What stands out about Loun is the fact that he made his MLB debut on 9/23/1964 against the Red Sox in Washington. He would pitch a complete game shutout, giving up 5 hits, 0 BB and 2 K. His second start saw him pitch in Boston, against the same Red Sox, but showing different results. Don pitched 4 innings, gave up 8 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), while walking 2 and striking out 1. By asking Don, I found out that the results of the second game were overstated by the stats. He was always known as a good control pitcher and had gotten slightly squeezed by the home plate umpire. There was also a play in the outfield, where RF Willie Kirkland nearly misplayed a fly ball into a home run. The Senators made 4 errors total behind Loun. The result was a 7-0 loss, but one that was never thought to be the last of his MLB career.
Loun never had any major arm injuries, something that destroyed more careers in his time than now a days, simply because of the advance in medical technology. What was common though, was both pitchers and position players spending years in the minor leagues after making a MLB debut. Loun would spend the 1965 season with the Hawaii team in AAA, going 6-12, 4.46 in 26 games, 21 starts. He struggled in the 1966 season with Hawaii, the AAA affiliate of the Senators, and found his way in AA York before the season ended. He had success in York in 1967, making his way back to Hawaii later in the season. By that time, three seasons were passing by without Loun getting another chance to pitch in a MLB game.
It wasn't without chances though. In 1967, for the Hawaii Islanders, he was pitching in all different roles for the pitching staff. He was occasionally a starter, but pitched in long relief, short relief and had pitched in 7 of the team's last 8 games. The morning before the next game, he was told by his manager, Wayne Terwilliger, that he was to start the next game. He pitched 6 innings!, leaving with the game tied at 2. Unbelievable to manage a pitcher pitching in 8 of 9 games today, the last being a start.
Don told a story about a classic matchup with future Yankees starting pitcher Mel Stottlemyre in 1964, while in AAA. Mel was on his way to the big leagues, where he would go 9-2 for the Yankees, leading them to a AL Pennant. Loun went toe to toe with Stottlemyre, with both pitchers leaving after 9 IP with a 0-0 game.
One thing I learned about Don was the fact that he prepared as well as anyone. He learned the mechanics of pitching and was always in the best position to field after the ball was thrown. He was very fundamentally sound and was ready to be a MLB pitcher for seasons to come. Unfortunately, that never transpired, and Don Loun left the baseball world disappointed. For a man who clearly had the ability, he paid his dues and had prepared to be a big league pitcher. When that never transpired, he stayed away from the game of baseball. He grew even further away, when his team, the Washington Senators, left DC for good after the 1971 season and moved to Texas for 1972.
Don was a guest in 2012 on a Washington Nationals weekly TV show, where he gave analysis along with Mike Wallace. When the Nationals played their last game at RFK in 2007, Loun was among several former Senators player guests which included Ron Hansen, Fred Valentine (guest on the Passed Ball Show), Hank Allen, Dick Bosman and Frank Howard, among others. Don was pleased to be included in the festivities, which reminded him that baseball was a fraternity. Anyone who becomes a MLB player is part of that fraternity for life. I enjoyed getting a chance to meet and speak with Don and have a recorded interview which will air on this week's Passed Ball Show, which airs on Saturday 1/11 from 10am-noon on www.tinyurl.com/mtrradio.