Veterans could add to Tiant's legacy
Right-hander hoping to receive his spot in Hall of Fame
BOSTON -- In the mid-1970s, there was no bigger event at Fenway Park than the nights when Luis Tiant took the mound. If you were roaming the streets of Yawkey Way, it would be impossible not to know who was pitching.
"Loooie, Loooie, Loooie, Loooie," bellowed the thousands inside the ballpark.
There was a large reason for Tiant's strong backing. He was not only highly successful, but also very clutch during a brilliant career.
The one thing Tiant still seeks for all that past greatness is entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Tiant will be considered for the Class of 2009 at the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Any player receiving at least 75 percent of the vote from the Veterans Committee, which consists of the 64 living Hall of Famers, will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2009. Results from the Veterans Committee vote will be revealed at 1 p.m. ET on MLB.com on Monday from baseball's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
The other members of the post-1943 Veterans Committee final ballot are Dick Allen, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Al Oliver, Vada Pinson, Ron Santo, Joe Torre and Maury Wills.
Before the Red Sox had Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling, they had another money pitcher who always seemed to come through when the pressure was at its most intense point. Luis Tiant -- the pride of Cuba -- was Boston's ace for most of the 1970s.
He performed similar heroics for the Indians. With a herky-jerky delivery that made him overwhelmingly deceptive, Tiant baffled opposing hitters during his career.
Tiant stayed on the Baseball Writers' Association of America's ballot for the maximum of 15 years (1988-2002). He is now making his third attempt at being voted in by the Veterans Committee. Tiant received 18.3 percent of the vote two years ago.
"Luis is definitely a Hall of Famer," said former Sox right fielder Dwight Evans. "His numbers support it. When that bullpen door unlatched, [Fenway Park] would go crazy. You talk about pitch counts. I remember in [Game 4 of] the World Series in '75, he threw 172 pitches. He had a big heart."
When you access Tiant's profile on baseballreference.com, the two pitchers the Web site says he's most comparable to are both in the Hall of Fame -- Catfish Hunter and Jim Bunning.
Tiant split his 19-year career between the Indians (1964-69), Twins ('70), Red Sox ('71-78), Yankees ('79-80), Pirates ('81) and Angels ('82), going 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA. He was a 20-game winner four times and posted a ridiculous 1.60 ERA in 1968, which was, to be fair, a season in which offensive stats were down throughout baseball. A three-time All-Star, Tiant fired 187 complete games and led the American League in shutouts three times.
"All of the fans who watched me and players who played with me, they all know," said Tiant, who is an instructor in the Red Sox organization. "I don't have to tell you anything else. That's the way it was. Everybody who saw me pitch knows what I did. Everyone who talks to me says, 'Why aren't you in the Hall of Fame?'"
By comparison, Hunter -- who won five World Series rings and was fortunate enough to play on more good teams than Tiant -- went 224-166 with a 3.26 ERA while pitching slightly fewer innings (3,449) than Tiant (3,486). Bunning? He went 224-184 with a 3.27 ERA.
"Not too many people have [entered the Hall]," said Tiant. "Those are the best players in the world there. That's as big an honor as any player could have. I'm not going to lose a day of sleep. I'm proud of what I do. I did what I never thought I would do in my life. If they pick me, fine; if not, fine. The game gave me a lot, more than I ever expected. I'm still making money from baseball; I still work in baseball. I'm proud of the way I did it because it took a lot of sacrifice."
He also takes pride in how much the savvy baseball fans in Boston appreciated his work.
"Boston is my town, my second country," said Tiant. "People there have been nice to me. People respect me, show me love. They show appreciation for what I did."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.