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WSI News - Season Features

 

Dave DeBusschere Remembered

   

By Mark Liptak


Dave DeBusschere's 1965 Topps baseball card.

He’s best known as being a member of the World Champion New York Knicks and the youngest coach in the history of the NBA but Sox fans remember Dave DeBusschere for the two seasons that he spent on the mound on the South Side and his potential for greatness.

DeBusschere died Wednesday when he suffered a heart attack walking down a street, he was 62.

Dave was a multi sport superstar at the University Of Detroit when the Sox signed him to a 75,000 dollar bonus contract in 1962.

By the end of that same season DeBusschere had made the big club appearing in a dozen games. His ERA in eighteen innings of work was 2.00 which was incredible considering he walked 23 batters!

At 6-6 Dave was one of the biggest pitchers in the game at that time and he intimidated hitters. Teammate Gary Peters saw him up close for those two seasons. "Dave had a real hard slider and kept his fastball low in the strike zone. He threw hard and was a little wild. It got to the point where our catchers hated catching him even warming up, because his ball was in the dirt a lot."

Chicago Tribune assistant sports editor Bob Vanderberg, author of numerous books on the Sox also remembered DeBusschere. "The kid threw hard and I thought he was going to have a great future with the team."

In 1963 DeBusschere had his best season appearing in 24 games tossing 84 innings with an ERA of 3.15. He started to solve his wildness somewhat with a strikeout to walk ratio of 54 to 34. Clearly he was improving. That season he would win his first major league game, beating the Senators on July 17th going seven innings allowing two runs. On July 30th he’d beat Washington again... going 8 2/3rd’s innings in a 5-1 win. He made August 12th his biggest day of all, scoring his first shutout and notching his first complete game when he held Cleveland to six hits.

But DeBusschere was coming under increasing pressure to make a choice, the Sox or the NBA. He had been playing both and after a 1964 season that saw him spend it in Indianapolis at the Triple A level, then Sox G.M. Ed Short told him to make a decision. DeBusschere felt his chances for success were better in the NBA, and it obviously paid off as he was voted one of the NBA’s Top 50 All Time players. Also perhaps influencing his decision was the fact that the Sox had the best and deepest pitching staff in the league during those years.

As far as the type of person he was, Peters remembered him as "a great guy, everybody on the club liked him."

Former Sox 1st baseman Tommy McCraw, now a coach with the Montreal Expos told the New York Post, "to be able to do both sports at the major league level, I was in awe of that. I admired him and his dedication."

DeBusschere is survived by his wife Geri, two sons and a daughter.

Dave DeBusschere’s White Sox Statistics:

Year    G    W    L    IP   BB   SO   ERA

1962  12     0     0    18    23    8     2.00

1963  24     3     4    84    34   54    3.15


Editor's Note:  Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work.  He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana) and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years.  "Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.  

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