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Thornton Starr Lee (September 13, 1906 - June 9, 1997), also nicknamed "Lefty", was a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Cleveland Indians (1933-36), Chicago White Sox (1937-47) and New York Giants (1948). Lee batted and threw left-handed. He is the father of pitcher Don Lee, a former big leaguer.

Career

Lee was born in Sonoma, Californiamarker. He attended Arroyo Grande High Schoolmarker in San Luis Obispo Countymarker from 1923-25 then went on to play football, basketball, baseball and track at California Polytechnicmarker (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo. Something of a later bloomer, he didn't pitch professionally until he was 24. He finally reached the major leagues on September 19, 1933, just six days after his 28th birthday, with the Cleveland Indians.

From the beginning, Lee had a tough time earning respect, even though he had success at almost level of the game. He showed a fine sinking fastball, a good control, was effective holding runners and fielding, and produced with the bat as well. Before the 1937 season, he was part of a three-team trade between the Indians, Chicago White Sox and Washington Senators. Jack Salveson went to the Senators, while Earl Whitehill went to the Indians. Lee landed in Chicago and went on to pitch for the White Sox for the next 11 years.

In his first four years with the Sox, Lee won 12 or more games, with a high 15 victories in 1939, despite a little offensive support left him on the losing end of many close decisions. His most productive season came in 1941, when he paced all American League pitchers in ERA (2.34) and complete games (30). He also posted a career-high 22 victories (second only to Bob Feller's 25), 125 strikeouts (also a career-high), was named to the AL All-Star team, and collected a $2,500 bonus for winning more than 20 games.

From 1942-45, Lee suffered a string of injuries and lost his pace. After breaking his arm and undergoing two bone chip removals and a neck operation, he recovered his old form in 1945, going 15-12 with a career-high 2.44 ERA and 108 strikeouts, and pitching in the All-Star game for second time.

At the age of 42, Lee divided his time in 1948 between the National League, with the Giants, and the Pacific Coast League, where he contributed to the Oakland Oaks pennant championship. He retired at the end of the season.

Thornton Lee died in June 1997 in Tucson, Arizonamarker, at 90 of age. He is survived by his son, Don, who pitched for five teams in the major leagues from 1957 to 1966. Thornton Lee was inducted into the Cal Poly Hall of Fame in 1988. [124228]

Fact

  • On September 19, 1939, Ted Williams hit a home run off Thornton Lee, one of 31 homers he will hit in his rookie season. 21 years later, Williams will homer off Thornton's son, Don Lee, of the Senators, on September 2, 1960. After that, Williams became the only player in major league history to hit a home run off a father and son.


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