COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The Early Wynn story began in the rural Alabama town of Hartford, during the Great Depression.
It took him all the way to Cooperstown.
It was 1937 at a Florida tryout camp when a Washington Senators scout offered Early Wynn $75 a month to play professional baseball. The 17-year-old Wynn thought for a while and then decided to accept the offer.
Although he appeared in three games for the Senators in 1939, Wynn spent most of 1937 through 1941 hurling in the minor leagues. But the 6-foot, 190-pound right-hander returned to Washington late in 1941 and pitched the next seven seasons for the Senators, except for a stint in the U.S. Army in 1945.
After enjoying average success with Washington (posting a record of 72-87 in eight seasons), Wynn was traded to the Cleveland Indians following the 1948 season -- 63 years ago this week on Dec. 14, 1948.
In Cleveland, Wynn met Cleveland pitching coach Mel Harder. Under the tutelage of Harder, Wynn became one of the game's toughest competitors – feared throughout the American League for his ability to keep hitters off the plate.
"He would knock you down in the dugout," said Mickey Mantle.
Wynn won at least 20 games four times for the Indians, leading Cleveland to the AL pennant in 1954.
However, following the 1957 season, Early was traded again, this time to the Chicago White Sox. At age 39, he won an AL-leading 22 games for the pennant-winning 1959 White Sox and captured the Cy Young Award.
In 1962, Wynn won seven games, leaving him one victory short of the coveted 300 mark. But Chicago released Wynn in November of 1962; prompting Cleveland to sign him in June of 1963.
That summer, on July 13, he became the 14th pitcher in major league history to win 300 or more games in recording his last big league victory.
Wynn, one of a few players whose major league career spanned four decades, established an AL record for most years pitched (23). He led the AL in strikeouts twice (1957-58), innings pitched three times (1951, 54, 59), victories twice (1957-59) and ERA once (1950).
Early Wynn's determination and competitive drive brought him induction into the Hall of Fame in 1972. Sandy Koufax and Yogi Berra joined Wynn as the Class of '72.
For a record 23 years, the Hall of Famer had approached the game with an unrivaled business-like attitude.
"That space between the white lines, that's my office," Wynn said. "That's where I conduct my business."
Jonathan Coe is the fall 2011 Public Relations intern for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum