Karl Benjamin Spooner (June 23, 1931 in Oriskany Falls, New York – April 10, 1984 in Vero Beach, Florida) was a Major League Baseball left-handed pitcher.
Signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1951, Spooner would make his Major League Baseball debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 22, 1954 and appeared in his final game on October 3, 1955 when he started game 6 of the 1955 World Series.
Spooner's early minor league career was promising, but erratic. Walks were frequently a problem, as Spooner averaged a walk per inning in his first two minor league seasons. However, he also had great speed, and showed flashes of brilliance. Slowing making his way from the lowest D-level league through to A-ball in his first three seasons, Spooner compiled a fairly unimpressive 27-36 record during this stretch. Then, in 1954, pitching for the AA-level Fort Worth Cats, Spooner had his breakout season, going 21-9 with 262 strikeouts in 238 innings. He was called up to the major leagues at the end of the season.
Spooner was considered by many in Major League Baseball to be the next superstar after his stellar rookie year of 1954. Although he only started two games on the mound for the Dodgers, Spooner, compiled two complete game shutouts, throwing 18 innings, giving up 7 total hits and no runs. Spooner struck out 15 batters in his first game, setting a Major League record. J. R. Richard would tie the record in 1971. Spooner also recorded six consecutive strikeouts, striking out the side in both the 7th and 8th innings. Pete Richert (1962) is the only other pitcher to strike out six consecutive batters in his Major League Debut.
However, during spring training prior to the 1955 season, Spooner entered a game without warming up properly. A severe arm injury was the result, and Spooner was out of action until May 15. He would make a comeback and appear in 29 games with the Dodgers that year, but with only fairly mild success. Initially used as a spot starter, Spooner was moved to the bullpen after two poor starts. He was added back into the rotation in late June, removed from it at the end of July, and was then given some spot starts in August and September, finishing the season at 8-6.
Despite the winning record, Spooner was deemed only marginally effective. Prior to the injury, Spooner threw a fastball that ranged in the mid to high 90s; post-injury, that was not the case. In his final appearance as a Dodger, Spooner started game 6 of the 1955 World Series, and was shellacked, giving up 5 runs in one-third of an inning and taking the loss.
Spooner never played again in the majors. Still hampered by injuries, he pitched in only 4 games in Triple-A in 1956. He was called up to the Dodgers in September, but did not get into any games that year. For the 1957 season, Spooner was demoted all the way back down to A-ball: in 13 games (9 starts) he was 2-4.
The Dodgers left Spooner unprotected in the 1957 minor league draft, and he wound up being claimed by the St. Louis Cardinals. For the 1958 season, Spooner was demoted to the very lowest rung of minor league ball, playing for Dothan in the 'D' level Alabama-Florida League, appearing in 9 games. He also played two games for Houston at the AA level that same season, but that ended his professional career. Spooner attended spring training in 1959, but retired before the season started.
As his baseball career wound down, Spooner, a native of New York state, moved to Vero Beach, Florida and found work as a manager in the citrus industry. He worked at this job for the rest of his life, raising five children with his wife Carol. Spooner died of liver cancer in 1984, age 52.
By Dean Hanley
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