Blue Jay Way
Pat Hentgen Helped Toronto Climb to the Top
By CRAIG MUDER
December 17, 2009
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Pat Hentgen arrived on the big league baseball scene with little fanfare, and departed just as quietly.
In between, the durable right-hander picked up a Cy Young Award and two World Series wins – along with the respect of more than a few hitters and teammates.
|Pat Hentgen is one of 26 players on the BBWAA ballot for the Class of 2010 at the Hall of Fame.|
“The guy’s a grinder, he’s aggressive, he’s a battler,” said former Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca, who managed Hentgen at the end of his career.
Hentgen, 41, is one of 26 players on the 2010 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2010 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Hentgen is making his debut on the BBWAA ballot.
BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 6. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 25 in Cooperstown.
Born Nov. 13, 1968, in Detroit, Mich., Hentgen was a fifth-round draft pick by the Blue Jays in 1986. He surfaced in Toronto in 1991, and was 5-2 in 28 games in 1992 as a long reliever during the Jays’ first world championship season.
The next year, Hentgen lost a battle with veteran Al Leiter for Toronto’s No. 5 starter position in Spring Training, but joined the rotation early on after Leiter went on the disabled list. At the end of the 1993 season, Hentgen was 19-9 with a 3.87 earned-run average, having been named to the All-Star team and finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
Hentgen started and won Game 3 of the 1993 World Series against the Phillies, and was in line to start Game 7 before Joe Carter’s walk-off blast ended Game 6 and gave the Jays their second-straight World Series championship.
But Hentgen maintained that Game 4 of that World Series – when the Jays rallied twice from five-run deficits to win 15-14 – is his most precious baseball memory.
“The atmosphere in that locker room was incredible,” said Hentgen, who did not appear in Game 4. “The atmosphere of 25 grown men clapping like that after grinding out a long season… That was the highlight of my career.”
Hentgen won a total of 23 games during the abbreviated 1994 and 1995 seasons, then went 20-10 in 1996 with an AL-best 10 complete games, three shutouts and 265 2/3rds innings pitched en route to the Cy Young Award. Hentgen also led the league in innings pitched in 1997 with 264 – a workload that began to take its toll.
He was traded to the Cardinals before the 2000 season, then signed with the Orioles as a free agent before the 2001 season. That year, Hentgen was limited to just nine starts – and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Aug. 9.
He pitched two more seasons in Baltimore before returning to Toronto for the 2004 campaign. But with a 2-9 record and 6.95 ERA on July 24, Hentgen decided it was time to retire.
He left with a career record of 131-112 and a 4.32 ERA.
“I always told myself I would retire from baseball if I felt I couldn’t do what I’m used to doing,” said Hentgen, who was just 35 when he retired. “I felt it (was) the right time.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum