Former American League Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP Frank Viola will enter his third season as the pitching coach for the High Point Rockers. During his 15-year Major League career from 1982-96, the lefthander won 176 games and was named to three All-Star teams while leading the Minnesota Twins to the 1987 World Series Championship.
A native of Long Island, Viola was a 16th round pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 1978 MLB Draft out of East Meadow High School but chose to attend St. John’s University. There, Viola teamed with future New York Met John Franco to lead the Red Storm to the 1980 College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Johnnies opened the CWS with a Viola throwing a complete game four-hitter in a 6-1 win over Arizona and its star player, Terry Francona. But the Red Storm was eliminated following losses to Hawaii and Cal.
History, however, was made the following year, in 1981 during the NCAA Northeast Regional at Yale. In what legendary sportswriter and author Roger Angell called one of the greatest baseball games ever played, Viola beat Yale and its star pitcher, Ron Darling, 1-0 in 12 innings with Darling throwing a no-hitter through the first 11.
During his three seasons at St. John’s, Viola compiled a 26-2 record including a 10-1 mark in 1980 and a 10-0 record in 1981. His 0.87 ERA in 1981 remains the third-best in SJU history. Viola was a first team All-American by Baseball America in 1981 and was a second round pick of the Twins in the 1981 MLB Draft, the No. 37 player selected overall.
Viola started his professional career in Orlando in the AA Southern League before moving to AAA Toledo in 1982 and making his Major League debut that same season. He became a fixture in the Twins rotation over the next seven seasons, posting a 17-10 record in 1987 as the Twins reached the World Series and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Viola defeated Joe Magrane in Game 1, took a loss in Game 4 and earned the Game 7 victory with a 4-2 win over Danny Cox. Viola was named the World Series MVP as he posted a 2-1 record and allowed just eight earned runs over his 19.1 innings pitched while striking out 16.
In 1988, Viola earned the American League Cy Young Award, garnering 27 of the 28 first place votes to easily outdistance Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley. Viola led the Majors with 24 wins (24-7 record) and a .774 winning percentage while his 2.64 ERA and 193 strikeouts each ranked third in the American League. He started and won the 1988 All-Star Game after building a 15-2 record leading into the break. Between May 22, 1987 and July 27, 1988, Viola won 19 consecutive games in the Twins’ home stadium, the Metrodome.