It has been reported that Dean Chance died of a heart attack at the age of 74 yesterday in his hometown of Wooster, Ohio. Chance was born in Wooster on June 1, 1941 and went on to attend Northwestern High School in Wayne, Ohio where he became a sports legend. Chance was considered by many to be the best high school pitcher in Ohio history, throwing 17 no-hitters (eight in one season) and posting a 52-1 record in high school, including 32 consecutive victories. The Baltimore Orioles signed Chance out of high school for $30,000. After two season in the Orioles organization the team exposed him to the 196o expansion draft and he was taken by the Washington Senators in the 48th round but his stay as a Senator was short-lived as they traded him to the Los Angeles Angels that same day for Joe Hicks in one of several forced trades by AL President Joe Cronin.
Dean Chance who would go on to become a two-time All-Star and Cy Young winner made his big league debut against the Minnesota Twins on September 14, 1961 at Met Stadium and lost 5-2 to Jim Kaat. Chance pitched well going 7.1 innings allowing 10 hits and 3 earned runs and two strike outs. Dean Chance blossomed the following year for the Angels and was 14-10 with a 2.96 ERA 206 plus innings.
Dean Chance met Bo Belinsky for the first time in spring training in Clearwater, Florida, in 1959. When the Angels selected Belinsky from the Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft on November 27, 1961, and the two subsequently made the Angels in 1962, they became teammates and then roomed together during the 1963 and 1964 seasons. Belinsky and the already married Chance made the rounds in Hollywood, and probably became more famous for their off-the-field exploits than they did on a pitching mound.
After the season 1964 season in which Chance led the American League in wins with 20, ERA with 1.65, 15 complete games, 11 shutouts, and 278.1 innings pitched, Chance was rewarded with the Cy Young Award, at the time given out to only one pitcher in baseball. Chance also finished fifth in MVP voting behind Brooks Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard and Tony Oliva. Chance pitched for the Angels from 1961-1966 before the Angels traded him along with shortstop Jackie Hernandez to the Minnesota Twins for 1B Don Mincher, outfielder Jimmie Hall and RHP Pete Cimino in December 1966.
The Twins just missed winning the pennant in 1967 but Dean Chance could not blamed for that as he went 20-14 and had a 2.73 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in a league leading 283.2 innings with a league leading 18 complete games in 39 starts, again league leading. He had two no-hitters that season: a 5-inning perfect game (that’s no longer an official no-hitter) and then a 2-1 no-hitter over Cleveland on August 25th. In 1968 Chance was 14-14 but had a stellar ERA 2.53 and a 0.98 WHIP in 292 innings. The 1969 Twins under Billy Martin won the AL Western Division with 97 wins but Dean Chance was only 5-4 in 15 starts due to a back injury and he missed all of June and July and this was the beginning of the end of Chance’s baseball career. Chance’s only playoff experience took place in game 3 of the 1969 ALCS in a mop-up role when he pitched 2 innings in a 11-2 Orioles win.
In December of 1969 the Twins traded Chance,RHP Bob Miller, 3B Graig Nettles, and OF Ted Uhlaender to the Cleveland Indians for RHP’s Luis Tiant and Stan Williams. Chance was 9-8 for the Indians in 1970 before being sold to the New York Mets in September where he finished the season. The Mets then traded Chance to the Tigers in March of 1971 where he pitched in 31 games going 4-6 with a 3.51 ERA. The Tigers released Chance in October 1971 and the baseball career of Dean Chance was in the books.
Chance was known for getting his sign from the catcher and then turning his back to the batter until he threw the ball, that motion Chance said, shortened his career according to him, he felt he was lucky to last in the majors the 11 years that he did. As good a pitcher as Chance was, hitting was not his forte, he was a terrible hitter, batting a mere .066 in 662 at-bats for his career, striking out 420 times for one of the highest strikeout rates in history. Chance still holds the Minnesota Twins record for most consecutive at bats without a hit, in 1967 between April 19 and July 23 Chance was 0 for 52 with 35 strikeouts.
Dean Chance was tough on the New York Yankees and Mickey Mantle in particular although Mantle did hit .242 off Chance with three home runs. “Every time I see his name on a lineup card, I feel like throwing up” – Mickey Mantle. Mantle once uttered this memorable quote during Chance’s remarkable 1964 season. As sportswriter Phil Pepe wrote that year, “It’s Chance, not CBS, who owns the New York Yankees. Lock, stock and barrel.” Chance pitched 50 innings against the Yankees that year, allowing only 14 hits and one run, a homer by Mantle. In five starts he threw four complete games and three shutouts, going 4-0 with a 0.18 ERA.
After his baseball ended at the age of 30 Dean Chance did not move to a rocking chair, he went into the carnival business where he owned numerous games “where you can win an item off the top shelf” and traveled all over the country. He was a boxing promoter for a while and he started and was still president of the International Boxing Association (IBA) when he died. Chance also invested in real estate, played Gin Rummy on a professional level and attended many sports memorabilia shows. It is ironic to me that he attended so many memorabilia shows because I mailed him numerous baseball cards over the years asking for his autograph but I never got a single card back, with or without an autograph. The man was one of baseball’s great characters.
Rest in Peace Dean Chance and thank you for all the great memories.