COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Dennis Eckersley's 24-year pitching career is divided to two separate and unique parts.
In the first half of his career, Eckersley was primarily a starter. For the final 12 years of his career, however, he was one of the game's most dominant closers. Together, Eckersley's success as both a starter and closer led him to enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Nineteen years ago this week, The Eck became the second pitcher to record a 50-save season.
On Sept. 21, 1992 Eckersley's Oakland Athletics were defeating the Chicago White Sox, 6-5, when Eckersley entered the game in the bottom of the ninth to face the White Sox's 3-4-5 batters. He retired the side: Forcing the first better to pop out, the second to strike out and the third to ground out. The Athletics got the win while Eckersley recorded his 50th save of the season.
Eckersley became the second pitcher ever to record 50 saves in a season, following Bobby Thigpen's 57-save campaign of 1990.
Eckersley would end the 1992 season with 51 saves. He was that year's recipient of the American League Cy Young Award receiving 19 of 28 Baseball Writers' Association of America first place votes.
Eckersley was also selected as the 1992 American League Most Valuable Player.
"I couldn't imagine winning this award without a team like I had last year," Eckersley said of the 1992 Oakland Athletics after winning the Cy Young Award. "If we have terrible defense or if we stunk period, I'm not going to get that many chances. I'm lucky to be on a great team.
"There's a lot of deserving guys out there that have the everyday numbers," Eckersley said after receiving MVP honors. "Everything fell into place. These things come around once in a lifetime."
With more than 50 saves in 1992, Eckersley became the first of what would be two pitchers to have both a 50-save season and a 20-win season in the same career. In 2002, John Smoltz would record his 50th save and join Eckersley in this unique category.
Eckersley also remains the only pitcher in baseball to have pitched 100 complete games and recorded at least 100 saves in a career.
He began his career as a starter for the Cleveland Indians, debuting in the majors on April 12, 1975. That year he was named American League Rookie Pitcher of the Year, posting a 13-7 record and a 2.60 earned run average.
As a starter, Eckersley won 150 games. He also pitched a no-hitter on May 30, 1977.
Eckersley took on the role of closer in his first season with his hometown Oakland Athletics, 1987. In that role for most of the rest of his career, Eckersley saved 390 games. From 1988-93, Eckersley struck out 458 betters while walking just 51.
In 2004, in his first year of eligibility, the Baseball Writers' Association of America elected Eckersley to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"I always dreamed of being a Major League Baseball player, but I never dreamed of being in the Hall of Fame," Eckersley said in his induction speech. "I could have never envisioned myself standing next to my childhood idols, Juan Marichal and Willie Mays."
Nicole Pappas was the public relations intern in the Class of 2011 Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program