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Whicker: Jim Wynn Cannon-ized pitchers throughout the National League

first_img Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Jimmy Wynn of the Dodgers is congratulated by coach Red Schoendienst as he rounds third base on his second-inning homer in the All-Star game July 15, 1975, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo)“He was maybe the last piece of our puzzle,” Garvey said. “I know how tough it was in Houston. The air didn’t move.”“I make sure I hit when the air conditioning is behind me,” Wynn once joked. “It’s always 1 mph.”John Wilson was the Houston Chronicle writer who dubbed Wynn the “Toy Cannon,” and it stuck as closely as the round, comfortable toothpicks Wynn held in his mouth, every game.Wynn had a cannon-like arm, too. But his swing was the real fascination. He coiled and struck, unleashing all his musculature. He was a launch-angle generator before anybody else claimed to be.One day in Cincinnati, where he had graduated from Taft High, Wynn went into liftoff mode off Sammy Ellis. The ball vaulted a 58-foot scoreboard, left Crosley Field entirely and wound up on a Mill Creek Expressway exit ramp.The mounds were still high in 1967, and the pitchers were still tyrants. That changed in 1969, and Wynn responded with 113 runs, 33 homers, a league-leading 148 walks and a .943 OPS that was actually 1.037 in the Dome.“People looked at batting average back then,” Dierker said. “He might have hit .270 (.250 lifetime). But you look at those walks and that production. Today, the analytics guys would love him.”Dierker said Wynn did not have a seething small-man’s complex. “You never saw him get mad or yell at anybody, and he had style, too,” he said. Wynn wore muttonchop sideburns and had a collection of bell bottom pants and snazzy suits.“Jim would go with the flow,” Dierker said. “When Joe Morgan was traded to Cincinnati, you saw his career take off. But Jim was a better athlete. Had it happened to Jim, we might be talking Cooperstown for him, too.“He wore 24 and he reminded you of a miniature Willie Mays without the basket catch.”Wynn came to the Dodgers in a deal for Claude Osteen and was the only 30-something in their 1974 lineup. He contributed 32 homers, 108 RBIs, 108 walks and 104 runs.with a .497 slugging percentage.But the ‘74 Dodgers also left an object lesson for today’s battle-fatigued L.A. fan.Related Articles How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire “That was before they put up the inner fence and you had to hit it all way into the seats,” said Larry Dierker, Houston’s top starting pitcher in those days. “I think that’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. By definition, any home run there was a tape-measure shot. In my mind, it was easier to pitch a no-hitter than to do that.”Wynn was freed in 1974. He came to the Dodgers, where the fences and the plate were in the same ZIP code, and where true talent surrounded him. He had 32 home runs for a 102-win National League champ, and he was fifth in the MVP voting that teammate Steve Garvey won.Wynn passed away Thursday at 78.“He had such a great personality,” said Fred Claire, who was the head of publicity for the Dodgers and later the general manager in 1988, the last championship.“We were having a little trouble with some rowdy fans in left field, which was uncharacteristic for us, and we asked Jimmy to go out there and talk to them, which he did. The biggest thing was that he gave some veteran presence to a young, talented team.” Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco center_img Jim Wynn was ahead of his time, even when he was out of place.A home-run hitter in Houston’s Astrodome, at least in its old configuration, was like a fisherman in the Mojave. Put a 5-foot-9 guy in the batter’s box, surround him with guys who hit soft singles when they hit at all, and Wynn has to be recognized as one of the unlikeliest power sources in baseball history.Wynn had 291 home runs, most of them executed from the heels. In 1967, Wynn had 37. Some modern analysts project that as a 50-homer year. No other Astro had more than 10.Three of Wynn’s homers came on June 15, at home against San Francisco. The Astros had only 36 “Dome runs” all season. They lost to the Triple Crown Oakland A’s in the World Series. The next two years, they were blocked by Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine. The next two years after that, they lost to the Bronx Zoo Yankees in the Series.In 1980, the Dodgers lost the N.L. West to Houston in the 163rd game. After the bandwagon emptied, the ‘81 Dodgers finally won it all, in six games over New York.Be patient, keep it simple, swing hard, keep the cannon lit. Or, as the man himself said, “I just let the wood hit horsehide.” Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more