During his major league debut against the Yankees on July 19, 1964, the right-hander stepped onto the mound and dazzled for the Cleveland Indians, fanning 11 batters en route to a shutout victory. That outing would establish the foundation for the rest of his career.
After stints with the Minnesota Twins, the New York Yankees, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the California Angels and the Boston Red Sox, Tiant finished with a 229-172 record and a 3.30 ERA.
On the surface, the numbers don't appear eye-popping enough to merit induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot ?? which will be voted on Monday at the winter meetings. The voting reflects the "Golden Era" from 1947 to 1972.
But a look at his 49 career shutouts says otherwise. With that total, Tiant boasts more career shutouts that celebrated Hall of Famers such as Whitey Ford (45), Phil Niekro (45), Robin Roberts (45), Bob Feller (44) and Sandy Koufax (40).
During his 19-year career, Tiant consistently overpowered opposing hitters, becoming one of just five pitchers to toss four or more straight shutouts in the Expansion Era, not just the Golden Era.
His 1968 season alone is still heralded as one of the top individual pitching seasons of all time. That year, he tossed nine shutouts and finished with a miniscule 1.60 ERA in a 21-win season.
Four years later, Tiant's pitching was equally as effective. After 179 innings of work, the righty ended the year with a 1.91 ERA, becoming one of a select group of pitchers to finish with an ERA under 2.00 on two separate occasions.
The Red Sox especially benefited from Tiant's skill set. Three of the flamethrower's four 20-win seasons came as a member of the Red Sox. During those eight years, he led the league in shutouts three times and earned 122 wins.
Once again, his career win total compares favorably when stacked up against other Hall of Famers. Tiant has more victories than Catfish Hunter (224), Stan Covelski (215) and potential Hall of Fame pitchers Curt Schilling (216) and Martinez (215).
When compared to his Golden Era counterparts, there is no questioning Tiant's candidacy for the Hall. During five different years ?? although two of them weren't in the era ?? the Cuban hurler finished in the top 10 in strikeouts.
His emergence set the precedent for Valenzuela, who garnered headlines in the 1980s with his devastating screwball. His emergence set the precedent for Martinez, who announced this weekend he would formally retire, in Boston.