Allie Reynolds was one of the New York Yankees’ best pitchers of all time, great when at the top of his game, and a cornerstone of a superior mound staff that helped Casey Stengel to win the World Series year after year in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
If there is a flaw on his resume as he is considered for induction into the Hall of Fame by Golden Era Veterans Committee voters Dec. 5, it is probably longevity. Reynolds pitched for 13 years in the majors with the Cleveland Indians and the Yankees and he won 182 games. His chances of selection probably would be improved if he broke 200 wins and had a few more big seasons.
Born in Oklahoma in 1917, Reynolds was not a natural athlete. He was so skinny in college at the forerunner to Oklahoma State University that he had to practically body build to make the baseball team. A right-handed thrower, Reynolds was already 25 when he made his Major League debut with Cleveland in 1942. An American League All-Star for the first of six times with the Indians in 1945, he was traded to the Yankees in 1946 and truly blossomed.
Reynolds was nicknamed “Superchief” because of his effectiveness and his Indian heritage and that effectiveness was never finer than during the 1951 season when he threw two no-hitters. The second no-hitter clinched the pennant for New York and even by no-hitter standards featured a special twist of drama in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox with Ted Williams batting. Williams tipped a ball foul for what seemed like an easy out, but New York catcher Yogi Berra dropped it. Giving Ted Williams an extra chance to hurt him at the plate was not in any pitcher’s game plan. However, on a subsequent swing, Williams popped another Reynolds offering foul and this time Berra caught it for the out.
Reynolds was an All-Star in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954, his last year in the big leagues. Reynolds won 20 games just once, but his lifetime winning percentage was .630 based on a 182-107 record. His earned run average was 3.30.
Once he filled out to his 6-foot, 195-pound frame, Reynolds threw hard, seemingly as fast to some batters as the speed attained by the train also known as The Super Chief. Like most pitchers he believed he was the boss on the mound. At one point when manager Stengel was being particularly controlling, demanding that Berra look to him for the sign before each pitch, Reynolds warned his catcher, “Yogi! You look over there one more time and I’ll cross you up.” Berra decided his allegiance was to the pitcher and to his own health, not wanting to be creamed by a fastball when he was expecting a changeup.
Generally regarded as a gentleman, Reynolds was at his best during World Series play. Reynolds owns one of the top clutch records in Series competition. Appearing in 15 World Series games, Reynolds went 7-2 and saved four games, posting an ERA of 2.79 . The Yankees won six world championships with Reynolds and his mound partners Vic Raschi and Ed Lopat.
Reynolds, who died in 1994, was so revered in his home area that the Okalahoma State baseball stadium is named after him. Also, Oklahoma’s outstanding high school senior is presented the Allie Reynolds Award based on accomplishments, sports civic contributions, character and leadership.
In a previous veterans committe vote in 2009, Reynolds was one vote shy of being elected to the Hall. There seems to be little doubt that Reynolds was an all-around hall-of-fame person.But judged solely on his Major League baseball achievements, with a strong list of candidates vying for votes this year, it may be difficult for him to achieve the 75 percent minimum. Reynolds would be a worthy choice, but the competition may be too tough this time.