Walter William Pierce (born April 2, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan) is a former American Major League Baseball (MLB) starting pitcher who played 18 years for the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and San Francisco Giants, from 1945 through 1964. He was selected to the Chicago White Sox All-Century Team in 2000.
Pierce was an All-Star for seven seasons. He was considered to be one of the best pitchers in the 1950s, and was the American League (AL) pitching champion in 1955. On June 27, 1958, Pierce came within one batter of becoming the first left-handed pitcher in 78 years to throw a perfect game. In 1962, Pierce played a pivotal role in helping the Giants win the National League pennant championship, going 12–0 in home games and getting a three-hit shutout and a save in a three-game tie-breaker against the Los Angeles Dodgers to clinch the title. He received the The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award (AL) for 1956 and 1957.
Pierce was one of the major participants in the rivalry between the New York Yankees and White Sox, especially his left-handed pitching matchups with Yankee left handed starting pitcher Whitey Ford. The two pitchers opposed one another 14 times, from 1955 to 1960. Pierce's record suffered from pitching so much against New York – who he faced more often than any other team – when the Yankees dynasty was at its peak; although his career record against New York was only 25–37, that was still slightly better than the 27–41 mark compiled by National League (NL) championship teams over 11 World Series against the Yankees during the same period.
His 1,999 career strikeouts were the fifth most by a left-hander when he retired, and his AL total of 1,842 ranked ninth in league history. He also ranked tenth among left-handers in career wins (211), sixth in games started (432) and games pitched (585), eighth in shutouts (38) and ninth in innings pitched (3,306⅔). He holds the White Sox franchise record for career strikeouts (1,796) and his club marks of 186 wins, 2,931 innings, and 390 starts are team records for a left-hander.
In 2014, Pierce appeared for the first time as a candidate on the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Golden Era Committee election ballot for possible Hall of Fame consideration in 2015. He and the other candidates including former White Sox teammate Minnie Minoso all missed getting inducted. The Committee meets and votes on ten candidates selected from the 1947 to 1972 era every three years.
By Dean Hanley
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