November 15, 2006 Edition

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Johnny Sain died at 89

Johnny Sain visited Northeast Arkansas and his children in April 2001. While Sain was in the area, H.T. Moore, a Paragould attorney and Walnut Ridge native, presented Sain with a baseball autographed by former President Bill Clinton. Sain then autographed a ball to send to Clinton.

John Bland

Johnny Sain, who ranks with some of the all-time greats in professional baseball, once called Walnut Ridge his home.

Sain, remembered as both a great professional baseball pitcher and pitching coach, died last Tuesday in a Chicago suburb. He was 89. His obituary can be found on page 3A.

Born in Havana, Arkansas, Sain maintained his Arkansas roots after becoming a professional baseball player in the majors. From 1952 to 1972 he was a Chevrolet dealer here. He and his first wife, Doris, raised their four children in Walnut Ridge, where each of them graduated from high school.

His teammates and players included names such as Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. He was the last pitcher to face Babe Ruth. Newspapers and magazines across the country have reported the news of his death.

Sain, a 6'2" right-handed pitcher, along with Warren Spahn were considered the two crucial pitchers for the Braves in their successful effort to win the National League pennant in 1948. From that season, the slogan, "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" became famous.

Sain's baseball statistics are impressive and lengthy. He was a starting pitcher with 20 game wins in four seasons, he completed 57.1 games started and beat Bob Feller 1-0 on opening day of the 1948 World Series. He was part of nine World Series winning teams, four as a player and five as a coach.

He was also an excellent hitting pitcher (.245 average) with a .346 average in 1947.

As a pitching coach for the White Sox, Yankees, Twins and Tigers, Sain tutored 16 pitchers who won 20 or more games in a season. He taught his pitchers to keep batters off balance by changing speeds and using an assortment of deliveries and motions.

Jim Kaat of the Twins and White Sox and Jim Bouton of the Yankees gave Sain the credit for rejuvenating their careers. "He's the greatest pitching coach who ever lived," Bouton said in TIME magazine.

Many people believe Sain belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. When Sain was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2002, Sain and his wife, Mary Ann, were unable to attend. Earlier that year, he had suffered a stroke. Hank Aaron read his acceptance speech, written by Mary Ann, at the ceremony in Atlanta.

While visiting Northeast Arkansas in 2001 with his wife, Sain said, "I am one of those lucky people to have grown up in a little town in Arkansas and have the experiences I've had." He said he remembered when Lou Gerig learned he was sick and made his famous statement at Yankee Stadium: "I'm the luckiest person on the face of the earth."

"That rang a bell with me," Sain said.

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