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“Never give an inch”

That’s the working title of my latest book, in progress (as of early May 2023), which will chronicle the life of Dave McNally, a star pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. Dave pitched for the Birds from 1962-1974 and won 181 games for them before being traded to the Montreal Expos to start the 1975 season. He won three more games for the Expos and then, in early June 1975, he decided he no longer had the stuff to be a big league pitcher. So, he retired, moved his family back to his hometown of Billings, Montana, and, having partnered with his brother Jim to buy the Archie Cochrane Ford dealership in the state’s largest city, he and Jim managed the dealership together for the next quarter-century.

Dave died of cancer at age 60 in Billings, leaving behind his wife of almost 41 years, Jean; his mother, Beth McNally; his sister, Dee; his two brothers, Jim and Dan; and his five children, Jeff, Susan, Pam, Anne and Mike. Plus thousands of friends and admirers throughout Montana and across the country.

When I began working on the book, I envisioned making a pitch for Dave being added to baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. After all, he retired as the winningest pitcher in Orioles’ history; he later was passed in the wins column by Hall of Fame teammate Jim Palmer, but Dave remains the winningest lefthander the Orioles have ever had.

And Dave’s accomplishments on the mound are many. They include:

• Four straight 20-win seasons, from 1968-1971, capped by the 1971 season when he, Palmer, Pat Dobson, and Mike Cuellar comprised the greatest pitching rotation in modern major league history. The Orioles that year were the first team to have four 20-game winners since the 1920 Chicago White Sox.
• Dave’s grand slam home run against the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970 World Series, which remains the only grand slam hit by a pitcher in Series history.
• Dave’s shutout of the Los Angeles Dodgers to clinch the 1966 World Series in four games, a game where Dave defeated veteran Dodgers’ pitcher Don Drysdale, half of Los Angeles’ fabled one-two punch on the mound, Sandy Koufax being the other pitcher of legend.

Dave did receive some votes in Hall of Fame balloting in the early 1980s, but he never received enough votes to join the hallowed ranks. And now I think it’s far more important to focus on McNally’s real contribution to the game: his participation in the landmark 1975 Seitz labor decision, which topped baseball’s reserve clause and opened the door to free agency.

If you’ve ever wondered how baseball player salaries got to their current stratospheric levels (average salary of $4.17 million in 2021, according to the Major League Players Association, the players’ union), think about Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith, another pitcher who took part in the arbitration clause that led to the Seitz decision. And don’t forget Curt Flood, who challenged the reserve clause in court in 1970. Flood’s case reached the U.S. Supreme Court. He lost there, but he laid the foundation for what McNally and Messersmith did five years later.

So … keep checking here for tidbits about McNally that might or might not make the book. I hope the stories I tell, tapped from the rich vein of baseball history in Billings, Baltimore, and elsewhere, will interest you and be worth your time. Thanks.

Here are several posts that pertain to McNally and to baseball in general.

McNally opens the 1971 season with a win for the Orioles
Another fun chunk from my upcoming book, “The Dave McNally Story.” I hope to have a rough draft finished sometime this summer and then seek a publisher. If no publisher bites, I’ll self-publish again. (Moving to the McNally newsletter) ------- 1971, Dave’s eleventh full year as a professional base…
My love affair with baseball, and Dave McNally’s role in that
In hindsight, my year of birth was off, delayed by a few years from what I might have desired to best write the story of Dave McNally’s life. Moreover, my place of birth could have been changed to make me a front-row observer—maybe even a youth baseball teammate—of
The Orioles, the Browns, Branch Rickey and a Billings pastor
When Dave McNally signed with the Baltimore Orioles, it had only been six years since the Monumental City (one of Baltimore’s nicknames) had regained a major league baseball team. The modern Orioles date to 1954 when the American League approved moving the hapless St. Louis Browns to the Maryland c…
Billings, and Montana, go to the Little League World Series at last
Editor’s note: This is “bonus” copy that accompanies my book-in-progress about the life of Billings’ Dave McNally, who became a star pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. He won 181 games for the Birds (second-most wins in team history), played in four World Series, won 20 games or more for four

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Jamie Larson