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Pedro Borbon (borbope01)
Pedro Borbón Rodriguez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 185 lb.
- Debut April 9, 1969
- Final Game May 25, 1980
- Born December 2, 1946 in Mao, Valverde, D.R.
- Died June 4, 2012 in Pharr, TX USA
"He may have been the most critical part of that great bullpen because he was such a rubber arm. He'd give two, three innings – whatever you needed. He could pitch every night. And he wasn't intimidated by anything. I always enjoyed his company on and off the field. He was a great guy." - Tony Perez
“He can throw, and throw and throw... Even when I don’t plan to use him, he wants to throw in the bullpen.” - Sparky Anderson
Pedro Borbon was one of the mainstays of the Big Red Machine bullpen in the 1970s, a relief crew so accomplished that it earned manager Sparky Anderson his nickname "Captain Hook". Anderson would regularly take out his starters after 6 or 7 innings - a rarity at the time - in order to turn the game over to an excellent group of relievers that included Borbón, Clay Carroll, Rawly Eastwick, Will McEnaney and others. Pedro was one of the best and longest-serving members of the group, pitching for the Cincinnati Reds from 1970 to 1979, making 531 pitching appearances for the team, a franchise record, all but 4 of them as a reliever.
Borbón was still finding his way in his first two seasons with the Reds, after having been acquired from the California Angels, for whom he pitched 22 games with a 6.15 ERA, in a trade for chronically disgruntled outfielder Alex Johnson after the 1969 season. He subsequently missed the Reds' run to the 1970 World Series. By 1972, he was a key pitcher, going 8-3, 3.17 with 11 saves in 62 games, pitching 122 innings. He made three appearances in the 1972 NLCS facing the Pittsburgh Pirates, then pitched six times in the 1972 World Series against the Oakland A's. He was charged with the loss in the deciding Game 7 on October 22nd, giving up 2 runs after coming in in the top the 6th inning after Anderson pinch-hit for starter Jack Billingham to tie the game 1-1; the Reds lost, 3-2. In 1973, Borbón went 11-4, 2.15, with 14 saves while pitching 121 innings. In fact, he would pitch more than 100 innings every year until 1977, then be on the mound for 99 innings in 1978. He pitched in more games than anyone else in the National League from 1970 to 1978, at a time when men were men and relief pitchers were workhorses. In the 1973 NLCS, Borbón made 4 appearances in 5 games against the New York Mets and won Game 1, but the Reds fell one game short of returning to the World Series. He then put up a record of 10-7, 3.24 with 14 saves in 1974 when the Reds finished second behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
1975 and 1976 were the greatest seasons in the history of the Cincinnati franchise. They were the class of the National League both years, behind two-time MVP Joe Morgan, then won back-to-back World Series titles, beating the Boston Red Sox in seven games in the classic 1975 World Series, and then sweeping through the postseason in seven games to defeat the New York Yankees in 1976. Borbón was one of the key members of those great teams, going 9-5, 2.95 in 67 appearances in 1975, and 4-3, 3.35 in 69 games in 1976. He saved fewer games those two years, 5 and 8 respectively, as Anderson moved from parceling out save opportunities among all his bullpen horses to giving most of them to Rawly Eastwick. Pedro was only needed for one inning of work in the 1975 NLCS, and then pitched three times in the Fall Classic. He gave up 2 runs in 2 innings in Game 6 on October 21st, considered by many the greatest game in the history of the World Series. He came on in the bottom of the 6th inning with the game tied at 3, already the fifth Reds pitcher of the night; he got through the bottom of the Red Sox batting order that inning, only giving up a walk to Rick Burleson; the Reds took a 5-3 lead in the top of the 7th, and he responded with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 7th, to bring Cincinnati within 6 outs of the title. The Reds then added another run in the top of the 8th, on Cesar Geronimo's solo homer, but Borbón faltered in the bottom of the frame. He gave up a lead-off single to Fred Lynn, then walked Rico Petrocelli and gave way to Eastwick. Eastwick gave up a dramatic three-run pinch homer to Bernie Carbo with two outs to tie the game and eventually send it into extra innings to its storied finish. There was nothing as memorable in the 1976 postseason, although his performance in Game 1 of the 1976 NLCS on October 10th, when he pitched four scoreless innings in relief of rookie Pat Zachry to earn the save in a 6-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, must stand as one of the highlights of Borbón's career. He pitched once in the World Series, finishing Don Gullett's 5-1 win in Game 1 with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless work. It was the 10th and last World Series appearance of his career.
Borbón had another very good year for the Reds in 1977, saving a career-high 18 games after Eastwick was traded early in the year. He went 10-5, 3.19, in 73 games that year as the Reds finished second. In 1978, he had an off year, with an 8-2 record despite a 4.98 ERA. He saved only 4 games as Doug Bair emerged as the Reds' top reliever, and he fell to 35 strikeouts in just under 100 innings. Pedro was never much of a strikeout pitcher, with a high of 60 in 1973, but he had excellent control and knew how to pitch to contact and let the outstanding defense behind him do most of the work. The fact that he did not attempt to strike out every batter probably goes some way in explaining why he was so durable. He began 1979 with the Reds but, with Anderson having been replaced by John McNamara, he lost his biggest fan. He pitched 30 games, going 2-2, 3.43 with 2 saves before being traded to the San Francisco Giants on June 28th for Hector Cruz. An urban legend has it that he was so mad at having been traded that he placed a voodoo curse on the Reds, not to be lifted until the last member of the front office had left, something which happened in 1990, when the Reds returned to the postseason and won another World Series. Voodoo curse or not, he was hit hard for the Giants, to the tune of a 4.89 ERA in 46 innings, and was not re-signed after the season. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1980, but was released after making 10 appearances, going 1-0 with a save and a 3.79 ERA in 19 innings. His stats were still decent, but he had walked 10 batters in those 19 innings against only 4 strikeouts. He probably could have still pitched somewhere but chose to retire at age 33.
The urge to pitch was not entirely gone. In 1989, Borbón played for the Winter Haven Super Sox of the Senior Professional Baseball Association. He went 1-8 with a 4.06 ERA for the club. In 1995, he made headlines when he tried to return to baseball as one of the replacement players hired by the Reds in case the 1994 strike was not settled before the season opened. He was visibly overweight, 48, and clearly out of his depth; his presence on the field was seen by the national media as a symbol of how far the replacement players were from the caliber of the strikers. He told Reds manager Davey Johnson: "I'm like a horse, you have to shoot me" (to stop me from trying to play). To which Johnson replied: "We wouldn't waste the bullets". The strike was settled in time for the regular players to return for the (delayed) opening of the season, preventing Borbón from receiving another major league appearance.
Borbón was referenced in the 1980 film Airplane!. The character Ted Striker (played by Robert Hays) has an inner-dialogue that, at one point in the film, announces (similarly to a PA announcer) "Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbón... Manny Mota... Mota... Mota..." Borbón and Mota never suited up for the same team, unfortunately.
He was the father of Pedro Borbón, Jr. and father-in-law of Carlos Peguero. Charlie Leibrandt played with both Pedro Borbóns. Pedro was named to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2010 and died of cancer in 2012.