Sometimes guys play a long time in the major leagues and have good but not great careers and then are forgotten.
Thus today I want to remember former Cubs lefthander Juan Pizarro:
My friend Juan Pizarro has passed away. Pray for his family. Juan was one of my mentors. He’s now in heaven with Roberto, Vera & José Pagan..an all time PuertoRican team. Kind, loving and a great human. #RIP #QEPD ⚾️— Manny Sanguillen (@MannySanguille1) February 19, 2021
Pizarro, a native of Puerto Rico, pitched in the major leagues from 1957-74, and parts of four seasons (1970-73) with the Cubs.
He pitched in the World Series for the Milwaukee Braves in 1957 and 1958 but had his best years for the White Sox, for whom he pitched from 1961-66. He was a two-time All-Star for the Sox and finished 19th in AL MVP voting in 1964, when he was 19-9 with a 2.56 ERA and 1.038 WHIP.
The Cubs acquired Pizarro from the Angels in July 1970 for a spare-part reliever named Archie Reynolds. (Interestingly, at other times in his career Pizarro was involved in trades that included Wilbur Wood, Dick Ellsworth and Hawk Harrelson.)
He pitched in just 12 games for the team in 1970, all in relief, and then had a pretty good year as a spot starter (16 appearances, 14 starts) in 1971, posting a 3.46 ERA and 1.164 WHIP, good for 1.8 bWAR. He threw three complete-game shutouts in 1971, and on September 16 of that year pretty much singlehandedly won a game for the Cubs when he threw a six-hit shutout against the Mets and hit a solo homer that was the only run in a 1-0 Cubs win. (Check out who he hit the home run off of, too.)
By mid-1973 Pizarro had faded and was sold to the Astros, reuniting with his Cubs manager, Leo Durocher. He wasn’t very good in Houston either and retired after a brief foray with the Pirates in 1974.
Overall, Pizarro won 131 MLB games with a 3.43 ERA and 1.325 WHIP, struck out over 1,500 batters and posted 16.2 career bWAR.
Per his SABR biography, after his playing career he returned to Puerto Rico to coach baseball, including his hometown Santurce Crabbers, and briefly in the Cubs minor leagues:
In addition to coaching the Crabbers off and on, Pizarro stayed involved with baseball in other ways. As of the early 1980s, he was working for Santurce’s Parque Central as an instructor, with the additional goal of keeping kids out of trouble. As late as 1997, he was back in the US, coaching with the Rockford Cubbies of the Midwest League (Class A). The manager was one of his contemporaries in the majors, Rubén Amaro, Sr. “He was very professional for me as well as our young pitchers,” said Amaro, “and I know many of those young players were touched by his experience.”
Juan Pizarro was 84 years old. Condolences to his family, friends and many fans.