Maloney offers advice to help prevent arm injuries

Published 9:37 pm Saturday, June 8, 2024

Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Maloney turned 84 last Sunday. Maloney threw two no-hitters during his career and had pitches that were clocked at 102 miles an hour when they crossed home plate. (Courtesy of The Cincinnati

By Jim Walker

FRESNO, CA. — Maybe “old school” should be the “new school.”

Email newsletter signup

With the rash of injuries to pitchers’ arms and growing number of Tommy John surgeries, maybe today’s pitching theories should take a page out how pitchers pitched prior to the 1990s.

One teacher could be former Cincinnati Reds’ legendary pitcher Jim Maloney who had a successful training routine.

“I never had an arm injury,” said Maloney who ironically had his career cut short by an Achilles tendon injury that occurred when he was running out a hit.

“I would run as hard as I could from the foul line to center field and walk back. I’d keep doing that for 15 to 20 minutes. Then I would run from one foul line to the other foul line as hard as I could and walk back for another 15 to 20 minutes,” said Maloney.

“I’d do my long toss a couple of days between starts but I would also make sure I got my running in.”

Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Famers Pete Rose (left) and Jim Maloney (right) were teammates from 1963-1970. (Courtesy of The Cincinnati

Maloney was one of the game’s hardest throwers. He was clocked between 99 and 102 miles an hour during the time period when pitches were clocked coming across home plate and not their exit velocity from a pitcher’s hand which slowed down between 3 to 4 miles an hour by the time the pitch reached the plate.

“I just threw the ball as hard as I could. When I threw my curveball it was from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock. Today they want pitchers to twist their arm hard and get a downward break on the ball. That’s awful hard on the elbow,” Maloney said. “I don’t think lifting weights hurts a pitcher but I don’t know. I never did that.”

The big thing in today’s game of baseball is analytics. Starting pitchers only go five or six innings and they are limited to 100 or less pitches.

“They’re trained to go five or six innings. When they finish their five or six innings, you can see that they don’t want to go back out. They feel their job is done,” said Maloney. “During my time, pitchers wanted to pitch the whole game. I wanted to pitch the whole game. Every time I pitched I wanted to throw a no-hitter.”

Maloney threw a no-hitter, a 10-inning no-hitter and another 10-inning no-hitter but the game went 11 innings and he lost 2-0. He was originally credited with a 10-inning no-hitter only to have Major League Baseball change the rules and he was credited with a two-hitter.

“I felt good all the way. I really did,” Maloney said when asked about his pitch count.

Maloney— a good hitting pitcher who Baltimore considered drafting him as a shortstop or second baseman — also had a pair of singles in the game as he went 2-for-4 which meant he was on base instead of resting in the dugout.

“They had no pitch counts. If you were throwing the ball good and getting guys out, the way the manager could tell and the way you could tell was they started getting good swings on me and started getting better contact on the ball and I wasn’t fooling anybody or I couldn’t get the ball by somebody. The hitters would let the manager know (the pitcher) was losing a little bit off his stuff,” said Maloney.

Shortstop Leo Cardenas hit a home run on the first pitch from Cubs’ Larry Jackson with one out in the top of the 10th inning. The ball hit into the foul pole screen that was in fair territory.

Maloney then went out and retired the side but not until he walked leadoff hitter Doug Clemeens.

Maloney and Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver are both from Fresno.

Maloney was just four years older than Seaver and they would occasionally talk during the offseason. Maloney asked Seaver about his training process.

“He pretty much did the same thing I did. He didn’t have the injury I did so he had a longer career than I did,” Maloney said of the Hall of Famer who pitched mainly for the New York Mets but spent five-and-a-half years with the Reds.

Maloney’s career was cut short by the Achilles injury early in 1970 and cost him from being one of the key starting pitchers in the Big Red Machine and probably his rightful spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Maloney posted a 134-84 career record with a 3.19 earned run average. He had 1,605 strikeouts as he pitched for the Reds from 1960-70 and appeared in 13 games with the California Angels in 1971 after his injury.

He was 23-7 with 265 strikeouts in 1963 and 20-9 with 244 strikeouts in 1965 He was 16-8 with 216 strikeouts in 1966 and 16-10 with 181 strikeouts in 1968.

Maloney finished his career with two no-hitters and five one-hitters.

As a hitter, Maloney batted .201 with 7 home runs, 53 runs batted in, 33 walks and 51 runs scored for his career.

In the earlier no-hitter that went 11 innings in a 2-0 loss to the New York Mets, Johnny Lewis led off the 11th with a home run. The Mets also got a single later in the inning.

Maloney struck out 18 batters to set a record for most strikeouts in an extra inning game.

“That night was probably as good of stuff as I ever had. Billy Cowan was the leadoff hitter for the Mets and later on we were teammates with (California) when I got traded to the Angels and Cowan was already there,” said Maloney. “(Cowan) told me when he faced me that night that I threw him two fastballs and a curve and ‘I never got the bat off my shoulder and went back to the dugout and I told my teammates you can forget it tonight boys.’ That’s what he told me.”

Maloney threw another no-hitter on April 30, 1969 as the Reds beat the Houston Astros 10-0 at Crosley Field. He struck out 13 and walked five.

A member of the Reds Hall of Fame, Maloney continues to follow the Reds and he is the guest of the team at spring training.

“(Reds’ owner) Bob Castellini and that family deserve a championship. That guy is a really good fan and he’s a community guy. He tries to do the best he can,” said Maloney. “He’s been really good to me.”

“When I left the Reds, I came home from 1972 until when Bob Castellini bought the Reds (in 2006), I never heard from the Reds. Not one time. They told me I was inducted into the (team’s) Hall of Fame and they mailed my plaque to me.

“That was 1973. They said you got voted into the Hall of Fame. I never heard one thing until Bob Castellini bought the ball club and he called and he’s invited me and my wife to spring training every year for a week to be with the team and during the winter meetings to meet with the silent partners. And that’s the kind of guy he is.”