"The Boys of Summer" on the Brooklyn Dodgers teams of the 1950s chronicled by author Roger Kahn, died on Friday after a brief illness. He was 80.
"I had the pleasure of meeting Clem Labine during the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1955 World Series championship," said Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. "The memories of Clem's career will forever be remembered by his loyal fans."
Labine, a right-handed relief pitcher who made an occasional clutch start, pitched 13 seasons in the Major Leagues, was a two-time All-Star and appeared in five World Series. Labine's best season was 1955, when he went 13-5 with a 3.24 ERA, leading the league with 60 appearances and finishing 15th in MVP voting as the Dodgers won their first World Series championship.
"Clem Labine was one of the main reasons the Dodgers won it all in 1955," said Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully. "He had the heart of a lion and the intelligence of a wily fox ... and he was a nice guy, too. He will be truly missed by all who knew him."
Labine pitched in four games in that World Series, going 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA. Although save totals were not kept in those days, retroactively he was credited with leading the league in saves in 1956-57.
He was signed by the Dodgers before the 1944 season, spent seven years in the Minor Leagues and was traded by the Dodgers in 1960 to the Tigers. He also pitched for the Mets.
"Clem Labine was one of the greatest guys I had the pleasure of playing with," said former teammate Tom Lasorda. "He represented the Dodgers with class, dignity and character. He was one of the finest pitchers to ever play the game. He was a great family man, and we're going to miss him."
A day after Don Larsen's perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series, Labine started and pitched a 10-inning, 1-0 shutout in Game 6.
"I always thought Clem would've had a great career as a starting pitcher," said former teammate Carl Erskine. "But he told me, 'I didn't want to start. I liked the pressure of coming into the game with everything on the line. I could also do it more often as a reliever.' He told me that this past month at the Dodgers Adult Camp."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.