Saturday, July 16, 2016

Final Card: Bob Purkey

A few years ago I wrapped up my “Final Cards” series on this blog, with a recap post of all the cards, with a footnote that I was missing 9 of the cards (including Bob Purkey). A few months ago, I acquired Purkey’s final card (#551), so we can consider this a “bonus track”.

Bob Purkey finished up his career in 1966 in the same place it began 12 years earlier – with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bob was signed by the Bucs in 1948 and pitched 3 seasons in the low minors before missing the 1951-52 seasons while in military service.

After another year (1953) in the minors, Bob played all of 1954 with the Pirates, pitching in 36 games (11 starts), logging 131 innings. He spent part of ‘55 and most of ‘56 back in the minors, but appeared with the Pirates in both seasons.

Bob was back in Pittsburgh for all of 1957, compiling a record of 11-14 in 48 games (21 starts). That was his last season with the Pirates for a long while, as he was traded to the Reds in December ’57 for pitcher Don Gross.

The knuckle-balling Purkey was a mainstay in the Reds’ rotation for the next 7 seasons. He made the All-Star team 3 times (’58, ’61, ’62) and had his best season in 1962, compiling a 23-5 record with a league-leading .821 winning percentage. He also finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting and 8th in MVP voting that year.

Bob’s 1963 and 1964 seasons were not up to the level of his previous five seasons, and after the ’64 season he was traded to the Cardinals for pitcher Roger Craig and reserve outfielder Charley James. Purkey lasted 1 year in St. Louis. He compiled a 10-9 record in 32 games (17 starts), but was sold to the Pirates one week before the 1966 season. At age 35, I guess the Cards were “going in another direction”, presumably making room for youngsters Nelson Briles and Larry Jaster.

Bob pitched sparingly for the Pirates in his final season, appearing in 4 games in April, 4 in May, and 2 in July, before getting his release in early August.

He finished his 13-year career with a record of 129-115, and was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1974.

Purkey passed away in March 2008 at age 78.