An all star in 1970, Merritt won 81 games during an 11-year big league career. He broke in with the Minnesota Twins in 1965 and quickly became a regular in their rotation. Merritt won 13 games in 1967, starting a streak of four straight seasons with at least 12 wins. The Twins traded him to the Cincinnati Reds after the 1968 season and Merritt went on to have the two best seasons of his career in Cincinnati. He finished 17-9 and threw 251 innings in 1969, then was 20-12 with a 4.08 ERA in 1970. He made his only all-star team that year and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young vote. Merritt would never again enjoy such success. An elbow injury he suffered in August of 1970 effectively ended his time as one of baseball’s better pitchers. He finished 1-11 in 1971 and eventually left the Reds to join the Texas Rangers. In three years with Texas he won just five games and retired in 1975.
The game Merritt referred to happened on May 17, 1970 as the Reds hosted the Atlanta Braves for a double-header at Crosley Field. Hank Aaron was one hit shy of 3,000 career hits, but Merritt held him hitless in four trips to the plate as he pitched a complete game to lead Cincinnati to victory. Aaron singled off Wayne Simpson in his first at bat of the second game of the double-header to get his 3,000th hit.
Merritt twice pitched in the World Series. First as a member of the Minnesota Twins in 1965. He appeared in two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and had no decisions in three-and-a-third innings. The Dodgers won the series in seven games. He started Game 5 of the 1970 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles and gave up four runs in one-and-two-thirds innings. He took the loss in that game, which would be the deciding game of the series.
Jim Merritt – career stats