Former MLB pitcher drops 162 pounds

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Denny McLain was an MLB pitcher for the Detroit Tigers

McLain had a sleeve gastrectomy after his wife was diagnosed with Parkinson's

McLain has lost 162 pounds since the surgery

CNN  — 

Denny McLain is a recognizable name to almost any baseball fan, especially in Detroit, where he played most of his MLB career. But even his best friends don’t recognize him after a 162-pound weight loss.

“I met a friend yesterday. I hadn’t seen him in a year. He was sitting two tables across from me,” McLain said. “He didn’t recognize me. He finally said, ‘It’s not you, only half of you.’ I said, ‘The other half is gone.”

When McLain broke into pro baseball, he weighed around 185 pounds.

He was known during his playing days for consuming a case of Pepsi every day. This habit, he said, added 10 pounds a year to his 6-foot-1-inch frame.

McLain made a life-changing decision to have bariatric surgery last June.

Bariatric surgery can be done a few different ways – either by reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band, by removing a portion of the stomach (often called a sleeve gastrectomy) or by resecting and re-routing the small intestines to a small stomach pouch, known as gastric bypass surgery. McLain had a sleeve gastrectomy.

McLain said his stomach once weighed about 55 ounces. It now weighs about 4 ounces.

Since the surgery, McLain has lost 162 pounds. He won’t say exactly what he weighs now, but “it’s the closest I have ever been to my playing days weight.”

“He’s doing remarkable,” said McLain’s physician, Dr. Carl Pesta. “He’s followed the plan. He’s stayed on the plan.”

While concern for his health played a role, McLain said it was his wife’s condition, not his, that prompted him to make this major life change. Sharon McLain was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease a year ago.

“The quickness of the disease has been quite shocking,” McLain said.

“My doctors both took me aside and said, ‘Sharon is sick. Two things can happen. One is good. One is bad. The good thing: You have heart attack and die. Bad news: If you have a stroke and don’t die, who is going to take care of you? How much help can you be?’ ”

McLain said his wife has an athlete’s competitive nature in her, thanks in part to her father. Lou Boudreau was an eight-time MLB all-star as a player, and manager and member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Sharon has lost her sense of balance, McLain said, and has difficulty walking. But she’s “a fighter.”

“It’s a battle every day,” he said of Parkinson’s. “You never have two good days in a row.”

McLain only eats one meal a day, snacking on nuts and drinking flavored water the rest of the day.

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“That’s not a diet I would recommend for every(one), but it seems to work for him,” Pesta said. “He has his energy back; he is moving well.”

McLain was known as a carefree player on and off the field, though he had his share of ups and downs.

In 1968, he became the last pitcher to win 31 games in a season (a record many think never will be broken due to the different handling of pitchers today).

He was the Cy Young winner, the Most Valuable Player Award winner and on the cover of Time magazine that season.

He was also an excellent organist – a talent that evolved into a side career, including an endorsement deal for Hammond Organs, playing on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” headlining performances in Las Vegas, and cutting a pair of albums.