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Stewart blossomed into star for hometown A's

MLB.com @JALaymance

Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of Dave Stewart.

Stewart was one of the most imposing pitchers in baseball during his 16-year Major League career, earning him the nickname "Smoke," and he was also one of the best.

Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of Dave Stewart.

Stewart was one of the most imposing pitchers in baseball during his 16-year Major League career, earning him the nickname "Smoke," and he was also one of the best.

Born and raised in Oakland, Stewart eventually starred on the mound for the A's. But his professional career began with the Dodgers, who selected him in the 16th round of the 1975 Draft.

Stewart's big league career began in the Dodgers' bullpen. After debuting late in the 1978 season, pitching in just one game, Stewart made the club's Opening Day roster in '81 and helped the Dodgers win the World Series over the Yankees by pitching two scoreless appearances. It was the first of Stewart's three World Series titles.

Stewart blossomed into one of baseball's best starters when he returned to his hometown of Oakland in 1986 following stints with the Rangers and Phillies. Under the tutelage of pitching guru Dave Duncan, Stewart produced four consecutive 20-win seasons with the A's from 1987-90.

With the A's, Stewart was named to his only American League All-Star team in 1989, the same year he finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting after going 21-9 with a 3.32 ERA in 36 starts. The following season, Stewart tossed a no-hitter against the Blue Jays on June 29, 1990, in Toronto.

There are numerous regular-season accolades, but Stewart is best known for his postseason heroics.

"He was truly a big-game pitcher," said Tony La Russa, who managed the A's during Stewart's eight seasons in Oakland from 1986-92 and '95.

Stewart won all four games he started in the 1989 postseason. He beat the Blue Jays twice in the AL Championship Series with a pair of eight-inning performances.

In the Fall Classic against the Giants, Stewart tossed a shutout in Game 1 and returned in Game 3 to pitch seven innings. He went 10 days between starts because of an earthquake that delayed the "Bay Bridge Series." The A's swept the Giants, and Stewart won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, having gone 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA.

Stewart was twice named ALCS MVP. In 1990, he helped the A's beat the Red Sox by winning both of his starts and allowing two runs in 16 innings (1.12 ERA). In '93, his first year with the Blue Jays, Stewart won both of his starts against the White Sox, including a decisive Game 6.

In the 1993 World Series, Stewart made two starts against the Phillies, including Game 6, when Joe Carter hit a walk-off three-run homer to clinch the championship for Toronto.

Stewart started 18 career postseason games, going 10-6 with a 2.84 ERA. He was especially dominant in LCS starts, going 8-0.

Following his successful playing career, Stewart went on to be a pitching coach, player agent and front-office executive.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JALaymance.