Why we like him: When you think about the game's greatest closers, you probably think about Rivera, Eckersley, Lee Smith, Wagner, Hoffman, Gossage, Fingers, and Sutter. The guys you don't think about are the ones who actually revolutionized the game, essentially invented role, and basically defined the job of the closer for future generations. Long before Eric Gagne was saving a shady 84 consecutive games and John Rocker was sprinting onto the field to Twisted Sister, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Elroy Leon Face was making a name for himself by finishing ballgames.
Face laid the groundwork for the closer role in the league in the late 50s. After finding little success as a starter, he made the move to the bullpen and found other ways he could help his team. Through the development of a forkball, which he picked up from Yankee bullpen specialist Joe Page, Face would come on late in games and secure wins for the Pirates by shutting down opposing lineups for one to two innings. From 1958 to 1962, Face was easily the best in baseball at what he did, which was save ballgames. He made three straight All Star appearances from '59 to '61, and was even a legitimate factor in the MVP race in '59.
Roy Face played 16 seasons in the majors, 15 of which were spent in Pittsburgh. He saved 193 games during an era when the save was really an insignificant statistic. Despite a pretty ugly postseason ERA, he even became the first pitcher to save three games in a single World Series during the legendary Fall Classic of 1960 against the Yankees.
When you think about it and look at the numbers, Roy Face is probably not worthy of a place in the Hall in Cooperstown, but when you consider the impact the man made on the game and closer's role, in particular, it might be worth it to give the guy his own wing. Let's put it this way. If you've ever gotten pumped up because your club is headed into the ninth inning with a lead, and you're excited about your closer coming in to shut it down and wrap up a save, thank Roy Face.
Ladies and gentlemen, Roy Face, Ballplayer.