Don Newcombe went to the great baseball diamond in the sky, the legendary “Field of Dreams,” on Feb.19, 2019. “Newk” was born in Madison, N.J.some 92 years ago, on June 14 1926; Flag Day. Don Newcombe helped America to become what it is; or, perhaps, what it should be; and that is a model of diversity. Without doubt, “Newk” helped to introduce a new generation of black athletes to professional baseball; many of whom would greatly contribute to the American pastime.
“Newk” pitched for the Newark Eagles (Negro League) before playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949. He was the third black pitcher in professional baseball.
Don Newcombe had a very distinguished career in Major League Baseball. He was the first pitcher to win the Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and Cy Young awards during his career. In 1949, Don Newcombe was the first black pitcher to start a World Series game. He also was the first black player to win 20 games in a single season. In 1956, “Newk” became the first pitcher to win the National League MVP and Cy Young Award in the same season.
After a decade in the Major Leagues, “Newk” registered a career record of 149-90; 1,129 strikeouts, and a 3.56 ERA. He pitched 136 complete games and 24 shutouts in 2,154 innings pitched, Don Newcombe also was a formidable batter, an excellent “hitting pitcher,” who was often called upon to “pinch hit.” He compiled a .271 batting average (ninth best average in history among pitchers). “Newk” had 238 hits, 15 homeruns, 108 runs batted in, three triples, 33 doubles, and eight stolen bases.
Don Newcombe wrestled with his own personal demons in the 50’s and 60’s. As such, in his personal and professional career, “Newk” helped people – to include teammate Maury Wills – battle substance abuse.
Don Newcombe was among the first “pioneers” in establishing an environment receptive to diversity in professional baseball. “Newk’s” performance on the playing field helped to turn hateful “jeers” into “cheers;” and, consequently, a fan-base more receptive, more supportive, and more accepting of black athletes.
Albert J. Cupo
John Di Genio