RIP to Ike Delock, who pitched for 11 seasons in the American League in the 1950s and ’60s. He died on February 28 at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, N.C. He was 92 years old and had been suffering from dementia. Delock played for the Boston Red Sox (1952-53; 1955-63) and Baltimore Orioles (1963).
Ivan Martin Delock was born in Highland Park, Mich., on November 11, 1929. He went to Highland Park High School at a time when there was plenty of talent on the baseball team. The team won the city baseball championship in 1944 with Billy Pierce on the mound and Joe Delock at second base. Younger brother Ivan followed behind and played third base, alongside his brother. When he graduated, Ivan joined the Marines and ended up as a pitcher for a Navy-Marine Recruiting team in the Big Six League. The story that was later told is that Delock volunteered to pitch and promptly struck out 20 batters in his first game on the mound.
Both Delock brothers signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1948 — Joe reporting to Class-D Wellsville and Ivan to the Class-C Auburn Cayugas of the Border League. The two never did play on the same team at the same time, and Joe Delock left baseball after the 1951 season. Ivan — frequently shortened to “Ike” — appeared in 24 games for Auburn and posted a 5-5 record and 5.16 ERA. He then won 12 games for Class-C Oneonta in 1949, 15 games for Class-B Roanoke in 1950 and 20 games for Class-A Scranton in 1951.
Delock’s 1951 season was particularly remarkable. Not only did he win 20 games while losing just 5 (4 for Scranton and 1 for Double-A Birmingham), but he also had a 1.92 ERA in Scranton. He picked up 3 more wins in the postseason, too. Delock struck out 136 batters while walking 71 in 212 innings, throwing 20 complete games. He also showed a decent form at the bat, with a .229 average and 2 home runs. He impressed the Red Sox enough that manager Lou Boudreau added him to the team’s bullpen in 1952, even though he’d thrown just 13 innings above Class-A ball.
Delock started off hot for Boston in 1952. He was unscored upon in 5 April appearances, with 2 saves and 2 wins. His first major-league win came on April 24 against the Yankees. He entered the game in the 11th inning after starter Mickey McDermott had thrown 10 innings with a 2-2 tie. Delock loaded the bases, but he then retired Hank Bauer on a fly ball to center field and struck out Mickey Mantle to get out of the jam. Boston scored the winning run in the bottom of the inning, thanks to Yankees reliever Bob Kuzava walking Jim Piersall and Billy Goodman to force in the deciding run. Aside from a brief demotion to Triple-A Louisville in August, Delock stayed with the Red Sox the whole season and eventually picked up some starts, too. He dropped his last 6 decisions to finish with a 4-9 record and 4.26 ERA, with 46 strikeouts and 50 walks in 95 innings. One of those losses, though, was one of his best games of the year.
Boston played the Chicago White Sox in Chicago on September 14, 1952. The White Sox tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning against Hersh Freeman with singles by Jim Rivera and Eddie Robinson and walks to Sam Mele and Minnie Minoso. Delock was brought into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out. He got Sam Dente to hit a grounder to second baseman Billy Goodman for a forceout, and then Rocky Krsnich grounded to third baseman Ted Lepcio, who turned it into an inning-ending double play. Delock threw a total of 8-2/3 innings of relief, getting out of a second bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the bottom of the tenth inning. The White Sox finally scored in the bottom of the 17th inning when Krsnich, who had been 0-for-2 in bases-loaded situations in the game, singled with 2 outs and the bags full to give the White Sox a 4-3 win. It was a tough loss for Delock but an amazing performance.
Delock walked 3 batters in his first game of the 1953 season and was sent back to the minors for several months. When he returned to Boston, he was given a start against the Washington Senators and threw 8 innings of 7-hit, 1-run ball. He picked up the win when Lepcio singled in Piersall with the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning. It was Delock’s only start with Boston that year. He relieved in 22 other games and ended the year with a 3-1 record and 4.44 ERA. He spent all of 1954 with Triple-A Louisville and won 17 games. He also became a historical footnote when he faced a Milwaukee Braves infielder named Hank Aaron in spring training and gave up a long, long home run. It was Aaron’s first home run as a Milwaukee Brave, and even if it didn’t count in his 755 career total, he remembered the pitcher. Sort of.
“I guess when he retired or when he broke Ruth’s record, they asked him who he hit his first home run off of. He said Irv Delock,” the pitcher recalled in a 2005 interview.
Delock wasn’t happy about his successful 1954 season in Louisville. “I felt I should have been given a shot with the Red Sox last season,” he said the following spring. “I kept winning ball games in Louisville, and I kept waiting for the call form Boston. I was disappointed when it did not come.” It was his Louisville manager, Mike “Pinky” Higgins, who convinced him that a full season in the minors would make him a better pitcher. Higgins became the Red Sox manager in 1955, and he quickly pointed out that Delock had gained the experience and confidence needed to stay in the majors. The addition of a slider to his arsenal of fastballs and curves didn’t hurt, either.
Higgins, perhaps because he saw Delock’s development, was unafraid to use the pitcher in a variety of roles. In 1955, Delock spent most of his time as a starter, with 18 of his 29 appearances coming in that role. He was 9-7 on the year with a 3.76 ERA. He was troubled by a sore arm toward the end of the year that limited his usage, but he had enough strength to beat the Yankees 7-1 with a 5-hitter on August 15. “My arm feels great — not a twinge,” he said after the game, proving that a Red Sox win over the Yankees can cure a lot of ailments.
