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Pinstripe Alley Top 100 Yankees: #64 Allie Reynolds

A true competitor and a versatile pitching weapon, Reynolds helped the Yankees win six World Series, including five in a row.

MLB Photos Archive Photo by Louis Requena/MLB via Getty Images

Name: Allie Pierce Reynolds
Position: Starting/relief pitcher
Born: February 10, 1917 (Bethany, OK)
Died: December 26, 1994 (Oklahoma City, OK)
Yankee Years: 1947-54
Primary number: 22
Yankee statistics: 131-60, 3.30 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 295 G, 209 GS, 1,700 IP, 967 K, 96 CG, 27 SHO, 40 SV, 85 ERA-, 97 FIP-, 19.6 rWAR, 21.0 fWAR

Biography

For eight seasons in the forties and fifties, the Yankees had the privilege of watching Allie Reynolds ply his craft on the mound. A truly gifted athlete, he twirled two no-hitters, pitched in multiple role, won six rings, and was a monster in World Series play, eventually earning enshrinement in Monument Park. New York boasted some impressive staffs during their remarkable run, and Reynolds was essential to the dynasty.

The Early Years

The son of a preacher and a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Reynolds was born in Bethany, Oklahoma, on February 10, 1917. For obvious reasons, he became a part of the tribe almost since his birth.

According to Reynolds’ biography in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, his minister father “would not let him play baseball on Sundays, so his baseball career began only after he was drafted for pro football.”

The majority of sandlot or semi-organized games were held on Sundays. Imagine if Reynolds had been around the game sooner! It didn’t matter anyway, as he was able to complete an amazing career at the highest level.

Growing up, Reynolds also liked football, and he actually threatened to leave home as a young kid if his father didn’t let him play. From a very young age, he showed tenacity and determination.

Reynolds got to play football in Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City, as a quarterback and running back. However, he was also involved in athletics (javelin throw and 100-yard dashes) and played softball in the church team. Capitol Hill High also led to Reynolds meeting his future wife, Dale Earleane Jones, who he married in 1935.

That January, Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) offered Reynolds a track scholarship with a $20-per-month pay. In addition to that, his Muscogee Creek heritage granted him a $400 loan via a foundation, and he majored in education and graduated with a lifetime certification to teach public school in Oklahoma. But Reynolds did have the possibility of a future in track and field.

Per Reynolds’ SABR bio page, “his times in the 100-yard dash, the 220-yard dash, and his distance in the javelin throw were comparable to those of the great Jim Thorpe in the 1912 Olympics.” Those marks are very impressive and demonstrate what kind of athlete he was.

Unsurprisingly though, his javelin throw abilities translated well to pitching. He was an outfielder-pitcher in 1938, his senior year. The New York Giants tried to lure him to the still somewhat-nascent NFL, but by this point, Reynolds took the advice of his Oklahoma A&M coach, Hank Iba, and opted to pursue a baseball career because of better financial prospects.

Making His Way To The Majors

Cleveland signed Reynolds as an amateur free agent in 1939. After showing his abilities as a pitcher, feeling homesick at times and fending off attempts by the organization to turn him into a catcher, he made his MLB debut in September 1942 by pitching five scoreless innings.

Reynolds would go on to play four full seasons by Lake Erie, from 1943-46. With Cleveland, he pitched 792.1 innings of a solid 3.31 ERA and a 51-47 record, leading the league in K’s with 151 in 1943. He was an All-Star two years later, when he finished 18-12 with a 3.20 ERA in 247.1 frames, though Cleveland was unable to escape the second division in any year except for ‘43 — when they finished 15.5 games behind New York anyway.

In the leadup to the 1946-47 offseason, those Yankees pondered a move to acquire Reynolds, who had scuffled a bit in his first season with all major leaguers back from World War II. As detailed in previous PSA articles, the New York front office turned to star Joe DiMaggio for advice on who to acquire between Reynolds and teammate Red Embree:

The legend replied that Reynolds was the best starter that Cleveland had aside from future Hall of Famer Bob Feller, which was a bit of a surprising statement given his ‘46 growing pains. Reynolds had held DiMaggio to a .522 OPS in 21 plate appearances though, so something was working. He said, “Take Reynolds. I’m a fastball hitter, but he can buzz his hard one by me any time he has mind to.”

