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Where are they now: Don Schwall

Friday, April 05, 2002

By Rich Emert

It's no secret the Pirates have tried to bolster their pitching corps this season. They did the same thing before the 1963 season and one of the arms the Pirates added belonged to Don Schwall. A right-handed starter, Schwall was acquired along with catcher Jim Pagliaroni from the Red Sox in exchange for power hitting first baseman and fan-favorite Dick Stuart and pitcher Jack Lamabe. The deal worked out well for Schwall, who liked the area and ended up settling down in Western Pennsylvania.

Schwall, 66, works in investments for Ferris, Baker Watts and lives in the North Hills with his wife, Patty, a Burgettstown native. He is a grandfather and played with the Pirates from 1963 until he was traded to Atlanta midway through the summer of 1966. His best season was in 1961 when he went 15-7 with a 3.22 ERA for the Red Sox and was named the American League Rookie of the Year. Schwall ended up with a 49-48 career mark and a 3.72 ERA. He was outstanding in 1965 for the Pirates, going 9-6 with four saves and a 2.92 ERA in 43 games after making the transition from starter to relief pitcher. During his eight-year major league career, Schwall rubbed elbows with some of the greatest players of all time. He was in Red Sox training camp with Ted Williams, played with Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski with the Pirates, and was on the Braves when they had Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews.

Q: OK, who was the best Williams, Clemente or Aaron?

A: Ted Williams was the best hitter I ever saw. If he would not have spent four years in the service, his numbers would have been so much better. I never had to pitch against him but I watched him hit enough.

Q: Who was the toughest guy for you to get out?

A: Willie Mays was always hard on me because he was such a good clutch hitter.

Q: Was there a hitter that you owned?

A: Hank Aaron never hit a home run off of me.

Q: Who hit the longest ball off you?

A: Willie McCovey of the Giants hit one to straightaway center field off me. He could crush the ball.

Q: There is a picture of you standing with the Yankees' Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris at the All-Star game in Boston in 1961. Being around those guys had to be a thrill, right?

A: I've got that same picture hanging in my office. It was great and something I'll never forget. I don't think there is any question that playing in the mid-1960s, when I did, was one of the great eras of baseball. Just look at all of the Hall of Fame guys I played with.

Q: What was your best pitch?

A: I had a sinking fastball that was pretty good.

Q: You went from starter to relief pitcher. Was that a tough transition to make?

A: My only worry was how my arm would hold up pitching every day, but it wasn't much of a problem. I got put in that role because Elroy Face hurt himself and was out for a long time. You just have to have a different mind-set as a relief pitcher. That's why Elroy was so good at it because nothing bothered him out there.

Q: Where you upset with being traded to Pittsburgh from Boston?

A: A little bit, but that's because Boston was my favorite team growing up, and how often do you get a chance to play for your favorite team? But I liked playing for Pittsburgh.

Q: Did you ever get a chance to pitch on opening day?

A: Yes, I did, with the Red Sox in 1962. We played Cleveland and ended up losing, 2-0. It's special to be a team's opening-day pitcher with all the excitement.

Q: Best game you ever pitched for the Pirates?

A: In 1963 we beat the Dodgers, 4-0, and I threw a two-hitter, and that was a pretty good Dodgers' team.

Q: You were a pretty good athlete growing up. Didn't you go to college on a basketball scholarship? (Schwall is 6 feet 6.)

A: Yes, I went to the University of Oklahoma and played basketball there. I once outscored Wilt Chamberlain [who played for Kansas] in a game.

Q: You're kidding?

A: No, I ended up with 30 points and I think he had only 11. But I decided my future was in baseball, not basketball, and that's the direction I went.

Q: It's the time of year when all the movies about baseball will be on TV and cable. Do you have a favorite baseball movie?

A: "The Natural." I just liked the way it was done. I thought Robert Redford did a good job in it.

Q: Do people you work with or know realize that you played for the Pirates?

A: Some of them do, but you know how that goes. Folks over 35 may still remember, but not anyone who's younger.

If you have any suggestions or candidates for Where Are They Now?, e-mail Rich Emert at emert196@home.com.

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