The left-hander threw seven seasons in Los Angeles, with his best coming in 1971. In 1971 he won 20 games while posting a 2.68 ERA and a league-leading five shutouts. The Dodgers missed the playoffs that season, finishing in second in the division with a record of 89-73, but Downing’s individual performance was good enough to earn him National League Comeback Player of the Year and third in the NL Cy Young award balloting behind Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins and Tom Seaver.
Downing was named to the 1967 American League All-Star team as a member of the New York Yankees. He finished that season with a 14-10 record and a 2.63 ERA with 171 strikeouts.
While Downing had a respectable career, winning 123 games in 17 years, he will always be known for one thing. On April 8, 1974 as a member of the Dodgers, he gave up a fourth inning home run to deep left field, hit by Hank Aaron. That home run was Aaron’s 715th, passing Babe Ruth for the most all time at the time.
Downing retired in 1977 after being released by the Dodgers. In 1980 he became a color analyst on Dodgers cable-TV broadcasts, where he remained until 1987, before moving to Dodgers radio where he remained until 2005. He also broadcasted for CBS Radio in the 1990s, and the Atlanta Braves in 2000.
Dodgers Fan Fest – Brandon McCarthy