The baseball community mourns the loss of MLB relief pitcher Willie Hernández, who passed away at the age of 69. Hernández, a lefty, began his career as an amateur free agent with the Phillies in 1973 before being selected by the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft in 1976. Over his seven-year tenure with the Cubs, he had varying levels of success but reached a new height during the 1983 season when he was traded to the Phillies and then shipped to the Tigers in a four-player swap.
The move proved to be a catalyst for Hernández’s best season, both personally and for his team. With the Tigers in 1984, he pitched like a superstar, appearing in 80 games out of the bullpen and posting an impressive record of 9-3 with 32 saves in 33 chances. His ERA was just 1.92 with a WHIP of .94 and strikeouts against walks ratio of an astounding 112:28 in an impressive total of 140 innings and three-quarters. This outstanding performance earned him several accolades as he made his first All-Star Game and won both the AL Cy Young and AL MVP awards – making him one of just eleven pitchers to win both honors in one year.
Hernandez’s legacy will forever be tied to that magical season where he played a crucial role in leading his team to a World Series title. He closed out the World Series with a two-inning save that will be remembered for years to come. After having heart surgery to install a pacemaker in 2009, Hernandez passed away leaving behind an indelible mark on baseball history as one of only eleven pitchers ever to win both MVP and Cy Young awards in one season.