Hal Woodeshick, who pitched for the expansion Houston Colt .45s during an 11-year career in which he was an All-Star and part of a World Series championship team, has died. He was 76.
Woodeshick died Sunday in Houston, the Astros said. He was beset by health problems for a long while.
Known as a durable reliever, Woodeshick went 44-62 with 61 saves and a 3.56 ERA with Houston, Detroit, Cleveland, Washington and St. Louis. He posted the second victory in Houston history and later led the NL with 23 saves in 1964.
"Woody was a very significant pitcher," Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith recalled Monday. "He was a closer when the role was a lot different than it is now."
Woodeshick had a quirk on the mound, too: While he had an excellent pickoff move to first base, he had trouble throwing there after fielding comebackers. The problem became so pronounced he eventually trotted toward the bag before making a soft toss.
The left-hander made his big league debut with Detroit late in the 1956 season, starting against the potent New York Yankees. He lost, but his first career strikeout victim was future Hall of Famer Yogi Berra.
Woodeshick threw his final pitch in the majors for St. Louis, retiring Boston star Carl Yastrzemski on a grounder late in Game 6 of the 1967 World Series. The next day, the Cardinals won the title.
Woodeshick retired after that season and spent most of his later life in Houston, often attending banquets and get-togethers with former teammates.
"He was a great guy, well liked," Smith said.
Woodeshick was still a spot starter when he joined the Colt .45s in 1962. He started and won the second game in team history, pitching eight scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs.
He moved to the bullpen in 1963, and never started again in the majors. He threw a whopping 114 innings in 55 relief appearances that year, going 11-9 with 10 saves and a 1.97 ERA. He also pitched two scoreless innings and struck out three in the All-Star game, helping preserve the NL's 5-3 win.
Woodeshick was still with Houston in 1965 when the team moved into the Astrodome and took on a new name. He was traded that June to St. Louis in a four-player deal that included Mike Cuellar, and spent the rest of his career as a durable reliever for the Cardinals.