John Robert Candelaria (born November 6, 1953) is a retired Major League Baseball pitcher. Nicknamed "The Candy Man", he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, California Angels, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, and Los Angeles Dodgers between 1975–1993.
Candelaria was born on November 6, 1953. He is the second of four children born to John and Felicia Candelaria. He grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. He frequently attended New York Yankees' games at Yankee Stadium.
At the age of 15, Candelaria attended a baseball tryout where a Los Angeles Dodgers scout called him the best he had ever seen. The tryout catcher had to be replaced with a major league catcher for fear of injuring the stand-in. By the account of this same scout, Candelaria was in line to sign with the Dodgers before he appeared at a later tryout wearing a shirt that featured a marijuana leaf with the caption "try some, you'll like it." The Dodger executives at the tryout were so appalled by this lighthearted display that they declined to sign him.
Candelaria played center for the Quebradillas Pirates basketball team in Puerto Rico. When he announced he was leaving the Quebradillas basketball "Pirates" for the Pittsburgh Pirates, many were skeptical. The local newspaper featured him pitching a basketball on the front page of the sports section. He had attended La Salle Academy in lower Manhattan and gained fame as a basketball center, including leading his team to a championship in 1971.
Candelaria had his best season in 1977, when he was 20–5 with a 2.34 ERA in 230.2 innings pitched, and he was a member of the 1979 World Series champion Pirates team. On August 9, 1976, Candelaria no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 at Three Rivers Stadium; it was the first no-hitter pitched by a Pirate in Pittsburgh since Nick Maddox at Exposition Park in 1907. Candelaria's second post-season appearance with the Pirates (he pitched Game 3 in the 1975 NLCS) came in their World Series championship season of 1979. Candelaria started Game 1 of the 1979 NLCS and pitched seven innings of two-run ball against the Reds with a painful shoulder. The Pirates won the game 5-2 in 11 innings. In the 1979 World Series, Candelaria had a rough Game 3, giving up five runs in 4 innings as the Pirates lost 8-4 to the Orioles. Candelaria redeemed himself in a crucial Game 6 by combining with Kent Tekulve to pitch a 4-0 shutout.
Candelaria, who stood 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) and wielded a mid- to upper-90s fastball with natural movement, remained an effective starter for the Pirates through the 1984 season. He suffered personal tragedy on Christmas morning 1984, when his 18-month-old son John Jr. fell into the family's swimming pool at their home in Sarasota, Florida. John Jr. spent five weeks in intensive care and was then transitioned to home, where he received nursing care 24 hours per day. He was readmitted to the hospital multiple times. John Jr. died in a Pittsburgh hospital in November 1985.
Candelaria was moved to the bullpen in 1985. In response to the change, Candelaria called general manager Harding Peterson "a bozo"; he said that the team's ownership valued its racehorses more than its baseball players. He posted nine saves out of the Pittsburgh bullpen, which ended up being a team high on a 57-win team. In early August, the team traded Candelaria to the California Angels. At the time, he was the last Pirate that remained from the 1979 championship team. The Angels immediately made him a starter again and he went 7-3 down the stretch in 1985 and helped the Angels into the 1986 ALCS with a 10-2 record. Candelaria later said that the trade to a contending team had been a positive change for him.
Candelaria played for both New York teams (Mets and Yankees), both Los Angeles teams (Dodgers and Angels) and both Canadian teams (Blue Jays and Expos). He finished his career in Pittsburgh in 1993, making him the only Pirates player from the 1979 team to play for the Pirates during their twenty consecutive losing seasons.
At the age of two, Candelaria's son, John Robert, fell into a coma after a 1984 swimming accident. He died one year later.
Candelaria currently lives in North Carolina, and is an avid world traveler. John has a nephew, Zac Candelaria, who is currently a catcher at the Division One program of Fairfield University.