O's `gamer' won 20 in '71

Pitcher joined Palmer, Cuellar, McNally as same-season 20-game winners

Pat Dobson 1942-2006

November 24, 2006|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun Reporter

Though he was part of a famed Orioles rotation that featured four 20-game winners in the same season, Pat Dobson tended to go through his baseball life unrecognized. Or mistaken for someone else.

Former teammate Jim Palmer remembers a fan in spring training calling out to the Orioles' right-hander, but using the wrong first name, his confusion attached to Kansas City Royals pitcher Chuck Dobson.

"This guy kept yelling, `Chuck, Chuck,' and Dobber says, `I win 20 games and they think I'm Chuck Dobson. What am I, chuck roast?' He had 2,000 people in hysterics," Palmer said.

"He's one of the great trivia questions when it comes to the four 20-game winners. A lot of people don't know Pat Dobson. But he was a free spirit. He could laugh at himself."

Dobson, who joined Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar in the historic 1971 rotation, died Wednesday in the San Diego area. He was 64.

The San Francisco Giants, Dobson's employer the past nine years, didn't know the immediate cause of his death. But his wife, Kathe, told a reporter last night that Dobson was diagnosed with leukemia Tuesday and had been admitted to a hospital.

"Dobber really enjoyed life. This is horrible news," Palmer said. "This isn't what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about."

Dobson was 122-129 with a 3.54 ERA in 11 major league seasons, including two with the Orioles. He served as their pitching coach in 1996 under manager Davey Johnson, when they reached the American League Championship Series. Ray Miller replaced him the next season.

"He wasn't your prototypical player," said Palmer, who said he last visited with Dobson over the summer. "He was a perfect teammate. He enjoyed life and he was good at what he did. He really could make you laugh."

Palmer recalled how Dobson, who was a special assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean this season, threw a seven-inning perfect game in Japan after the 1971 World Series.

"It was one of the best pitching performances I ever saw," Palmer said.

The Japanese hosts presented McNally with a stereo and television as gifts.

"They gave Dobber a box of chocolates," Palmer said.

Just another comical slight that amused the pitcher and endeared him to teammates.

"He was a free spirit and I enjoyed having him," former Orioles manager Earl Weaver said last night. "He was a pleasure to have on the team. He caused a lot of laughs, and he kept his teammates laughing."

"He was fun to be around," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo, who was part of the 1996 coaching staff. "He took his job as seriously as anyone, but he always had fun with it."

Dobson was 25-35 in his first four seasons before going 20-8 with a 2.90 ERA in 1971. Only the 1920 Chicago White Sox had four 20-game winners in the same rotation. He won 12 consecutive decisions, with nine straight complete games and a 23-inning scoreless streak.

The next season, Dobson lowered his ERA to 2.65 but went 16-18 and tied for the American League lead in losses. Only Palmer repeated as a 20-game winner. The Orioles traded Dobson and Johnson to the Atlanta Braves before the 1973 season for catcher Earl Williams - a deal generally considered one of the worst in franchise history.

Dobson won a World Series ring with the Detroit Tigers in 1968 - he surrendered a home run to Lou Brock in Game 1 - and also pitched for the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. He went 19-15 with a 3.07 ERA for the Yankees in 1974, but never matched his success of 1971, when he used a big curveball to register his first winning season in the majors.

"Dobson, my road roomie, was the surprise," Boog Powell said in a 1995 interview. "He was a real gamer. If you wrote a book on how to pitch, he's the one I'd feature. Mediocre stuff - 85-mph fastball, pretty good curve - but a gamer."

Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson said last night: "He was a real gamer, a real competitor. He didn't give in to anybody."

Dobson replaced Mike Flanagan, now the Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations, as pitching coach in 1996. Flanagan served as a television analyst for Orioles broadcasts that season and also served as a special instructor in spring training.

"The sudden death of Pat Dobson deeply saddens me and the entire Orioles organization," Flanagan said in a statement released by the club last night. "Pat had his best seasons as a player in an Orioles uniform and will be fondly remembered by Orioles fans."

Dobson, who lived in El Cajon, Calif., is survived by his wife, three children from his first marriage, two step-children and a grandchild.

"That's one problem when you get in our age bracket," Palmer said. "You lose guys you competed with. You lose dear friends."

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

Dobson's stats

Regular season

Year Team W-L IP BB SO ERA

1967 Det. 1-2 49.1 27 34 2.92

1968 Det. 5-8 125.0 48 93 2.66

1969 Det. 5-10 105.0 39 64 3.60

1970 S.D. 14-15 251.0 78 185 3.76

1971 Orioles 20-8 282.1 63 187 2.90

1972 Orioles 16-18 268.1 69 161 2.65

1973 Atl.-N.Y.Y. 12-15 200.0 53 93 4.41

1974 N.Y.Y. 19-15 281.0 75 157 3.07

1975 N.Y.Y. 11-14 207.2 83 129 4.07

1976 Cle. 16-12 217.1 65 117 3.48

1977 Cle. 3-12 133.1 65 81 6.14

Totals 122-129 2120.1 665 1301 3.54

World Series

Year Opp. W-L IP BB SO ERA

1968 St.L. 0-0 4.2 1 0 3.86

1971 Pit. 0-0 6.2 4 6 4.05

Totals 0-0 11.1 5 6 3.97

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