amazing. He’s the best relief pitcher from his decade and people say, ‘Gerry who?’…right after pronouncing his first name wrong. Holy sh*t.
Here’s to all the great relief pitchers from the 1950s, you guys could all pitch your butt off. What a decade.
The Honorable Mentions
Here are the seven relief pitchers that just missed the top 10 for various reasons.
I will list them in alphabetical order: Jim Brosnan, Ike DeLock, Don Elston, Mike Fornieles, Marv Grissom, Billy Loes and Turk Lown
The 10 Highest Caliber Relief Pitchers of the 1950s
I consider this to be the Smoky Joe Wood section.
Who is the best pitcher, putting career values aside; putting length of career aside and putting some other things aside that affect a relief pitchers overall rating?
These aren’t the best careers, these are the best pitchers, in a way.
Like Smoky Joe Wood in the 1910s, he was a starting pitcher that many historians feel is one of the 10 highest caliber starting pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball.
But with his short overall career, he’s never rated that high when you see historians rate starting pitchers because they are almost always rating the best careers.
Don’t get me wrong, caliber is part of historians formula too, it’s just a smaller part of the overall equation; and smaller than it should be, if you ask me, but that’s another article.
Smoky Joe Wood’s overall rating and career value is lower because of his short career and some other factors.
But if a highest caliber list were made, Smoky Joe Wood would appear on many historians all time top 10 lists. But almost never in the top 10 on their all time career list, which are the lists that we usually see.
I hope that makes sense. This is basically what I’m doing here with this list. Again, this list is not a list of the best careers, that list is the list you just read. This list is the highest caliber relief pitchers. Here it is:
10. Jim Brosnan
9. Ray Narleski
8. Frank Smith
7. Clem Labine
6. Marv Grissom
5. Don Mossi
4. Jim Konstanty
3. Gerry Staley
2. Ellis Kinder
1. Bobby Shantz
The Caliber Honorable Mentions (listed in alphabetical order): Harry Dorish, Don Elston, Tom Gorman, Bob Grim, Tom Morgan, Tom Sturdivant and George Zuverink
There you go, the best relief pitchers from the 1950s. The 10 best careers and the 10 highest caliber relief pitchers.