We Nicknamed the Wrong Pitcher “Wild Thing”

All apologies to Charlie Sheen and his feud with Mitch Williams, but neither of them can realistically lay claim to be the real “Wild Thing” on the mound.

Tommy Byrne was a bit of a loose cannon with the ball. How else would you describe a pitcher that once walked 16 batters in a single game. Those free passes took 64 pitches to throw, excluding anything else he did in nearly 13 innings or work that day. He did not hit anyone, an interesting footnote because his bad aim resulted in leading the league in this category for four consecutive years and averaging one HBP every 16 innings. Byrne only issued 17 intentional walks in his entire career, though I wonder if he meant to allow more before accidentally sending a pitch over the plate by mistake.

Sometimes this wildness could come in handy. Byrne was warming up to face the Boston Red Sox when he noticed Ted Williams and Mickey Vernon studying his pitches near home plate. Byrne launched a ball straight between them, sending the pair back to their dugout for shelter. Williams later richocheted an infield hit off of Byrne’s leg.

Byrne’s 1952 Topps card bio begins with “…Tommy seems to have found his control.” Hahaha….no. Go home, Topps. You’re drunk. He most certainly had not found his control. At most he improved a little bit, as 1951 was the last year that he led the American League in both walks and hit batters.

Perhaps this card was made just a bit too early for a legitimate highlight. The next year Byrne had signed again with his favorite New York Yankees and was playing against the White Sox. With two outs, the bases loaded and trailing 3-1 in the top of the 9th, New York decided the best course of action was to use Byrne as a pinch hitter. He wasn’t stepping to the plate as a replacement for some scrub, but nonother than the slugging Junior Stephens who had almost 250 home runs to his credit. Byrne hit a grand slam to win the game. That’s wild!