Ewell (the Whip) Blackwell, a fastballing sidearm pitcher of the late 1940's and early 1950's who came within two outs of throwing consecutive no-hit games for the Cincinnati Reds, died Tuesday in Hendersonville, N.C. He was 74.
The cause was cancer, his family said.
Blackwell's best season was 1947, when he had a record of 22-8 for fifth-place Cincinnati, swept to 16 consecutive victories -- a National League record for right-handers -- and almost matched Johnny Vander Meer's double no-hit feat, which had been accomplished with the Reds in 1938.
Blackwell pitched a 6-0 no-hitter against the Boston Braves at Crosley Field on June 18, 1947, then in his next start had a no-hit game going against the Dodgers at Cincinnati on June 22, until Brooklyn's Eddie Stanky hit a broken-bat single through the pitcher's legs with one out in the ninth inning. Jackie Robinson later had another single and Blackwell emerged with a 4-0, two-hit victory.
Vander Meer, still with the Reds, was in the dugout watching Blackwell.
''I was up on the top step,'' Vander Meer would remember. ''I wanted to be the first one out there to congratulate him.''
Blackwell got his nickname because of his unorthodox style, which made him the most feared pitcher of his day. Standing 6 feet 6 inches and delivering sidearm fastballs that approached 100 miles an hour from a high kick in an era when batters did not wear helmets, he was an imposing force, particularly when facing right-handed hitters.
''I realized my sidearm delivery was intimidating, and I took advantage of it any way I could,'' Blackwell once said. ''I was a mean pitcher.''
''Ewell Blackwell was a scary pitcher,'' Ralph Kiner, the former Pittsburgh Pirate slugger, would remember. ''Your legs shook when you tried to dig in on him.''
Blackwell led the National League in hit batsmen six times and, while pitching for Syracuse of the International League, once hit a Newark batter in the head, knocking him unconscious, then accompanied him to a hospital, fearing he would die.
Blackwell pitched in a National League-record six consecutive All-Star Games, beginning in 1946, his second season in the majors, and had a career mark of 82-78 with a 3.30 earned run average. He joined the New York Yankees in 1952 -- among a host of their notable late-season pickups from the other league in their annual pennant drives then -- and started Game 5 of the World Series against the Dodgers. He concluded his career with the Kansas City Athletics in 1955.
He is survived by his wife, Dorothy; two daughters, Linda Myers of Bamfield, British Columbia, and Debbie Whitehead of Jacksonville, Fla., and four grandchildren.