The 100 Greatest Cardinals: 91-100
NO. 95: LHP JOE MAGRANE
It’s thanks to Dr. Frank Jobe and the ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction techniques he developed in 1974 that so many pitching careers have been saved, Tommy John’s most notably.
But, even by 1991, success rates paled in comparison to the 80 percent positive outcomes surgeons achieve with pitchers today.
Joe Magrane’s left elbow went under the scalpel in 1991 and, though he returned for parts of four more seasons in the majors, he was never the same.
Prior to the injury, however, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound lefty was everything the Cardinals believed he could be when they drafted him 18th overall in 1985 out of the University of Arizona.
Magrane made his arrival in St. Louis in the spring of 1987, won nine games with a 3.54 ERA, finished third in National League Rookie of the Year balloting, and got the start in Game 1 of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins.
The following season was even better, though it earned him a rather dubious distinction.
Magrane tossed three shutouts — including a one-hitter to beat Rick Sutcliffe and the Chicago Cubs — on his way to an NL-best 2.18 ERA. But a punchless Cardinals offense supported him with just 2.61 runs in games he started, leaving him with 10 no-decisions.
Thus, with a record of 5-9, he holds the record for the lowest win total ever by an ERA leader.
The Redbirds were much better in 1989, winning 84 games and placing third in the NL East. Magrane, still just 24 years old, led the way at 18-9 with a 2.91 ERA in 234 innings. He tied the Dodgers’ Orel Hershiser for fourth in the Cy Young balloting.
The wear started to show in Magrane’s arm in 1990. He had 10 wins and a solid 3.59 ERA, but lost 17 games for a 70-wins Cardinals team that had its worst finish in 72 years.
Following his date with Dr. Jobe, Magrane pitched in just five games over the next two seasons and, on the recommendation of manager Joe Torre, was given his outright release in 1993. He pitched parts of three more seasons for the Angels and White Sox, but won just six games with a combined ERA of 6.25.
Today, Magrane is an analyst for the MLB Network.
SEASONS IN ST. LOUIS: 1987-’90, 1992-’93
3.34 ERA with Cardinals | Avg. 193.1 IP | Twice led NL in fewest HR/9 innings
TOP 100 SCORE: 2.03