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Stu Miller

Stu Miller was the kind of player that could really frustrate a coach. While he would routinely play well in the regular season as either a starter or a relief pitcher, his value tanked in the postseason. Still, he made enough of an impact to be inducted into both the San Francisco Giants Wall of Fame and the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame. From the very beginning, the native of Northampton, Massachusetts faced long odds to make it in baseball. But he stuck with it and ultimately made a difference.

The Early Years

Stu Miller was born on the day after Christmas 1927 in Northampton, Massachusetts. While his family lived comfortably when he was an infant, their fortunes quickly changed as the family furniture manufacturing business went belly-up during the Great Depression.

But tough times call for tough people and in the years ahead, the Miller family would bond together closer than ever as they scraped bye. Stu even picked up a couple of jobs as wide ranging as digging potatoes for 10 cents an hour and delivering groceries.

Through it all, the family survived and got through the tough times together. His father even found the time to teach him the game of baseball. But young Stu never even tried out for his high school team and after graduation in 1945, he joined the US Navy, right on the tail end of World War II.

It was while in the service that Stu Miller picked up a baseball, playing for the service teams throughout his time in the Navy. But even while he honed his skills as a pitcher, he wasn't sure of what he wanted out of life and returned home directionless.

That all changed one day in 1949. While he bided his time by driving a cab and preparing for college in the Fall, news broke that the St. Louis Cardinals were going to hold a tryout in Northampton. With nothing to lose, Stu Miller went to the tryout and made the team. He had no idea of the adventures that awaited him.

A Different World

While it was a bit of a miracle that he had even survived the tryout, Stu Miller had a lot of growing pains ahead of him. But the Great Depression had fortified his soul and he stuck with the sport. He stuck with it through the drudgery of the minor leagues the first three years of his career. He kept his head held high after a 6-3, 2.05 ERA campaign in 1952 was followed with disastrous results the next two years while his manager, Eddie Stanky, shook his head in disappointment.

He was sent back down to the minors for much of 1954 and all of 1955, regaining his confidence on the mound and refining his skills. By the time he returned to the major leagues in 1956, he was a start away from being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies.

He disappointed in the City of Brotherly Love, posting a 4.50 ERA in his lone half-season. But the Giants saw something in him and signed him for the 1957 season. While he posted a paltry 4.47 ERA in his lone season in New York, it almost felt like a fresh start when he and the team moved to San Francisco the following year. His ERA plummeted that first year to 3.63, earning him his first winning season since his rookie year of 1952.

His rise continued to skyrocket when he led the league with a 2.47 ERA in 1959 and in 1960 went 14-5. While he only posted a 5-8 record, his 17 saves in 1961 earned him a spot in the All Star Game. The Giants had a very memorable run for the pennant in 1962, ending the regular season dead-locked with the rival Dodgers for the National League title.

After winning Game 1 of the three game playoff series, the Giants handed Stu Miller a commanding 5-0 lead in the sixth inning. Alas, he couldn't sustain the lead and as each of the two runners scored on him in that inning, he could see his future in San Francisco slowly melting away into oblivion.

Things only got worse for San Francisco when he exited the game, having faced just three batters, as Billy O'Dell and Don Larsen allowed another five runs before the inning's conclusion. The Giants never recovered and lost the game 8-7. Although they won the pennant the next day, the writing was on the wall for Stu Miller. He hardly played in the Giants' seven game loss to the Yankees in the World Series and was shipped off to Baltimore at season's end.

Baltimore and Later Years

While his ERA stayed within reason, Stu Miller had found his nitche as a relief pitcher. In 1963, he led the majors with 27 saves, beginning a three-year stretch of at least 20 saves per season. It was his slow curveball that really did it. With a fastball that only reached the low 80's, he had to rely on deception more than a lot of other pitchers.

By delivering both his fastball and his changeup at roughly the same speeds, each tended to look the same to opposing batters. As a result, he dealt the opposition with a lot of whiffs and awarded his coaches and teammates with numerous wins. Players from across the majors even had a a nickname for his deceptive ways: Butterfly Man.

His greatest three-year run as a player ended in 1966 when he saved just 18 games. But on a positive note, he went 9-4 as a starter with a a3.06 ERA while the team rolled on to the World Series. But despite a strong performance in the regular season, Miller didn't pitch in the World Series and was forced to watch Moe Drabowski take his place in the lineup. The Orioles didn't miss a beat, defeating the Dodgers in a four-game sweep. For his part, Moe Drabowski struck out 11 in 6.2 innings of work.

After winning his first and only ring, Stu Miller's career quietly ended over the next two years before retiring after the 1968 season as a member of the Atlanta Braves. In the years ahead, he would see his name printed on the San Francisco Giants Wall of Fame and his likeness enshrined in the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame. Although he did little in the postseason, it was clear that both organizations embraced all that baseball's "Butterfly Man" had to offer the game. Stu Miller died on January 4, 2015 in Cameron Park, California at the age of 87.

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