Dennis “the Eck” Eckersley was a Major League pitcher and played for 23 years. He is one of two pitchers in MLB history to have both a 20-win season and a 50-save season. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004. The Oakland Athletics retired his number (43). His high school named the campus baseball field in his honor.
He was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 1972 MLB draft and debuted on April 12, 1975. On May 30, 1977, he pitched a no-hitter against the California Angels and earned his first All-Star Game selection that year.
He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in March 1978. He pitched well the first two years, but from 1980 to 1984 he did not. On May 25, 1984, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs and had two shutouts in 1985, which would be the last of his career. After the season, he checked himself into a rehab clinic to treat his alcoholism. He said, “I was spiraling out of control personally. I knew I had come to a crossroads in my life. With the grace of God, I got sober and I saved my life.
Eckersley was traded on April 3, 1987, to the Oakland Athletics. He ended up being a closer, although manager Tony La Russa had intended him to be a set-up pitcher or long reliever. In his 1990 season, Eckersley became the first relief pitcher in baseball history to have more saves than baserunners allowed (48 SV, 41 H, 4 BB, 0 HBP). In a statistical anomaly, he had exactly the same WHIP and ERA: both were 0.614. In 1992, he was the American League’s Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner.
His numbers began to slip following 1992, and after the 1994 season, the Athletics did not exercise an option on him and he became a free agent. He was signed with the team for a one-year contract with a lower salary. When manager La Russa left the Athletics for the St. Louis Cardinals, he took Eckersley with him. He remained one of the league’s best closers.
He signed with the Boston Red Sox for a final season as a set-up man. He retired in December 1998 with a career 197–171 win-loss record, a 3.50 ERA, and 390 saves.
Eckersley had a successful broadcasting career, both as studio analyst and color commentator for the Boston Red Sox with NESN. Later he filled in on the play-by-play. He has also worked with TBS as studio analyst, calling games, and providing postseason analysis.
Eckersley was born on October 3, 1954, in Oakland, California. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but openly struggled with alcohol issues and was not active in the Church for a good portion of his life.
He has been married three times and has three children.