Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

November 23, 2010

Cancer claims Kokomo great Tom Underwood

Former Wildkat pitched 11 seasons in the Major Leagues

(Continued)

Kokomo —

The Underwood family gave Kokomo one of its proudest sports moments. On May 30, 1979, Pat made his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers, pitching against Tom and the Toronto Blue Jays. The southpaws hooked up in a duel with the Tigers winning 1-0 on an eighth-inning home run.

Former Tribune sports editor Dave Kitchell covered the game. He raved about the brothers’ brilliant pitching and wrote that “For the Kokomoans who were there … they'll remember two standing ovations and Tom and Pat embracing on the field after the game while the organist played “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

Underwood first began to turn heads at UCT, and he went on to great things at Kokomo High where the three-sport athlete quarterbacked the football team. In his final two seasons with the Red and Blue baseball program, he amassed a 17-3 won-lost record with an ERA of around 0.40.

In addition, Underwood had a 25-1 record over his final two seasons with Ronk’s American Legion team, helping Post 6 win the 1972 state championship.

After being drafted by Philadelphia with the 27th overall pick in the 1972 draft, Underwood spent 1973 and part of ’74 in the minor leagues before receiving word he was going to join the Phillies. He called that the greatest moment of his baseball career.

“We were playing in Waterbury [Conn.] and I remember my manager asking me after the game if I had a suitcase … he said I was going to the majors,” Underwood said in the 1999 interview. “It was like my feet were off the ground — it was a feeling that never went away. My goal had always been to play in the majors and to know I’d finally gotten there was just unbelievable.”

Underwood pitched for six teams over parts of 11 seasons, finishing with an 86-87 record. He had strong seasons in 1976 (10-5 record, 3.52 ERA with the Phillies) and in 1980 (13-9, 3.66 with the Yankees), but his best season might have come in 1982 when he worked as a starter and reliever for the Oakland A’s, appearing in 56 games, posting a 10-6 record with seven saves and finishing with a 3.29 ERA that ranked among the top 10 in the American League.

Underwood pitched in the postseason in 1976 with the Phillies, in 1980 with the Yankees and in 1981 with the A’s.

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