Plesac gets his turn on Hall ballot
Left-handed reliever racked up 1,041 strikeouts in 18-year career
Memories flooded Dan Plesac's mind during his jog from the bullpen to the mound during the last game at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. Closing down the ballpark was emotional enough. Having it also be the pitcher's final appearance added even more to the moment.
"I saw all 18 years flashing in front of me," Plesac said at the time.
During that Sept. 28 contest against the Braves in 2003, Plesac took the hill for the Phillies in the ninth inning and finished his career the same way he opened it: with a strikeout. Atlanta's Ryan Langerhans went down swinging much like many of the batters who stepped into the box to face Plesac over the years.
It was a fitting ending to Plesac's run as one of baseball's best left-handed relievers. For the better part of two decades, Plesac overpowered hitters in the late innings, with the strikeout being his area of expertise. Now, Plesac is being honored with a place on the Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.
Live coverage of the Hall of Fame's announcement on Jan. 12 can be seen on MLB.com.
A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain election, with former Red Sox slugger Jim Rice (72.2 percent), former Expos and Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson (65.9 percent) and former Twins ace Bert Blyleven (61.9 percent) standing as the top three returning vote-getters.
Rickey Henderson, whose career spanned 25 years and nine teams, headlines the newcomers to the 2009 Hall of Fame ballot. Henderson, who has never announced his retirement, last played for the Dodgers in 2003. The 1990 American League Most Valuable Player is the all-time leader in runs scored (2,295), stolen bases (1,406) and is second in walks (2,190).
Plesac may not wind up in the hallowed halls in Cooperstown, N.Y., but his career was impressive nonetheless. Over 18 seasons, the left-handed reliever had stints with the Brewers (1986-92), Cubs (1993-94), Pirates (1995-96), Blue Jays (1997-99, 2001-02), D-backs (1999-2000) and Phillies (2002-03).
Milwaukee selected Plesac with the 26th pick in the first round of the 1983 First-Year Player Draft, and the pitcher made his debut for the Brewers on April 11, 1986. In that outing, Plesac opened his career by striking out Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo and spun 2 1/3 shutout innings in his first taste of the big leagues.
By the time Plesac's tour with the Brewers came to an end, the southpaw had rewritten sections of Milwaukee's record book. Plesac holds Brewers records for career ERA (3.21), appearances (365), games finished (269), saves (133), hits allowed per nine innings (7.9) and strikeouts per nine innings (7.69).
The strongest stretch of Plesac's career came from 1987-89, when he posted a 2.47 ERA with 86 saves and 193 strikeouts in 193 innings out of Milwaukee's bullpen. Plesac was named to the American League All-Star team in each of those seasons and finished 22nd in the MVP voting in 1988.
Plesac served primarily as a closer in his time for the Brewers, saving at least 30 games twice for the club, and spent time as a late-inning specialist throughout the rest of his career. When his career came to a close, Plesac finished 65-71 with a 3.64 ERA, 158 saves and 1,041 strikeouts over 1,072 innings.
Plesac appeared in 1,064 games, which is the sixth-highest total in baseball history, trailing only Jesse Orosco, Mike Stanton, John Franco, Dennis Eckersley and Hoyt Wilhelm. Plesac's rate of 8.74 strikeouts per nine innings ranks 10th all-time and second among pitchers who spent most of their career as a reliever.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.