Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sterling Slaughter

Sterling Slaughter....that's a name you might expect to see in the credits of some big Hollywood war flick. Or maybe a WWE wrestler would use that name.

Instead, its the name of a former Cubs pitcher.  His career started out Sterling, but he ended up Slaughtered.

A native of Danville, Illinois, Slaughter went to Arizona State University and was one of the first stars to come out of Bobby Winkles' program.  In 1981 he was inducted into the ASU Athletics Hall of Fame.

He was a first team All American his senior year of 1963 and the Cubs signed him that summer.  The Cubs assigned him to AA Amarillo and he was a very respectable 10-7.  That was good enough for Topps to put him on a rookie card.

With only 24 professional games under his belt, Slaughter had an impressive enough spring to grab a spot on the 1964 Cubs.  It was a big leap for the 22-year-old.

Pitchers were really brought along slowly in that era.  Starters were expected to pitch complete games, so those in the bullpen may see limited action.  That was the case for Slaughter.  He made him MLB debut out of the pen on April 19.  He pitched the last two innings of a blowout loss and gave up no runs.  So far, so good.

But he had to wait almost a month before taking the mound again, on May 15, again out of the pen.  Two more appearances with decent results followed and so on May 30 he made his first start, in the second game of a doubleheader, and he didn't disappoint.  Against the Braves, he pitched a shutout into the eighth inning, giving up only one hit. (Read more about the game here.)  It was a sterling start.

Six days later he made his second start, again against the Braves.  The results were just as good.  He pitched a complete game as the Cubs won 5-2. (Read more here.) Slaughter was now 2-0 with an ERA of 1.73.

Things were looking good for Sterling Slaughter.  But baseball can be a cruel game.  Slaughter's career took a permanent turn south.  He started two more games in June and he took two losses.  He was slaughtered in each not making it past the third inning in either game.  It was back to the bullpen for him.  He made one start in July and gave up five runs in four innings.  His lone August start was just as bad, five runs in 2 1/3 innings.  It would be his last start.

Occasional bullpen stints were scattered around the starts, and for the season he had 20 appearances.  Imagine spending the entire season on the roster but pitching in only 20 games. He ended the year 2-4 with an ERA of 5.75.

Lasting the entire year with the Cubs prompted Topps to give him a card in the 1965 set.  But it would be his only card.  His major league career was done.  Most of the '65 season was spent in AA  Dallas, where he was 15-8.  He got promoted to AAA late in the year, but was 0-2 there.  He spent the next two seasons shuttling between AA and AAA, but didn't have much success in either place.  His pitching career was over.

Arm troubles are mentioned in a couple articles.  Did those two sterling starts, after nearly a month of no action, slaughter his arm?

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