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|Born: October 1, 1947|
|September 15, 1971, for the New York Mets|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 26, 1977, for the Atlanta Braves|
|Earned run average||3.87|
|Career highlights and awards|
Lee William Capra (born October 1, 1947) was a Major League Baseball pitcher. Nicknamed "Buzz" by a neighbor as a child, he was a National League All-Star and the NL earned run average leader in 1974.
Buzz was a shortstop at Lane Technical College Prep High School in the Roscoe Village neighborhood on the Northside of Chicago. besides playing shortstop, he began pitching at Illinois State University, and compiled a 17-5 record & 1.58 earned run average. He was a team Co-captain his senior year, and led the Redbirds to the 1969 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship.
Buzz was selected late in the 1969 Major League Baseball draft by the New York Mets. Though primarily a pitcher, he did play some short & second base with the Pompano Beach Mets in 1969. He went 33-10 with a 2.49 ERA & 367 strikeouts over three seasons in the Mets' farm system to earn a September call-up in 1971.
He made three appearances out of the bullpen, and did not allow an earned run in his first two appearances. He was not, however, so lucky in his third appearance. Facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium, he entered the game in the tenth inning, and only retired one of the seven batters he faced (Jorge Roque, who bunted Joe Torre to second after he led off the inning with a single) on his way to allowing five runs and taking his first major league loss.
He won his first major league start over the San Diego Padres on April 25, 1972, however, found himself back in the minors by the All-Star break. He also split the 1973 season between the Mets & the triple A Tidewater Tides. All ten of his appearances with Tidewater were starts, however, he was used exclusively in relief at the major league level. He earned his first major league save on June 27 against the Philadelphia Phillies, pitching four innings of no-hit ball. Though he was on the World Series roster, he did not appear in the 1973 National League Championship Series or World Series.
During Spring training 1974, the Mets sold Capra's contract to the Atlanta Braves. He was 0-2 with one save (earned the evening Hank Aaron hit his record-breaking 715th home run on April 8, 1974) & a 3.06 ERA in relief when he replaced an injured Ron Reed in the first inning on May 15 against the Padres. He pitched six innings of one hit ball to earn the win, and Reed's spot in the starting rotation.
Over his next three games, Capra was 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA. He allowed just three walks while striking out fifteen, and began a Braves record streak of 26 innings pitched without allowing an earned run. Over the month of June, Capra went 6-0 with a 1.05 ERA, three shutouts & another complete game to set a team record with nine consecutive wins on his way to earning NL Player of the Month honors, and selection to the NL All-Star team by his former manager with the Mets, Yogi Berra (he did not appear in the game). He cooled off during July & August (3-5, 4.43 ERA), however, reverted to form in September to end the season with a major league best 2.28 ERA, 0.10 better than teammate Phil Niekro (who finished second in the NL), and .21 better than American League leader, Catfish Hunter. He also held opposing batters to an NL leading .208 Batting average against.
Capra won his first two starts of the 1975 season, however, a twinge he began feeling toward the end of the previous season in his pitching arm worsened. He lost his next four starts, and was shut down for the season on June 8 with a 4-7 record & 4.25 ERA.
Capra didn't return to the Braves until September 1, 1976, and was roughed up by the Chicago Cubs in his first game back. He was relegated to mop up duty over his next four appearances, and ended the season 0-1 with an 8.68 ERA.
His first game of the 1977 season also went poorly, however, he pitched effectively enough in his next four appearances (3 earned runs in 11.1 innings while holding opposing batters to a .179 batting average) to be placed in the starting rotation when an injury to Andy Messersmith opened a spot. He was 0-4 with an 8.55 ERA in four starts before reverting to relief. He won his first game back in the bullpen for his first win since May 25, 1975, two days shy of two years.
A second injury on July 3 shut Messersmith down for the season, and gave Capra a second shot at starting. He beat Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" on July 13 and on August 10 showed his old form against the San Diego Padres allowing only two hits in nine innings. Capra was credited with a win in his final game against the Houston Astros. He went 2-4 with a 5.02 ERA in sixteen starts over the remainder of the season. In all, he was 2-8 with a 5.84 ERA as a starter, and 4-3 with a 4.58 ERA in relief.
The Braves released Capra at the end of Spring training 1978, and he retired as a player shortly afterwards. He then returned to ISU as pitching coach for the Redbirds, and went on to become a pitching coach & manager in the Mets, Phillies & Braves' farm systems. While at ISU, Capra earned a degree in teaching, and would teach ceramics in a Chicago high school as a player during the off-season. He is a member of the Illinois State Athletics Percy Family Hall of Fame.
Capra had only five RBIs in his playing career, the first coming on May 13, 1972 off Hall of Famer Juan Marichal. His second inning single drove in Cleon Jones with the only run of the game. His second RBI was also a game winner against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 24, 1974.
| National League Player of the Month
| NL Player of the Week
June 30, 1974
Don Wilson & Steve Rogers
| Major League Baseball ERA leader