Early Wynn (January 6, 1920 - April 4, 1999) was a right-handed baseball pitcher for the Washington Senators, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. Armed with a blazing fastball and a hard-nosed attitude, during his career he was identified as one of the most intimidating pitchers in the game. Wynn once admitted that if he was in a tight situation, with men in scoring position and the game in the balance, he'd deck his own mother if she was the batter. The truth is that many opposing batters believed him.
Early Wynn was born in Hartford, Alabama. His durability helped him lead the American League in innings three times (1951, 1954, 1959) and propelled him to an AL record for most years pitched (23). Wynn won an even 300 games, highlighted by five 20-win seasons, 2,334 strikeouts, 49 shutouts, and 4,556 innings pitched in 691 games.
Wynn signed with the Senators at age 17, and after only three appearances in 1939 he blossomed in 1941, winning 72 games before being dealt to Cleveland in December 1948. The Indians' pitching coach and former star pitcher Mel Harder, taught him how to throw a curveball, slider, changeup and knuckleball. Wynn assimilated Harder's lessons easily, and after his '49 season adjustment, the next year he won 18 games and led the AL with a 3.20 ERA. In 1950 he had his first 20-win season. By this time he had become part of a strong pitching staff, forming - with Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Mike Garcia - one of the greatest pitching rotations in baseball history. Wynn was traded to the White Sox after the '57 season.
In 1958 Wynn became the first major league pitcher to lead his league in strikeouts in consecutive years with different teams (184 with Cleveland, 189 with Chicago), and he won the Cy Young Award in 1959 at the age of 39, posting a record of 22-10, with 179 strikeouts and a 3.16 ERA to lead the Sox to the pennant.
In this decade Wynn had more strikeouts (1,544) than any other pitcher in the majors, and he was capable with the bat as well. A dangerous switch hitter, Wynn hit .270 or better five times, and in his career batted .214 (365 for 1704), with 17 home runs and 173 RBI, with 90 pinch-hit appearances including a grand slam, making him one of five MLB pitchers to clear the bases as a pinch-hitter.
Widely known as a pitcher with a mean disposition, Wynn threw at batters frequently enough to be labeled a "headhunter." When asked if he would throw at his own grandmother, he said, "I'd have to. My grandma could really hit the curveball."
Early Wynn returned to Cleveland in 1963 for a last run. In his career, Wynn was the pitcher off of whom Mickey Mantle hit the most home runs (13). Upon his retirement, he was the last major leaguer to have played in the 1930's to still be playing. In 1972 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In 1999, he ranked Number 100 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
According to the Baseball Reference website (www.baseball-reference.com), Wynn is the "most linkable" player in baseball history. (This means that, if a value of 1 is assigned to any player Wynn played on the same team with, and a value of 2 assigned to any player that played on the same team with a player with a value of 1, and so on, and the mean value is found by considering each player in baseball history, Wynn's value is lower than any other player's.)