#14 - Dave McNally, LHP (1962-1974)
The sub-2.00 ERA is a thing of legend. Nothing says complete and total dominance like a starting pitcher whose ERA begins with the number 1. In the 60 years of Orioles history, only one man has done so. Jim Palmer came close twice, but he never got there. That crown belongs to Dave McNally, whose 1968 season had an absolutely ridiculous 1.95 ERA in 273 innings pitched. That mark has stood for 45 years and could stand for another 45 years or more.
How does someone end up with that low ERA? Part of it must be due to the fact that this was the pre-designated hitter era in the American League, but not even the lack of a DH explains it all. McNally held the 1,038 batters he faced to a .182/.232/.302 line across the whole season. That ended up as a 0.842 WHIP, which is also the best single season in franchise history. Along the way, he struck out 202 batters, which was tops until Mike Mussina came along almost 30 years later.
McNally's results of this season had never seen their equal on the Orioles before and they've not seen their equal since. For his efforts, McNally did not receive a single vote in that year's Cy Young voting; Detroit's Denny McLain was the unanimous choice for his 31-win season in which he hurled 336 innings, struck out 286 batters, and had a 1.96 ERA. McLain also won the Most Valuable Player Award; McNally came in fifth. Batters hit .162/.170/.189 against McLain, so McNally just picked the wrong year to have his best year.
While he had by far his best season in 1968, that was part of a decade he spent where he was a constant presence in the rotation. From 1964-1973, his age 21-30 seasons, McNally had an ERA+ of 100 or better in eight out of ten years, won 20 or more games four times, made three All-Star teams, and placed in the top five of Cy Young voting three times. All it took was for them to have more than one spot on the ballot.
McNally's time with the Orioles took place during several years where there were varying degrees of postseason glory and heartbreak. He was a part of all of it, kicking things off with two starts in the 1966 World Series. It was McNally who threw a complete game shutout as the O's sealed the sweep with a 1-0 victory over the Dodgers in Game 4. He only out-dueled future Hall of Famer Don Drysdale. I have heard a lot about this game from my dad. It is the only time in his life he has rooted against the Orioles. His family had tickets to Game 5.
As the O's plowed through the Twins on the way to the 1969 World Series, McNally carried on a battle with Baltimore-born Dave Boswell into extra innings, throwing an 11-inning complete game shutout as the O's won Game 2, 1-0. He made two starts in the World Series that year, adding another complete game. We all know how that one ended, but McNally was part of the three 20-game winners on the 1970 staff that brought them right back.
He again tossed a complete game against the Twins in the 1970 ALCS, this one a more normal nine innings, and in the one game he started in the World Series he threw a complete game yet again as the O's cruised to a 9-3 win in Game 3 of the series. Just for fun, he added a grand slam in the game.
In nine series across six years, McNally started 12 games, threw 90.1 innings and had a 2.49 postseason ERA. He had a pair of World Series home runs. He brought his best onto the biggest stage for the Orioles and helped the O's of his era come away with two World Series championships.
His place is comfortable near the top of many categories of the franchise leaderboard. McNally's 2,652.2 innings pitched are second and it's hard to imagine anyone topping him. That's also true of his 181 wins (second), .616 winning percentage (fourth), 1,476 strikeouts (third), 120 complete games (third), and 33 shutouts (second). No one has come close to most of those for a long time, and it looks like it'll be a long time more before anyone comes close to them again.
McNally was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1978. He passed away at the age of 60 in 2002 in his hometown of Billings, Montana, where he is buried.