In Memory of Juan Pizarro

Juan Pizarro
Chris Baud, Jesse Spector
February 23, 2021

(c) Houston Astros

Juan Pizarro, perhaps the greatest Puerto Rican pitcher in MLB history, died on Thursday night of cancer, according to ESPN Deportes. He was 84.

Pizarro, a left-hander with a blazing fastball, broke into professional baseball in 1955 in Puerto Rico, the same year his countryman Roberto Clemente made his MLB debut with the Pirates. He was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1956, and joined them in 1957 as a 20-year-old rookie. The Braves won the World Series that year, the only championship of his and teammate Hank Aaron’s careers.

After 1960, the Braves traded Pizarro and pitcher Joey Jay to the Cincinnati Reds for 31-year-old shortstop Roy McMillan. That trade may have kept the Braves from winning another title with Aaron as McMillan, a brilliant fielder but weak hitter, batted just .237 in four years with the Braves and Jay became a two-time 20-game winner. Pizarro, however, was traded to the Chicago White Sox without pitching an inning for the Reds. He blossomed in Chicago, going 14-7 and leading the league in strikeouts per inning. He was an All-Star in 1963 and 1964, going 16-8 with a 2.39 ERA and 19-9 with a 2.56 ERA, respectively.

Pizarro also pitched for Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, the Chicago Cubs, Oakland and Houston, finishing his career in 1974 with a 131-105 record, a 3.43 ERA and 1,522 strikeouts.

For his entire professional career, Pizarro won 392 games: 66 in the minors, 38 in Mexico and 157 in Puerto Rico while playing winter ball. He is a member of the Caribbean Confederation and Puerto Rican Hall of Fames.