Al “Red” Worthington – # 6 on all-time Twins Saves list
Allan Fulton (Red) Worthington was born in Birmingham, Alabama on February 5, 1929 and was one of 10 children born to Walter and Lake Worthington. Al grew up playing football, basketball, baseball and running track in high school and he earned a football scholarship to the University of Alabama. After leaving the University of Alabama, Al signed as an amateur free agent with the Chicago Cubs organization in 1951 and started his professional career as a Nashville Vol in AA ball. Prior to the 1952 season, Worthington was sent to the New York Giants in a transaction that is not well documented. In 1953 while pitching for the Minneapolis Millers which was the New York Giants AAA team at the time, “Red” was called up by the Giants. Al made his debut on July 6, 1953 at the Polo Grounds and what a debut it was as he shut out the Philadelphia Phillies 6-0 on only two hits over nine innings. His next start was just as good as he once again pitched a nine inning shutout and beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 6-0 at Ebbets Field. Those two back to back complete game 6-0 nine inning shutouts over the Phillies and the Dodgers in his first two big league games set a NL record that stands to this day. The right handed 6’2” 205 pound Worthington was an imposing site on a pitchers’ mound, but in spite of this amazing start to his big league career, it turned out that relieving and not starting would be Al’s claim to baseball fame.
Worthington was one of those rare pitchers that seemed to get better with age, arguably having his best seasons between 1964 and 1969 as a relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. As a Twins reliever, Worthington appeared in 327 games and posted a 37-31 record with 88 saves. In those 473+ innings, Al struck out 399 batters and had an ERA of 2.62 and a 1.19 WHIP. During his 6 seasons in Minnesota, only one major league relief pitcher had more saves than Al. Worthington has to remembered as the first of the many great “closers” that the Minnesota Twins organization have sent out to the mound to cement another Twins win.
Al Worthington pitched in the big leagues for 14 seasons with the New York Giants, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and the Minnesota Twins before retiring at the age of 40 after the 1969 season. In his 14 seasons, Worthington’s career numbers are pretty impressive, a 75-82 won-lost record in 602 games (starting 62) and 1,246+ innings pitched. His career ERA is 3.39 and he struck out 834 batters.
After retiring as an active player, Worthington sold insurance in Minnesota for several years before returning to baseball as a pitching coach for the Twins in 1972 and 1973. In 1974, Al moved on to Liberty College becoming the baseball coach where he posted a 343-191 record and later served as their Athletic Director. In 1986 Liberty College renamed their baseball field to Worthington Field in Al’s honor. Al is also a published author having written the book “I Played and I Won” which takes his readers through the “valleys and mountain-tops” of Worthington’s life. Al was one of the first professional athletes to openly profess his faith in Christ and publicly acknowledge a born-again experience. Today, Al is retired and enjoying his family and life in Sterrett, Alabama.
The interview with Al is 39 minutes in length and took place in January 2010.