Delock spent most of the next two seasons in the bullpen — not that the move gave him any rest. He appeared in 48 games in 1956 (40 in relief) and threw 128-1/3 innings. Delock won 13 games with a 4.21 ERA, and he also earned 9 saves (retroactively, as saves weren’t an official statistic in 1956). His control was a little uncertain, as he walked a career-high 80 batters, but he also had 105 strikeouts, which also represented a career high. Delock saved 11 games in 1957, which was good enough to finish third in the American League. He went 9-8, his control improved, and his ERA fell to 3.83. That success may have stemmed from a spring conversation with manager Higgins about his warmup time. Unlike former Boston pitcher Ellis Kinder, a long-time reliever who could get ready at a moment’s notice, Delock needed more time to get ready.
“I’m no Kinder, Mike,” Delock had said, “So it would be a lot better to give me 10 minutes to get ready before I come in.” Higgins quickly agreed, and Delock turned in his best season as a reliever.
The downside to the versatility was that Delock was the usually the first pitcher pulled out of the bullpen whenever the Red Sox didn’t have enough effective starters. That happened frequently in the 1950s and ’60s, and Delock found himself back as a starter in 1958. “Frankly I wasn’t too enthusiastic about starting even though a pitcher always wants to make good at it,” he said. “But I pitched good in my first start at Cleveland — won 2-1 — and everything has been fine since. I was worried about pacing myself to go nine innings because in relief you can throw hard for a couple of innings and that’s all that is asked of you.”
As a Red Sox pitcher, Delock did have the benefit of having the game’s greatest batter on his side. But as much as the pitching staff loved Ted Williams, they did wish he kept his knowledge to himself. “Ted talks to young American League hitters. Two in point are Gus Triandos of Baltimore and Rocky Colavito,” Delock explained. “He offers hitting tips and then they come back and beat our brains out… we Red Sox pitchers tell him not to tip off the rival hitters until they leave the American League.”
Delock won his first 10 decisions in 1958, giving him a 13-game winning streak that dated back to 1957. He finally lost a game on July 26, when the White Sox roughed him up. He had a 5-game losing streak in the second half of the season to leave him with a 14-8 record by the end of the season, but he had a fine 3.38 ERA to go with it, and he reached career highs in complete games (9) and innings pitched (160). He improved his ERA to 2.95 in 1959 and won 11 games against 6 defeats. Shoulder problems forced him to miss a start in June, and he pitched more out of the bullpen in the final months of the season.
Delock was in his age 30 season in 1960, and his effectiveness fell sharply. He was bothered by a sore elbow to start the season and never really got on track, finishing with a 9-10 record and an ERA of 4.73. His frustrations boiled over when he was removed from a 10-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers. He was knocked out of the game in the second inning, when doubles by Al Kaline and Frank Bolling and a Red Wilson single made the game 3-0. When he walked opposing pitcher Don Mossi, he was pulled from the game and made an “obscene gesture” to the booing Red Sox crowd, earning a 3-game suspension. His struggles continued in 1961, which was the only season of his career where he was used exclusively as a starter. He won just 6 times in 28 starts and had a 4.90 ERA. Even when he won a game, it came at a cost. He beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 on June 28, only to find out that somebody broke into his hotel room and stole $500 in jewelry and other possessions.
The injuries and soreness that bothered Delock periodically in his career came roaring back in 1962. He only pitched 1 inning in the month of April and surrendered a home run to Detroit’s Norm Cash. He didn’t win a game until June 12 and missed almost all of July. Despite reports that he was about to be released or traded, he came back to shut out the Orioles on August 11, throwing a 5-hit gem with 5 strikeouts and just 1 walk. “Honestly… there are times when I leave the bench and wonder if I’m going to make it through the inning,” he said, adding, “It’s only temporary. The minute I get that baseball I feel strong again.”
By 1963, Delock had the most seniority of any Red Sox player. It also ended up being his last season with the team, as he was released on June 9 with a 1-2 record and 4.50 in 6 starts. Rookie manager Johnny Pesky criticized Delock for having a sore arm when he was needed in a game against Detroit. Delock, in turn, said that Pesky didn’t use him once his arm felt better, and that the rookie manager decided to make an example of the veteran pitcher. Delock signed with the Baltimore Orioles, and after one relief outing, he made his first start with his new team on June 16, against his old team. Unfortunately, Delock couldn’t extract a bit of revenge against Boston, as he took the loss after getting taken out of the game in the fifth inning. He was released by Baltimore after about a month, with a 1-3 record and 5.04 ERA as an Oriole. He did not pitch again.
In 11 seasons, Delock had an 84-75 record and 4.03 ERA, with 147 starts in his 329 pitching appearances. He threw 32 complete games, including 6 shutouts, and he also had 31 saves. He struck out 672 batters while walking 530 and had a career WHIP of 1.426 and an ERA+ of 102.
Delock had a successful career in sales following his baseball days, and he also was a baseball coach at Brandeis University for a couple of seasons. He was married to his late wife, Glenna, for 67 years, and they had three children. The Delocks lived in Needham, Mass., for many years before retiring to Florida.
Delock made some appearances at old-timers games, as well as one unexpected party. Renowned sportscaster Lesley Visser latched on to Ike Delock as her favorite ballplayer when she was young, and she carried around one of his baseball cards into adulthood. “As a matter of fact,” she related in a 1991 interview, “my friends gave me a bachelorette party the night before my wedding, and they flew in Ike Delock. Twenty-five women and Ike Delock! How great was that!”
For more information: Legacy.com