SAN FRANCISCO — Stu Miller, the former Giants pitcher who committed perhaps the most famous balk in All-Star Game history, has died. He was 87.
The Giants said Monday that Miller died at his home in Cameron Park on Sunday after a brief illness.
Miller played 16 years in the majors for the Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore and Atlanta. He led the National League in ERA in 1958, had the most saves in the NL in 1961 and the American League in 1963 and won a World Series title with Baltimore in 1966.
But he is most remembered for his All-Star game performance at windy Candlestick Park in 1961. He was called for a balk in the ninth inning which helped the AL score the tying run. Miller got the win in extra innings but the headlines the next day proclaimed “Miller Blown off Mound.”
“The next day in the paper there was a banner headline: ‘Miller Blown off Mound,’” he recalled in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press. “They couldn’t have made it any bigger. They made it out to be like I was pinned against the center-field fence. It wasn’t about Mays scores winning run but ‘Miller Blown off Mound.’”
Miller entered the game for the National League trying to protect a 3-2 lead with runners on first and second and one out in the ninth. With Rocky Colavito at the plate, Miller relieved Sandy Koufax.
A calm day had turned windy, some of the harshest gusts Miller saw in the three years that Candlestick was his home park while he played for the Giants. He remembered Harvey Haddix chasing his hat around the infield and the flags nearly blowing off the poles.
“Just as I was ready to pitch, an extra gust of wind came along and I waved like a tree,” he said. “My whole body went back and forth about 2 or 3 inches. The AL bench all hollered balk. I knew it was a balk, but the umpires didn’t call it at first. I went ahead and threw the pitch and Colavito swung and missed. The umpire then took off his mask and motioned the runners to second and third.”
An error by third baseman Ken Boyer allowed the tying run to score.
Miller allowed an unearned run in the 10th inning, but he also struck out the side that inning. He ended it by fanning Roger Maris with a runner on third, striking out the man who was on his way to becoming baseball’s single-season home run king that year.
Miller earned the win when Willie Mays hit an RBI double and scored on Roberto Clemente’s single in the bottom of the 10th. But it was the balk that became the defining moment in his career.
“I guess that’s better than ‘Stu Who?’” he said. “I’d rather be remembered for something.”
Miller played for both the New York and San Francisco Giants from 1957-62, winning the NL ERA title in 1958. He also led the NL in saves with 17 in 1961 when he was picked as the Sporting News Fireman of the Year.
“The passing of Stu Miller brings great sadness to our organization,” Giants President and CEO Larry Baer said. “Stu had a long and distinguished career with some of his best seasons coming in a Giants uniform. We express our deepest condolences to his family and will have them in our thoughts and prayers.”
He finished his career with a 105-103 record, 154 saves and a 3.24 ERA in 704 lifetime appearances. He led the AL in saves with 27 for the Orioles in 1963.
Miller is survived by his wife, Jayne, daughters Lori and Kim, sons Scott, Marc, Gary and Matthew, and his five grandchildren.