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Remembering Don Gullett: A Pitching Phenom Lost Too Soon

Don Gullett, the hard-throwing left-handed pitcher who played a pivotal role in the Cincinnati Reds’ success during the 1970s, passed away at the age of 73 on Wednesday. As a key member of the Big Red Machine, Gullett left an indelible mark on the baseball world, showcasing his talent and resilience despite a career marred by injuries. This article pays tribute to the legacy of Don Gullett, a remarkable athlete, competitor, and a true baseball icon.

Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round of the 1969 amateur draft, Don Gullett made his major league debut at the tender age of 19 in 1970. Nicknamed “Young Don Gullett” by Reds Manager Sparky Anderson, he quickly became a force to be reckoned with on the mound. Despite warnings against bringing him north with the team, Gullett, along with fellow pitcher Wayne Simpson, proved the skeptics wrong and contributed significantly to the Reds’ success.

Gullett’s early years with the Reds saw him emerge as a versatile and powerful pitcher. In 1970, he played a crucial role out of the bullpen, earning accolades for his impressive stuff. Hall of Famer Willie Stargell praised Gullett’s ability to throw “wall to wall heat.” The southpaw’s standout performance alongside reliever Clay Carroll in the 1970 World Series against Baltimore showcased his potential as a dominant force.

The following year, Gullett made a seamless transition to the starting rotation, finishing the 1971 season with a 16-6 record. Despite facing various injuries and health challenges throughout his career, he remained a key figure in the Reds’ pitching staff during their World Series victories in 1975 and 1976.

In 1976, to the surprise of many Reds fans, Gullett signed with the New York Yankees as one of the first big free agents. Despite enjoying success with the Yankees, including World Series victories in ’77 and ’78, injuries, including shoulder problems, ultimately cut short his career. Gullett’s departure from the Reds marked the end of an era, leaving fans in shock and reflecting on what could have been.

Don Gullett’s career was undeniably impacted by a series of injuries, including hepatitis in 1972, a fractured thumb in 1975, and shoulder problems with the Yankees. However, his contributions to the Reds’ rich tradition and his integral role in one of baseball’s greatest teams will never be forgotten. Reds owner Bob Castellini acknowledged Gullett’s lasting impact on the franchise, spanning 24 years as a player, coach, and minor league instructor.

Don Gullett’s passing leaves a void in the baseball community, but his legacy lives on through the memories of fans who witnessed his remarkable talent and dedication. As we remember “Young Don Gullett,” we reflect on the resilience of a pitcher who, despite facing adversity, played an essential role in the success of the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees during one of baseball’s golden eras.