Baseball History: One Swing Links Three Players

brooks lawrence 1957Cincinnati Reds righthander Brooks Lawrence was poised to earn his 14th straight win without a loss 59 years ago this week.

With one out in the ninth inning, the Reds led the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 on July 21, 1956.

Lawrence faced future National Baseball Hall of Fame legend Roberto Clemente. With one swing, Clemente would end Lawrence’s 13-game winning streak.

Clemente gave the Pirates a 4-3 advantage at Crosley Field with a three-run blast. Lawrence finished the game, but the Reds could muster any offense in the bottom of the ninth against eventual winning pitcher Roy Face.

After beginning the year with 13 wins, Lawrence finished his only all-star campaign at 19-10. The 13 wins in a row are the second most in Reds history in the modern era behind Ewell Blackwell‘s 16 straight in 1947.

Roberto_Clemente 1973Lawrence added another solid year in 1957 with a 16-13 mark before faltering in his last three seasons. After starting his pro career in the Negro National League, he ended seven-year stint in the majors at 69-62. He was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1976.

In just his second season, Clemente had seven homers and 60 RBI with a .311 batting average in 1956.

Inducted into the Cooperstown shrine with a special election in 1973, the 12-time all-star played his entire career with the Pirates from 1955-1972.

Clemente was the NL Most Valuable Player in 1966, while earning the World Series MVP honor in 1971 when the Pirates beat the Baltimore Orioles in seven games. A year later, Clemente picked up his 3,000th career hit. After the 1972 season, 12-time Gold Glove winner perished in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve of that year as he was headed to Nicaragua to help earthquake victims.

roy face 1959Pitcher Roy Face benefited from Clemente’s homer as he picked up the win that day for the Pirates. He finished 1956 with a 12-13 record.

In 1959, Face exceeded Lawrence’s winning streak. The righthander won a major league record 17 straight in relief on his way to an 18-1 season.

A six-time all-star, Face was a member of the 1960 world champion Pirates.

He posted a record 104-95 in 16 seasons with the Pirates, Detroit Tigers and Montreal Expos from 1953 to 1969.

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