Sunday, February 19, 2006

February 19th, 1978

Phil Paine Dies

Today's entry comes with a major assist from reader Joel Parshall who, apparently inspired by this entry, sent me an extensively researched history on a minor figure in that entry, Phil Paine. Nicknamed "Flip" for reasons I can't discern, Paine is today a wholly forgotten figure--I doubt even the most dedicated baseball historian would know his name off hand--but that's a shame, as he holds some interesting distinctions.

The first is what I discussed in the DeJean entry, that Paine had previously held the record for most appearances without a loss, a record that is impressive for a number of reasons. For one, unlike DeJean who set the record over the course of two seasons, it took Paine six seasons over an eight year span, 1951-1958 although Paine wasn't playing baseball in America for a couple of those years--more on that later. Furthermore, the streak represented more than ninety percent of Paine's career appearances. He only lost one game his entire career and although his peripheral statistics were underwhelming finished with a respectable 121 ERA+ in one hundred fifty career innings. He was effective in his last season as a full-time reliever with the Cards in 1958 but neither Parshall nor I could find out why he never pitched in the Majors after that, although arm trouble seems a logical cause.

In addition to the no-loss record, Paine is also an interesting footnote in the history of Japanese-American baseball. A lot of people know Masanori Murakami was the first Japanese player to come to the Major Leagues, but very few others know the reverse. While stationed in
Japan with the Air Force, Paine (along with Leo Kiely) became the first former Major Leaguers to ever play for a Japanese professional team. Ironically, given his future record holding, Paine actually went 4-3 during his time in Japan although he did post a sparkling 1.77 ERA.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't know why Paine's MLB career ended when it did and his death at a relatively young age--Paine was just forty-seven--is an equal mystery.

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