Today’s Beantown Baseball Birthday Celebrant was the first native Canadian to ever start a World Series game. Reggie Cleveland was born on this date in 1948, in a little town in the central Canadian province of Saskatchewan. He was involved in all sorts of sports as a kid but baseball was his passion and he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals out of High School in 1965. He made his big league debut with the Cards four years later in the team’s next-to-last regular season game. Facing the Phillies that day, Cleveland got shelled and took the loss. He next got called up to St. Louis in mid-August the following year and again lost his one and only start of the season. He also lost three other decisions among the fifteen games he pitched out of the Cardinal bullpen in 1970 but he was getting great coaching and learning how to get big league hitters out.
By 1971, the right-hander was ready to become a part of St. Louis’s starting rotation and in 34 starts he went 11-11 with a 4.01 ERA, not great but also not bad for a first full year effort in the big leagues. He then put together back-to-back 14-win seasons while lowering his ERA to 3.01 by 1973 and it looked as if he was on the threshold of becoming a big winner for the Cards.
That’s why more than a few people were surprised when that December, St. Louis sent Cleveland, reliever Diego Segui and third baseman Dick Hughes to the Red Sox for pitchers Lynn McGlothen, John Cumberland and Mike Garman. Boston GM, Dick O’Connell told the press that Cleveland was the key to the transaction for the Red Sox. He too felt his new pitcher was ready to move up to the next level and he wanted Cleveland to make that move in a Boston uniform.
He would never become an elite big league starter but for the next four seasons, Cleveland was a valuable swing-man for the Red Sox pitching corps. During that time he appeared in 149 games for Boston, starting in 88 of them. He was a double digit winner in each of those years but with the exception of 1976, he pitched with an ERA in the low-to-mid four’s. His best season as a Red Sox record wise was 1975, the year the team lost to the Reds in the World Series. Cleveland was 13-9 and he made three appearances in that Fall Classic, including his historic start in Game 5, in which he took the loss.
By 1978, Boston was ready to let some of their younger pitchers develop at the big league level, making Cleveland expendable. He was traded to the Rangers during the first month of the ’78 regular season. He pitched in the big’s for three more years, retiring with a 105-106 career record (46-41 as a Red Sox.)