Don Newcombe, one of the greatest pitchers in Dodger history, and one of the franchise’s final links to Brooklyn and the days of Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson, has passed away after a lengthy illness this morning, The Los Angeles Dodgers said in a statement. Newcombe, who was born in Madison, New Jersey, was 92.
Newcombe whose nickname was Newk, was an American professional baseball pitcher who played for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers (1949–51 and 1954–58), Cincinnati Reds(1958–60) and Cleveland Indians (1960) of Major League Baseball.
Newcombe was the first pitcher to win the Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards during his career.
He also had a two-year stint in the military in the 1952 and 1953 seasons.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) February 19, 2019
In 1949, he became the first black pitcher to start a World Series game. In 1951, Newcombe was the first black pitcher to win twenty games in one season. In 1956, the inaugural year of the Cy Young Award, he became the first pitcher to win the National League MVP and the Cy Young in the same season.
Newcombe compiled a career batting average of .271 with 15 home runs and was used as a pinch hitter, a rarity for pitchers.
Newcombe was married three times. His first wife was Freddie Cross, whom he married in 1945 and divorced in 1960. A week after his divorce to Cross, he married Billie Roberts, a marriage which lasted until they divorced in 1994. Newcombe’s third wife, Karen Kroner, survived him. In total, Newcombe had three children from his marriages.
Newcombe dealt with alcoholism in the 1950s and 1960s, describing himself as “a stupefied, wife-abusing, child-frightening, falling-down drunk”. His alcoholism became so severe that, in 1965, he pawned his World Series ring in order to afford alcohol. He quit drinking in 1966, when his wife threatened to leave him. In his personal and professional life, he helped numerous other people including military personnel via USO in their own battles against substance abuse.
Stan Kasten, the president of the Dodgers, released a statement regarding Newcombe’s death.
“Don Newcombe’s presence and life established him as a role model for major leaguers across the country,” Kasten said. “He was a constant presence at Dodger Stadium and players always gravitated to him for his endless advice and leadership. The Dodgers meant everything to him and we are all fortunate he was part of our lives.”
Rest in peace champ and thanks for your military service and the wonderful memories.
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