So on October 11, 1946, the Yankees acquired Reynolds in a trade with Cleveland. New York had a lot of talented infielders: Snuffy Stirnweiss, Frankie Crosetti, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Johnson, and Joe Gordon, among others, but needed pitching if they wanted to become relevant again. At 87-67, they finished third in the American League, 17 back of the Boston Red Sox.

GM Larry MacPhail agreed to send Gordon to Cleveland in exchange for Reynolds, and it turned out to be a win/win deal. The Yankees ultimately shared Gordon’s Hall of Fame career with Cleveland, who won a World Series in 1948 with him at the keystone, but DiMaggio’s tip would soon help them win more than their fair share of their own titles.

A Formidable Trio

Four Yankees
Casey Stengel with his Big Three of Eddie Lopat, Vic Raschi, and Reynolds
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1947, Reynolds’ debut season in pinstripes, the Yanks returned to the mountaintop with 97 wins, earning their first AL pennant in four years. The righty was brilliant with a 19-8 record and a 3.20 ERA, earning him 15th place in the MVP voting.

Tapped by skipper Bucky Harris for the start in the World Series opener, Reynolds got plenty of offensive support (going 2-for-4 with an RBI himself) and tossed a complete-game 10-3 victory in Game 1 of the Fall Classic. His Game 6 outing didn’t go as well and Brooklyn forced a seventh game, but New York won, 5-2, and Reynolds was a champion for the first time.

The Yankees would finish third in 1948, but under new manager Casey Stengel in ‘49, they began the most successful stretch in MLB history with five consecutive World Series titles. The Reynolds/Eddie Lopat/Vic Raschi trio would dominate the scene for several more seasons and give Yankees fans many happy moments.

During those World Series runs, Stengel trusted Reynolds in the rotation, and he also got the righty’s support to use him in big spots of relief, too. After spinning a 1-0, two-hit shutout in the 1949 Fall Classic opener against Brooklyn (with an assist from walk-off hero Tommy Henrich), the Ol’ Perfesser went back to Reynolds on two days’ rest. The Dodgers were parading singles off Lopat in Game 4, threatening to turn a 6-0 Yankees lead at Ebbets Field into an even score, but Reynolds fanned pinch-hitter Spider Jorgensen to end the sixth. He recorded the final nine outs as well for the then-unofficial save in a 6-4 victory.

One year later, Stengel used a very similar strategy with Reynolds, this time in a Fall Classic showdown with the Phillies. The 33-year-old went 10 innings for the 2-1 win in Game 2, and after only one day of rest, Stengel rang the bell again for Reynolds. Rookie Ed Ford (not yet known to all as “Whitey”) had pitched 8.2 innings as New York sought a sweep, but Philadelphia brought the tying run to the plate in pinch-hitter Stan Lopata. Without much of a sweat, Reynolds got the final out to send the Yanks home with another World Series triumph.

By the time the 1950 campaign ended, “Superchief” (that was his nickname, and it doesn’t sound bad at all) had established himself as a key cog in the Yankees pitching staff. However, there were some injury concerns surrounding his right (pitching) elbow. Per his SABR page:

“Doctors had told him he had several bone chips floating in his elbow and an offseason operation might be needed, but Reynolds chose not to have the surgery. To combat the pain in his back and elbow, allergies, and a tired feeling that may have been pre-diabetes, he started eating a prescribed four oranges per game.”

The oranges must have worked, because Reynolds had a phenomenal season in 1951. He posted a 3.05 ERA in 221 innings, finishing third (!) in the MVP voting thanks in part to his 17-8 win-loss record.

That year, he threw not one, but two no-hitters: they came on July 12 and September 28, and helped him become the first American League pitcher to throw two no-nos in a season and only the second player to do so in baseball history to that point. Back-to-back no-no artist Johnny Vander Meer was the only other pitcher to turn the trick at the time. Other hurlers such as Nolan Ryan and Roy Halladay would later join them.

