04/02/12 2:51 PM ET
Reds Hall of Famer Jerry Lynch, a hero of the 1961 Reds National League Championship team and the most accomplished pinch-hitter in club history, died on April1 near his home in Georgia. He was 81.
In his six and a half seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Jerry Lynch played as a regular in the outfield in only three of those years and batted over .300 only two years. Yet he is a member of the Reds Hall of Fame, primarily because he was known through those years as a spectacular clutch pinch-hitter.
In 1958, Lynch hit .312 with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs. When the Reds won the National League championship in 1961, he hit .315, which included a .404 batting average as a pinch hitter, connecting 19 hits in 47 at-bats. On April 23 and 26, he hit back-to-back pinch home runs. Pinch hits are not ordinary at-bats, they come when the team most needs a hit. The batter comes to the plate for his first at-bat in the game with the outcome of his at-bat usually crucial to his team's victory.
When the Reds played the San Francisco Giants for the first time in the Giants' new home park, the Reds overcame a 4-0 deficit with five runs in the sixth inning, sparking a 5-4 victory. The final three runs were scored on a Jerry Lynch home run. On May 3, 1959, he hit a 3-run home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 6-3, at Crosley Field. On September 26, 1961, the Reds clinched a tie for the pennant with a 6-3 win over the Cubs. Lynch broke a 3-3 deadlock with a two-run homer in the eighth inning.
Lynch began his professional career at age 19 with Greenville in the Class C Cotton State League in 1950. After service in the military in 1951-1952, he played for the Norfolk Tars and led the Class B Piedmont League with a .333 batting average, 22 triples and 133 RBIs and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates where he played the next three seasons. After spending much of 1956 on the disabled list, he was dropped by the Pirates and drafted by the Reds in December.
Bill James in his New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, suggests that Lynch could have been named league MVP for his 1961 performance. "He hit over .400 as a pinch hitter (19-for-47), with power and played 44 games in the outfield. His slugging percentage of .624 and 50 RBI in 181 at-bats was a far better rate than Roger Maris had that same season, hitting 61 home runs. More than that, Lynch had big, big hits; game after game, when the Reds were in danger of falling short, Lynch came up the big hit to put them back in front, and the Reds, picked to finish sixth, won the pennant."
Traded back to the Pirates in 1963, Lynch finished his career there three years later. In his career, he collected 116 pinch hits (fifth highest all-time) in 447 at bats. In 1964, he partnered with former teammate Dick Groat in operating the Champion Lakes golf course in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, and later retired to Georgia. He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1988.
Since the opening of the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum in 2004, Jerry was a regular attendee at Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies and at Redsfest, the Reds' off-season fan festival. Always quick with a smile and a joke, Jerry's great sense of humor was always in evidence. Last year, Jerry appeared at a reunion event that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Reds' 1961 championship.
Jerry Lynch is survived by his wife, Alice Lynch of Smyrna, Ga., sons Mark Lynch of Greensboro. N.C., Keith Lynch of Marietta, Ga., Gerald Patrick Lynch of Smyrna, daughter Kimberly Lynch of Los Angeles and 11 grandchildren.
Services for Mr. Lynch will be private.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.