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Eric Gagne

Eric Serge Gagné, born January 7, 1976 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, is a major league baseball player.

From a French-Canadian family, Eric Gagné grew up playing ice hockey in his small hometown of Mascouche not far from Montreal. A fan of the Montreal Expos, he started playing baseball as well as hockey and as a teenager was a brilliant pitcher in High School then a star with Canada's Junior World Championship teams.

Gagné was a 30th-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox in 1994 but the following year he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent. Gagné, who could not speak English, went to study at Seminole State College in Seminole, Oklahoma. Remarkably, he taught himself English while a student and pitched for the College's "Trojans" ball team. He then went on to pitch in the minor leagues but missed the entire 1997 season due to elbow surgery. He joined the Los Angeles Dodgers team for a part of the 1999 season. In his first year in the major leagues, as a starting pitcher he appeared in only five games. Over his first three seasons he met with only mediocre success, winning 11 games while losing 14. At the start of the 2002 season, he was converted from a starting pitcher to a relief pitcher and after a short stint in the minor leagues in Las Vegas, he was recalled to the Dodgers and soon became the National Leagues leading reliever, earning 52 saves for the season.

In 2003, as a relief pitcher, Gagné was called upon 55 times to save a baseball game and saved every one of them en route to becoming the only pitcher to record 50 saves in more than one season and the fastest pitcher to ever reach the 100-save plateau. Overall, he has saved 62 consecutive games dating back to August 26, 2002, another major league record. What is also so exceptional about the power pitcher is that 55 per cent of the batters he got out this past season came by strikeout.

Eric Gagné finished the 2003 season with an 1.20 Earned run average and had 137 strikeouts and 20 walks in 82 1/3 innings pitched. For his performance, he won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award and became the first relief pitcher in 11 years to win the Cy Young Award. With Ferguson Jenkins, he is the only Canadian pitcher to win the most prestigious pitching award in baseball.