Leaving A Mark As A Veteran

Reynolds’ age-35 season, 1952, would mark the absolute finest performance of his career. During these pre-Cy Young Award days, he was runner-up to Philadelphia A’s ace Bobby Shantz in AL MVP voting process with a 20-8 record and a 2.06 ERA (best in the AL) in 244.1 frames. Reynolds led the league in shutouts with six and in strikeouts, with 160, and he threw 24 complete games.

Reynolds was also a monster in World Series play that season. He threw 20.1 innings, allowed 12 hits and six walks. With 18 strikeouts and a 1.77 ERA, he won two games and lifted the Yanks to their fourth straight title.

As it turns out, Reynolds had one more in him. Age had pushed him toward more of a swingman role with 15 starts and 26 relief appearances in 1953, but with a 3.41 ERA in 145 frames, he helped New York celebrate for a fifth consecutive year in 1953. Although Brooklyn roughed him up in two of his three outings, the Yankees still won it all.

Reynolds would retire a year later, in 1954. With a 13-4 record and a 3.32 ERA, he said goodbye while on the top: as an All-Star for the sixth time. He had a troublesome back injury that pushed him towards hanging up his cleats.

Life After Baseball

New York Yankees Set Number: X1324

Overall, Reynolds completed an incredible career that included six World Series championships, a 3.30 career ERA in the regular season and a 2.79 mark in World Series play, six All-Star games, the 1952 AL ERA title, two strikeout crowns (1943 and 1952) and two no-hitters. In 1989, the Yankees enshrined Reynolds in Monument Park — the only member of the trio alongside Raschi and Lopat to be so honored.

One of the reasons why Reynolds built a respectable legacy as a Yankees pitcher was his versatility. He started 309 games and acted as a reliever in 125. He won 182 and lost just 107 for a .630 winning percentage, and though saves weren’t officially tracked until the 1960s, he was retroactively awarded 40 in 86 games, plus four in World Series play.

Before retiring, in the early 1950s, Reynolds spent winters in Oklahoma building an oil business. He was savvy enough to invest in oil wells while still playing baseball for a living, and those investments helped him live after calling it a career in 1954.

During his life, Reynolds was many things. He was, first and foremost, an athlete. He could play baseball, football, golf, track and field, among other disciplines, and was very good at most of them. He was a true competitor and a leader on the field and in the clubhouse.

Reynolds was also a civic leader, a businessman, and a Native American hero. He was, per the Oklahoma Hall of Fame page, president of the minor league Class AAA American Association and the primary organizer of Red Earth, “Oklahoma’s unique annual festival of Native American culture.”

Oklahoma State’s ballpark was named “Allie P. Reynolds Stadium” in his honor in 1982, and the Cowboys played there for the next 38 years. Reynolds was also the recipient of the Creek Nation Medallion Award in 1986 before being honored in 1991 with a place in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.

By the early ‘90s though, Reynolds health began to fail, as he suffered from lymphoma and diabetes. He passed away in 1994, survived by a big family that included a son, a daughter, eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Reynolds has yet to make the National Baseball Hall of Fame, peaking at 33.6 percent on the BBWAA ballot in 1968 and falling short on a few different Veterans Committee votes as well (most recently in 2021).

Reynolds was a smart, savvy sportsman who left his mark on the longest-lasting Yankees’ dynasty. At one point, he was one of the best pitchers in the league, and is entirely deserving of both this Top 100 Yankees salute and — more importantly — his Monument Park plaque.

Staff Rank: 68
Community Rank: 35
Stats Rank: 66
2013 Rank: 59

References:

Appel, Marty. Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012.

Baseball Almanac

Baseball Reference

BR Bullpen

FanGraphs

Gittleman, Sol. Reynolds, Raschi, and Lopat: New York’s Big Three and the Yankee Dynasty of 1949-53. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2007.

Halberstam, David. Summer of ‘49. New York: HarperCollins, 1989.

Oklahoma Hall of Fame

Parr, Royse. SABR Bio

Smith, Claire. “Allie Reynolds, Star Pitcher For Yankees, Is Dead at 79,” New York Times, 28 Dec. 1994.

Previously on the Top 100

65. Tommy John
Full list to date