Ted Wade Abernathy (March 6, 1933 – December 16, 2004) was a Major League Baseball relief pitcher. He batted and threw right-handed. Abernathy appeared in 681 games and picked up 148 saves during a 14–season career between 1955 and 1972, playing for the Washington Senators (1955–57, 1960), Cleveland Indians (1963–64), Chicago Cubs (1965–66, 1969–70), Atlanta Braves (1966), Cincinnati Reds (1967–68), St. Louis Cardinals (1970) and Kansas City Royals (1970–72). He compiled a 63–69 record with 765 strikeouts and a 3.46 ERA in 1147.2 innings.
A native of Stanley, North Carolina, Abernathy was born on March 6, 1933 to Wade and Genora (McGinnis) Abernathy. He graduated from Stanley High School and signed as an amateur free agent with the Senators in 1952. In 1953 he married Margie Clemmer.
He changed his pitching motion from an overhead delivery to a three-quarter delivery after tearing two muscles in his shoulder making a throw from the outfield during his freshman year of high school. After shoulder surgery in 1959 left his career in doubt, he switched from the three-quarter delivery and become an effective sidearmer who developed a submarine pitch. He spent two years in the minor leagues before being called up by the Senators in April 1955. Throughout most of the 1950s, he split time between the Senators' major league squad and their farm system.
During the Korean War he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving with medics, driving an ambulance and repairing vehicles. He served at Fort McPherson, Georgia. He was discharged as a corporal in time to join the Senators for 1955 spring training. He made his Major League debut for the Senators at age 22 on April 13, 1955 in 19-1 loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. In the fourth inning he relieved Mickey McDermott and struck out Andy Carey before giving up a home run to Mickey Mantle followed by a groundout by Yogi Berra.
In 1965, Abernathy recorded a league-leading 31 saves with the Cubs, along with 104 strikeouts and a 2.57 ERA. He had 28 saves, 88 strikeouts, and a 1.27 ERA two seasons later with Cincinnati. In both 1965 and 1967, he led the league in saves, and won the TSN Reliever of the Year Award. In 1968, Abernathy won 10 games with 13 saves, and had 10 wins and 14 saves in 1970.
After retiring from baseball, he worked at Summey Building Systems in Dallas, North Carolina and later worked with his son at his landscaping business, Todd Abernathy Landscaping, and was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Dallas. He enjoyed playing softball and tinkering with old cars and was active in several organizations including the Masonic Lodge, the Shriners and Major League Baseball's alumni society.
During his later years he suffered from Alzheimer's disease and lived at the Belaire Health Care Center in Gastonia, North Carolina. Ted Abernathy died at age 71 on December 16, 2004 in Gastonia. He was survived by his wife of 51 years, Margie; his sons Ted Jr. and Todd and their wives; his mother; three grandchildren; and his brother Richard Wayne Abernathy.
By Dean Hanley
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