I don't have blazing speed but my fastball does move. And believe me, without it, I couldn't win.
- Bob Purkey
In one of the better trades in club history, the Reds acquired Bob Purkey from the Pirates in exchange for left-handed swingman Don Gross in December 1957. Purkey had enjoyed only middling success pitching for his hometown Pirates buy blossomed into an All-Star for the Reds.
The Reds of the late 1950s could hit with the best teams in baseball but consistently fell short in the pennant race due to a lack of quality pitching. Purkey's arrival heralded a rebirth in the Reds' pitching fortunes as, over the next few seasons, the club built a formidable staff anchored by starting pitchers Purkey, Jim O'Toole and Joey Jay. Relying on uncanny control of his knuckleball, Purkey was an All-Star in his first season with the Reds in 1958; a year in which his 17 victories led the club and ranked 4th in the NL. In 1960, O'Toole established himself as a consistent starter with a great deal of promise and in December 1960, the Reds added the last piece of their "Big Three" puzzle with the acquisition of Jay in a trade with Milwaukee.
The 1961 Reds surprised everyone by winning the NL pennant a year after losing 87 games and five years after their last contending team, the 1956 squad, had powered its way to contention on the strength of its record-tying home run hitting. The '61 Reds combined a balanced offense with one of the league's top pitching staffs to best the Dodgers by 4 games for the NL flag. Purkey (16), O'Toole (19) and Jay (21) combined for 56 of the club's 93 victories. Despite limiting the Yankees to two earned runs over 9 innings in Game 3 of the World Series, the Reds dropped the game, 3-2, and the Series in 5 games.
The Reds' trio of starters improved on their performance in 1962 capturing 60 of the team's 98 wins. Despite the increased win total, the Reds fell to 3rd in the standings, 3.5 games behind the pennant-winning Giants. The '62 season was the finest of Purkey's Major League career. He finished 3rd in the NL with 23 wins against only 5 losses; an .821 winning percentage that was the best in the league. It was the fourth time that Purkey led the Reds in wins and his performance earned him his third All-Star selection (he pitched in both All-Star games played in 1961 and 1962 in addition to his 1958 All-Star berth).
Injuries cut short Purkey's 1963 season and, ultimately, his career. After a solid season in 1964, Purkey was traded to the Cardinals. He pitched one season in St. Louis before returning to the Pirates for the last season of his big league career.
Bob Purkey was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1974.