Wilfred Charles Siebert
Starting Pitcher, 1964-1969
Height: 6'3" Weight:190 lbs
Throws: Right; Bats: Right
How Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, 1958
Left Via: Trade, April 19, 1969: Traded with Joe Azcue and Vicente Romo to the Boston Red Sox for Ken Harrelson, Dick Ellsworth and Juan Pizarro
Sonny was born in St. Mary, Missouri, the younger of two children. Sonny's father, Wilfred, had been a local baseball star growing up, even receiving an offer from Rogers Hornsby to try out for the St. Louis Browns. Unfortunately, Wilfred threw his arm out before he could make the tryout, thus ending his shot at stardom. As his father had thrown his arm out, he discouraged Sonny from being a pitcher and he instead was a first baseman at Bayless High School. But Sonny was even better at basketball in those days. His hoops prowess netted him a scholarship to the University of Missouri.
He earned letters all three years for the Tigers and in his junior year in 1958, joined the baseball squad as a first baseman. The Tigers promptly made the College World Series final, losing to the USC Trojans. However, Sonny led the team with 8 home runs and was names All-Big 8 and third team All-American. This obviously got the scouts all abuzz, and the Indians were lucky enough to sign him as an amateur free agent.
1958 was a busy year for Sonny. Not only did he have a great collegiate campaign, but he got married and got a minor league contract. After signing with the Tribe though, he reported to the Indians Class D affiliate in Batavia (NY) of the New York-Penn League. He started in the outfield, but was extremely bored with the lack of activity that he used to get at first base. He only played in 37 games there with a .242 average and .298 slugging average. He was also able to finagle nine games at the Class B affiliate, the Burlington (NC) Indians of the Carolina League.
In 1959, he was scheduled to play for the Minot (ND) Mallards in the Northern League, the Tribe's Class C squad, but missed the first two months after a collision with the shortstop at the end of spring training. The, after only 61 games, he broke his ankle in a slide and finished the season with a rather unimpressive 238/364/384 slash. While rehabbing in the Florida Instructional League, Sonny was throwing batting practice as his leg was still in a cast. Former Yankee great Spud Chandler was a minor league pitching coach at that time and noticed his pitching ability, encouraging him to move to the mound.
As 1959 would have been his senior season at the University of Missouri, Siebert was then drafted by his hometown St. Louis Hawks in the NBA. He tried out, but felt he had lost too many of his basketball skills in the two seasons of playing baseball and rejoined the Indians in the spring of 1960, this time as a pitcher. He spent the year in Burlington this time, making 22 starts, but was a bit wild. He only allowed 102 hits in 149 innings but walked 114!! His ERA was decent at 3.93.
In 1961, he was promoted to the Reading Indians in the Eastern League (Class A). He made 19 starts, got his walks down a little (from 6.9 to 5.6 BB/9), but his ERA ballooned to 5.27. He also got 14 relief appearances in for the Salt Lake City Bees (PCL-AAA) but his numbers were no better. Something finally clicked in 1962 though. The Tribe had moved their Eastern League affiliate to Charleston (VA) that year, and Sonny shined, going 15-8 in 28 starts, a dazzling 2.91 ERA, a 1.167 WHIP, lowered the BB/9 to a more manageable 3.4 and his K/9 was 8.5.
He had a great spring training with the Indians in 1963, but with a rotation of Mudcat Grant, Dick Donovan, Jack Kralick, Pedro Ramos and young fireballer Sam McDowell, there was no room for Siebert. He sulked his season with the Jacksonville Suns, the Tribe's AAA team in the International League. His numbers increased to 4.83 ERA, 1.373 WHIP and K/9 dropped to 7.0.
Going into 1964 spring training, Siebert held out, but not for dollars. He wanted his major league shot or to be traded to another team that didn't have the glut of starters the Indians did. Gabe Paul negotiated with him; he reported to spring training and had a great spring. He made the team, albeit as a reliever and spot starter. By mid-August, he had settled into the rotation when Donovan and Ramos were struggling and finished the season with a 3.23 ERA (113 ERA+), a 1.276 WHIP and 8.3 K/9.
In 1965, Siebert had his breakout season, going 16-8 in 39 appearances (27 starts), with a dazzling 0.981 WHIP, 2.43 ERA (144 ERA+), a 9.1 K/9 and leading the league in K/BB ratio, 4.15. Between himself, McDowell and Luis Tiant, the Tribe had one of the best rotations in the league. 1966 was more of the same, going 16-8 again, and ERA of 2.80 (123 ERA+), 1.058 WHIP, throwing 11 complete games and making the All-Star team and finishing 28th in MVP voting. He continued his excellent pitching in 1967, 2.38 ERA (139 ERA+), 1.025 WHIP but was only 10-12 due to the lack of run support. In 1968 he had his "worst" season, a 2.97 ERA (101 ERA+) and a 1.131 WHIP, but again had very little support, finishing at 12-10.
The highlight of those years was the no-hitter he threw on June 16, 1966 blanking the Washington Senators 2-0. He almost had another no-hitter on May 19, 1968, but settled for a one-hitter, giving up a double in the seventh inning. But as good as Siebert was, he always seemed to miss a few starts here and there. From 1965 to 1968, he started 27, 32, 26 and 30 games. Among the many ailments he had were back spasms, inner ear infections, pulled muscles.
Additionally, after every season Siebert was usually in a bickering match with Gabe Paul about his contract. He held out most years, trying to get raises. Finally in April 1969, the Tribe decided to trade Siebert with Joe Azcue and Vincente Romo to the Red Sox for Hawk Harrelson, Juan Pizarro and Dick Ellsworth. Harrelson initially refused to report, threatening retirement and Siebert announced if the deal fell through, he would not return to Cleveland.
Siebert was effective for Boston in 1969 and above league average in 1970 and 1971. The 1971 season would be his last full effective year. He threw 12 complete games, had a 2.91 ERA (128 ERA+), made the All-Star team and became the last AL pitcher to hit two home runs in a game on September 2 against the Orioles. In 1972, he was off to another good start of the season, but during a family vacation during the All-Star break, he badly sprained his ankle on some rocks at the beach. He pitched very poorly in the second half, and eventually was banished to the bullpen. This banishment continued in 1973, where he only had 2 appearances before his May 4 trade to the Texas Rangers. He had another good run there, 6-6 with a 2.35 ERA before getting a separated shoulder.
That offseason, he was dealt to the Cardinals. He had 20 starts for them, but his most memorable game was on September 11 when he was the winning pitcher in the 25 inning game against the Mets. He was dealt again after the season, this time to the Padres. He had 6 ineffective starts for them before being sent to Oakland to finish off his career. He retired that offseason at 38.
He got away from the game initially, owning a Baskin-Robbins and managing some newspaper routes. But he eventually got the bug again in 1984. Siebert was pitching instructor for the San Diego Padres. He was the pitching coach in 1991 and 1992 for the Waterloo (IA) Diamonds, the Midwest League (A) affiliate of the Padres. He finished off his coaching career as the pitching coach for the major league Padres in 1994 and 1995. In 2004, the University of Missouri elected him to the Hall of Fame. He currently lives in St. Louis.
Wikipedia, SABR Biography Project (Joseph Wancho), BRef Bullpen
Indians Career Stats
|CLE (6 yrs)||61||48||.560||2.76||181||131||20||33||8||9||991.0||765||348||304||84||315||21||786||27||5||27||3999||122||1.090||6.9||0.8||2.9||7.1||2.50|
- AL All-Star: 1966
- AL MVP: 1966-28th
- AL WAR: 8th, 1965-4.8
- AL WAR Pitchers: 3rd, 1965-4.9; 4th, 1967-4.4; 6th, 1966-4.3
- AL ERA: 3rd, 1965-2.43; 3rd, 1967-2.38; 7th, 1966-2.80
- AL Wins: 4th, 1966-16; 5th, 1965-16
- AL W/L Percentage: 3rd, 1966-.667; 5th, 1965-.667
- AL WHIP: 2nd, 1965-0.981; 2nd, 1966-1.058; 3rd, 1967-1.025
- AL Hits/9 IP: 3rd, 1965-6.631; 4th, 1967-6.604; 4th, 1968-6.335; 8th, 1966-7.208
- AL Bases on Balls/9 IP: 8th, 1965-2.194; 9th, 1966-2.315
- AL Strikeouts/9 IP: 2nd, 1965-9.111; 7th, 1969-6.750
- AL Innings: 9th, 1966-241.0
- AL Strikeouts: 4th, 1965-191; 10th, 1966-163
- AL Complete Games: 5th, 1966-11
- AL Shutouts: 9th, 1968-4
- AL Home Runs: 6th, 1966-25
- AL Bases on Balls: 4th, 1968-88
- AL Strikeouts/Bases on Balls: 1st, 1965-4.152; 7th, 1966-2.629; 9th, 1967-2.519
- AL Home Runs/9 IP: 10th, 1968-0.524
- AL Hit By Pitch: 6th, 1966-6
- AL Adjusted Era+: 2nd, 1965-144; 2nd, 1967-139; 6th, 1966-123
- AL Putouts as P: 4th, 1966-19
- AL Range Factor/Game P: 4th, 1966-1.91
Cleveland Indians Career Leader
- 21st WAR Pitchers (18.4)
- 13th ERA (2.76)
- t-35th Wins (61)
- 28th W/L Percentage (.560)
- 2nd WHIP (1.090)
- 3rd Hits/9 IP (6.948)
- 29th Bases on Balls/9 IP (2.861)
- 7th Strikeouts/9 IP (7.138)
- 36th Innings Pitched (991.0)
- 16th Strikeouts (786)
- 37th Games Started (131)
- t-49th Complete Games (33)
- t-34th Shutouts (8)
- 25th Home Runs (84)
- 42nd Bases on Balls (315)
- 48th Hits (765)
- 8th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (2.495)
- t-40th Losses (48)
- t-35th Wild Pitches (27)
- t-28th Hit By Pitch (27)
- t-9th ERA+ (122)
- 26th WPA (5.3)
Cleveland Indians Season Leader
- 50th ERA (2.38, 1967)
- 8th WHIP (0.981, 1965)
- 14th WHIP (1.025, 1967)
- 20th WHIP (1.058, 1966)
- 10th Hits/9 IP (6.335, 1968)
- 17th Hits/9 IP (6.604, 1967)
- 18th Hits/9 IP (6.631, 1965)
- 47th Hits/9 IP (7.207, 1966)
- 10th Strikeouts/9 IP (9.111, 1965)
- 23rd Strikeouts/9 IP (8.308, 1964)
- t-26th Strikeouts (191, 1965)
- t-38th Shutouts (4, 1968)
- 38th Home Runs (25, 1966)
- 6th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (4.152, 1965)
- 47th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (2.629, 1966)
- t-50th ERA+ (144, 1965)