Unfortunately, Vintage Friday is doubling as an obituary again this week. I learned a few days ago that former Dodgers and Orioles pitcher Billy Loes passed away on July 15 at age 80 in Tucson, AZ. No cause of death was given, but his widow Irene confirmed that he had been suffering from diabetes for years.
Loes had a reputation as a character. Before his Dodgers faced the Yankees in the 1952 World Series, reporters asked him to predict the outcome. He supposedly picked the Yankees to win in six games, but later claimed that he was misquoted: he had actually said that New York would beat Brooklyn in seven games (which they did). He was also quoted as saying that he wouldn't ever want to win 20 games in a season, because management would always expect him to repeat the effort afterward. Whether he said it or not, his personal best was only 14 wins in a single season.
Billy had his greatest successes as a Dodger, most notably his rookie campaign in 1952. At age 22, he went 13-8 with a 2.69 ERA and four shutouts for the National League Champs. If he hadn't come out of the bullpen for 18 of his 39 appearances, he might have gotten a few more wins. The following year he started and won Game Four of the World Series, holding the Yanks to three runs and striking out eight in eight innings. In May of 1956 he was picked up by the Orioles, and would spend time both starting and relieving for them through the 1959 season. 1957 was his best year in an O's uniform; he was second on the club in wins (12-7) and posted a 3.24 ERA while tying for the team lead with three shutouts (including a three-hitter against the A's). He also saved four games and made his only All-Star team. In 1959, he led the Birds with 14 saves; no other Oriole had more than four.
Loes was traded to the Giants in the deal that brought Jackie Brandt to Charm City and finished his career in San Francisco in 1961. In 11 seasons he was 80-63 with 32 saves and a 3.89 ERA.
Happy trails, Billy.