Great Baseball Moments- Denny McLain Wins his 30th game- September 14, 1968.

In some of the baseball forums I check into now and then they are always it seems talking about how we will never see another 30 game winner. The game of baseball has changed since the last 30 game winner in 1968. Nowadays a starting pitcher may get 33-34 starts in a season tops which gives them very little margin of error. Who knows about the future in 50 years the way pitchers are handled may change but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

Actually since Dizzy Dean won 30 games in 1934- the 30 game winner has only happened once- and that was in The Year Of The Pitcher 1968. Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers won 31 games that season- and his pitching performance while spectacular is probably the second greatest pitching feat of 1968- behind Bob Gibson’s season with a 1.12 ERA- a modern day baseball record.

Denny McLain was 24 years old in 1968 when he won 31 and lost 6 for the 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers. He had 29 wins with 2 weeks to go in the regular season. The Tigers had the American League pennant wrapped up the question was will he win 30?

On Saturday September 14, 1968 the Oakland A’s came to Tiger Stadium to face the Tigers. It was the nationally televised Game of the Week on NBC-TV. Going into the bottom of the 9th inning it didn’t look promising as the Tigers were down 4-3. In the bottom of the 9th he was pinch-hit for by Al Kaline. The Tigers needed to rally and win in the 9th for McLain to win the game- tying it up and sending it into extra innings and McLain wouldn’t be the pitcher of record. But rally the Tigers did just that. Kaline walked. Mickey Stanley singled putting runners on first and third. Jim Northrup hit into a fielders choice- with Kaline scoring to tie the game. Tiger slugger Willie Horton then singled driving in Stanley and the winning run- 5-4 Tigers and Denny McLain had won his 30th game. He would go on to win one more in the regular season for a final total of 31. In 1969 McLain would lead the league again in wins and win a second Cy Young Award in a row- then his career fell apart. While he had numerous off the field problems- the real issue was he was simply overworked in 1968 and 1969 and his arm blew out. He would not pitch a major league game after the age of 28. But we will all remember 1968 when Denny McLain won 31. – Some trivia to tell your friends- Denny McLain’s father in law- is in the Baseball Hall of Fame- Lou Boudreau.


  1. I love these stats. I saw another Tigers great, Frank Lary, when he was with the Knoxville, Smokies, He was sent down because of an injury. He was even allowed to pinch hit when the Smokies played a series against the Augusta, Ga Yankees. He wasn’t pitching that day, so he was allowed to pinch hit for the benefit of the fans who packed the stadium to see Lary. Please keep up your good work.

  2. I wasn’t born yet when the 68 Tigers won the World Series, but my dad and grandparents always talked about it. Of course, there were lots of comparisons to the 68 Tigers in 84 when then won it again.

    In 1991, I worked at a radio station that was in the same building as WXYT, where Denny did his radio show. I had the opportunity to chat with him on more than one occasion and he was always a nice guy. As much as I wanted to ask for an autograph for my dad, I never felt that it was right to do so.

    Loved being able to talk Baseball a few times with him.

    • I have over the years heard a number of folks who have spoke of meeting Denny- and for all the troubles he has been in– I can’t think of one who didn’t say he was a nice guy.

  3. An impressive year and feat of durability. I remember when Welch won 27 back in the 80s (late-70s?) and that was something.. 31, wow. Few starters actually could statistically win 31 these days since not many last 5 innings 31 times out. As you say, years in the future the game may change again and it might happen (I particularly think rule changes may happen to give more wins to starters and fewer ‘cheap’ ones to bullpen) but as it stands now, even a 20 game winner is going to be rare.

  4. I remember watching that game, even though I lived in Chicago and he was 3-1 against the White Sox. You won’t see that again, because you don’t have pitchers that get 41 starts in a season.

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