Astros in the Sky
The Deadball Era
Born: Nov 12, 1936
Using a sidearm delivery, lefty reliever Joe Hoerner appeared in nearly 500 games, even though he was 29 when he pitched in his first full season in the major leagues. In the early 1960s, after doctors told him that he had a weak heart, he developed a sidearm motion that was suggested by former hurler Ira Hutchinson to reduce the strain on his vascular system.
Although Hoerner pitched during parts of 1963 and 1964 with the Houston Colt .45s, general manager Paul Richards stated that Hoerner could not strike out righthanders in the major leagues. "In those days when Paul Richards opened his mouth it was like God speaking. People believed it even if it wasn't true," Hoerner said.
The Cardinals drafted Hoerner off the Colt .45s' minor league roster after the 1965 season and gave him a chance to pitch in the majors. Hoerner was a hard thrower who successfully kept the ball down and away from righthanded hitters. He recorded a 19-10 record with 69 saves during four years with the Cardinals. Joe had a 1.54 ERA in 1966 and lowered it to 1.48 in 1968, and, despite Richards' comments, Hoerner proved very effective against righthanders. Slugger Hank Aaron never got a hit off Hoerner in 22 at-bats.
Hoerner saved Game 3 of the 1968 World Series but lost Game 5 in relief of Nelson Briles, when he gave up two runs in less than an inning's work. The Tigers came back to win the final game of the Series. Traded to the Phillies after the 1969 season, he played for four other clubs before retiring in 1977. Hoerner later served as vice-president of a St. Louis travel agency but passed away in a farming accident in 1996.