Moe Drabowsky: A look back at the career of a Chicago Cubs pitcher that wasn’t very good, at least while he was a Cub, that is.
When the Chicago Cubs weren’t very good, I remember Moe Drabowsky.
He was a right-handed relief pitcher who played for the Chicago Cubs from 1956-60 who seemed to epitomize the Cubs, who had losing records, in that era. Drabowsky also came in the game and got hit pretty hard. I was a boy back then, and wondered, “who is this guy?”
Well, that guy, in this 30’s turned around his career and pitched great for the Baltimore Orioles, and was on two World Series winning teams. In 1966, he came in Game 1 and was lights out. He struck out 11 batters in 6 2/3 innings to “save” the day for Baltimore. He tied a major league record in striking out six straight hitters, that was set in the 1919 World Series. Baltimore won Game one and went on to sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games. That season he went 6-0 and struck out 96 hitters in 98 innings.
His career did not start out glorious. In 1957 he went 13-15. In 1959, he was 5-10, and his record with the Cincinnati Reds was 2-6 in 1962. I guess the Cubs were his proving ground. He was a journeyman pitcher who made good.
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One of the things I learned about Moe was that he was considered one of the great pranksters in the game. This guy was wacky. He was notorious for giving players hotfoots (Setting the shoes or laces on fire). He even gave commissioner Bowie Kuhn a hotfoot during a locker room celebration. Drabowsky once put sneezing powder in the air conditioning duct of the opposing locker room. He also put goldfish in the other teams’ water coolers.
He was the “snake” man of major league baseball. Snakes would pop up in players’ personal belongings. Once at a players reunion of the Orioles, a snake came out of Brooks Robinson’s breadbasket. As you can imagine, Robinson was frightened. I don’t know how well that went over.
One of his greatest pranks was when he was in the bullpen in Anaheim Stadium and used the phone to order takeout Chinese food from Hong Kong! The chutzpah.
Moe kept pitching and played for 16 seasons. He later was a coach in the majors and minors. He was a baseball “lifer” who liked to have a good time. In 1987 he gave an interview with the Associated Press and lamented, “Players seems to be more serious now. I would tend to believe they don’t have as much fun. You don’t find the same kind of characters.”
Drabowsky played a role in some of baseball’s singular moments. While pitching for the Cubs he gave up the 3,000th hit to Stan Musial of the Cardinals. When Early Wynn of the Chicago White Sox won his 300th game, he was losing pitcher of record. He also was the pitcher when Dave Nicholson, who appears in footnotes, hit a home run in Comiskey Park that traveled some 573 feet.
Yet, he had his moment in that 1966 World Series and pitched well the next year with a 1.60 ERA.
Some Cubs start their careers kind of rocky and then go on to success—he was one of those players.