“The kid’s got a good fastball, and that’s something you can’t teach. We even come from the same hometown, Van Nuys [Calif.]... And you can’t beat those guys from Van Nuys.”
That quote came from Hall of Famer Don Drysdale after Jack McDowell’s MLB Debut. That MLB Debut, which came on Sept. 15, 1987 was a few months after he was the winning pitcher for Stanford in the College World Series title game.
And that performance in the College World Series was a few days after he was drafted 5th overall by the White Sox in the 1987 MLB Draft.
McDowell was the first player from the 1987 Draft to reach the Majors, and he did so after posting a 6.51 ERA in 27.2 innings in a quick minor league stint. Once he reached Chicago, he posted a 1.93 ERA in 28 Major League innings.
He pitched at a league average level in 1988, then spent 1989 in the minors. He returned in 1990 to post the first of four consecutive (would have been five if not for the shortened 1994 season) 200+ inning seasons, the last of which was his 1993 Cy Young season.
1993 was the third consecutive season for McDowell with at least 10 complete games; nobody has done that since. Perhaps nobody will ever do it again given the current state of pitching. McDowell’s peripherals show that his 1994 season was of similar quality to his 1993, despite a 10-9 record and 3.73 ERA (he sported a 125 ERA+ in both seasons).
A rocky relationship between McDowell and the White Sox ended with a trade to the Yankees, where he was best known for “saluting” the Yankee Stadium crowd (after allowing 13 hits and 9 runs to the White Sox, no less). He wrapped up his MLB career with a pair of seasons in Cleveland followed by two more in Anaheim.
Jack McDowell’s legacy is being the ace of some really good White Sox teams in the early 1990s. Could he have pitched the Sox to a title in 1994? We’ll never know.
He was the first of a nearly-unparallelled four year run of first round draft picks by the White Sox -- McDowell, Ventura, Thomas and Fernandez.
He’ll always be “Black Jack” to the Southside faithful.