Ex-Dodger Newcombe dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Don Newcombe, the hard-throwing Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who was one of the first black players in the major leagues and who went on to win the rookie of the year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, has died. He was 92.

The team confirmed that Newcombe died Tuesday morning after a lengthy illness.

Newcombe, like Dodgers teammate Jackie Robinson, was signed by Branch Rickey from the Negro Leagues and went on to make a huge mark in the major leagues.

“Newk” was a fierce presence on the mound, a 6-foot-4 and 225-pound bear of a man who stared down hitters and backed up anyone foolish enough to crowd the plate.

He was a four-time All-Star and won 20 games three different times.

His greatest year was 1956 when he went 27-7 and won both the Cy Young Award, then only given to one pitcher for both leagues, and the National League MVP award.

Newcombe, Robinson and catcher Roy Campanella were a trio of black stars for the Dodgers who often supported each other.

Newcombe’s Dodgers were perennial also-rans, who specialized in winning the National League pennant then losing the World Series to the Yankees. Newcombe played on three pennant winners with the Dodgers and the World Series champions in 1955, the year they finally beat the Yankees.

On July 8, 1949, Newcombe and Hank Thompson of the New York Giants became the first black pitcher and hitter to face each other in a major league game.

In his MVP year of 1956, Newcombe became the first black pitcher to lead either league in wins. Brooklyn won another pennant that year, but lost the World Series to the Yankees in seven games, with Newcombe defeated in the final game.

Newcombe faded quickly after 1956 as he pitched for the transplanted Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians.