Once upon a time, my brother and I collected baseball cards. In fact, we still have most of them in a box.
Let us say happy # 81 to Galen Cisco, one of those cards in that collection. I remember Cisco because of his name. After all, how many ballyers are named Galen Cisco?
Galen broke with Boston in 1961 and traded to the expansion Mets for the 1963 season.
Cisco went 18-43 in 4 seasons but he pitched better than his record would indicate. After all, how often does a pitcher go 6-19 with a 3.62 ERA?
Cisco retired after the 1969 season. He pitched for two expansion teams, the Mets of the NL later for the Royals of the AL.
Cisco turned out to be a pretty good pitching coach, as we read in SABR:
Just 35 years old, Cisco became the pitching coach for Bob Lemon in Kansas City in 1971. During his tenure with the Royals, he worked with such top-notch starters as Dennis Leonard, Steve Busby, and Paul Splittorff. All three credited Cisco for their successes.
“I had been dropping too much on my slider and Galen got on me about throwing more over the top,” Busby told The Sporting News in 1973, after the publication named him the American League Rookie Pitcher of the Year and a year before he won 20 games with the Royals.
“I guess I was doing the same thing with my fastball. I know I felt better and threw better when I went back to the old way.”
Mound ace Leonard told The Sporting News in 1976, “When I struggled last season, Galen worked with me. He told me I was dropping down too much and everything I was throwing was flattening out. He worked with me for hours and hours.”
When Splittorff contemplated quitting in the minors, Cisco talked him out of it.
“I told him you’re left-handed and your time will come when you’re going to get a shot at the big leagues. You have spent three full years playing this game and you should give it one or two more years before retiring,” Cisco told the young pitcher, who won 166 games over 15 seasons in the majors.
Cisco was the pitching coach for the Royals’ division championship teams in 1976-1978 before being let go when Whitey Herzog was fired after the 1979 season. The experienced pitching coach quickly found work as his old friend Dick Williams hired him to lead the pitchers in Montreal.
A few years later Cisco worked with Williams in San Diego.
In 1987, the Toronto Blue Jays hired Cisco as their pitching coach, and within four years, his staff included Jimmy Key, Dave Stieb, Todd Stottlemyre, and David Wells. Wells, not known for his love of management, appreciated Cisco’s assistance. “Galen Cisco helped me a lot. He would help me correct little things if he saw me doing something wrong, and we would talk pitching,” Wells said in 1988.
Cisco led the Jays’ pitchers during their world championship years of 1992-1993, the first team to win back-to-back World Series in 15 years.
In addition to Key, Stieb, Stottlemyre, and Wells, pitchers who threw for him during those two years included Jack Morris, David Cone, Dave Stewart, Tom Henke, Duane Ward, and Mike Timlin.
“I have to give (Pat) Gillick a lot of credit, and the scouting department. After the first (championship), most teams would have stayed pretty much pat, but they brought in two or three key players … Without those players, I wonder if we would have won it back to back,” said Cisco.
Happy birthday Galen Cisco!