SABR

Pat Luby

This article was written by Steve Hatcher.

John Perkins Luby was a right-handed pitcher and left-handed batter of the 19th century whose meteoric rise in 1890 was followed by a slow, steady decline until his death in 1899. [1]

The second of three sons, Luby was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to James and Johanna Luby in either the last half of 1868 or the first half of 1869. His birth has been given variously as 1868, January 1869, June 1869, and May 31, 1869, none of which completely agrees with census data from 1870 or 1880, or his death certificate.[2]

Both parents emigrated from Ireland to the United States about 1854, eventually settling in Charleston, where James Luby found work over the years as a brick mason and a watchman for the South Carolina Railway Company. Johanna was a housewife and homemaker, caring for John, his two brothers, one sister, two stepsons, and a stepsister, at 8 Orange Street in Charleston. When John was about 16 and working as a clerk for P.P. Toale, a lumber and building supply company, his father died at the age of 48 on August 16, 1884, from what was described as brain congestion.[3]

John, or Jack as he was sometimes called, began his baseball career at an early age, pitching for amateur teams in and around Charleston, a city of some 55,000 inhabitants. His professional career was launched in 1889 when he signed with president Theodore Passailaigue and manager J.S. Aydelotte of the Charleston Swamp Angels of the Southern League.[4] 

On April 20 Luby appeared in his first professional game, at Charleston Baseball Field as the hometown right fielder against the Pelicans of New Orleans, who won, 8-3. Four days later he started his first game as a pitcher, losing 13-8 to the Pelicans, a loss that was blamed more on luck and a number of umpire Yance’s bad calls.

After starting the season with five straight losses,[5] the club reversed its fortunes as Luby piled up six straight victories, helping the Swamp Angels to vault into second place behind New Orleans. Even the nickname was changed to Sea Gulls, which seemed to reflect a better connotation.[6] 

Luby’s repertoire included a fastball, a sharp outcurve with terrific speed, and a drop ball that may have been his curve, all with good control. The club’s rise in the standings was primarily credited to pitchers Joe Hennessey, Frank Stapleton, and Luby, with John Whalen doing almost all the catching.[7]

The Southern League soon found itself in financial straits, though the Sea Gulls were in the black by a small margin. Birmingham was expelled in May and replaced by Mobile. In June both Memphis and Atlanta folded, forcing the league’s remnants to reorganize with a belatedly concocted season broken into two parts, the Old Series and the New Series. In the Old Series the Sea Gulls finished in second place with a record of 22-17, twelve games in back of New Orleans. Luby’s contribution was a 7-4 record. The New Series included just four clubs, Charleston, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Chattanooga. To avert possible financial loss given Charleston’s distance from the other cities, the directors of the Sea Gulls transferred the franchise to Atlanta, more than 300 miles to the west.[8]

The New Series began on June 19 and Luby’s first start came against New Orleans on June 24 at Macon, Georgia, as Perkins Park in Atlanta “was being put in order.” For the fourth time in a row, Luby lost 7-3 to the Pelicans, a team boasting seven past or future major leaguers. Two days later, he finally notched a victory over the powerful Crescent City nine, winning by 7-3. On July 4 he defeated Chattanooga, 3-2. More importantly, that was the day the league disbanded again. The final standings showed Atlanta with a record of 3-2 in second place, 2½ games behind New Orleans.[9]

Luby’s combined “old” and “new” record consisted of two games in right field, 14 games in the pitcher’s box, a 9-5 record, and a batting average of .222, with 14 hits, all singles, in 63 at-bats.[10]

The season was not over yet for Luby. Manager John H. Roushkolb of Grand Rapids signed him and teammate Charlie Householder to finish out the Michigan State League season.[11] In 20 games in the box, Luby compiled an 11-9 record, averaging almost one wild pitch a game with 18. His batting was fairly consistent with his Southern League accomplishments: a .237 average in 33 games.[12] Grand Rapids, which suited up eight former or future major leaguers, finished the season in third place with a record of 54-45, 6½ games behind Jackson.[13] After the season Luby, buoyed by the results of his debut season and with a growing reputation, returned to Charleston and worked as a clerk.[14]

William L. “Farmer” Works, manager of the Galveston Sand Crabs of the Texas League, signed Luby in December.[15] Luby, by then 6-feet-plus tall, was described as a 200-pounder (baseball-reference.com lists his weight as 185 pounds) who could put “the ball over the plate like a streak of lightning,” and a “wicked hitter.” Eddie Tray of Jackson, who had played against him in the Michigan State League, described him as a “dandy, a great young pitcher, and fit for the fastest company.” According to Tray, Luby had “terrific speed, great curves, and a cool hand,” and could “get out and play a nice field, and is rattling hitter to boot.”   Mark Polhemus, who played with and against Luby in 1889, called him a “corker, … a big, powerful youngster with terrific speed and nasty balls.” Records are sketchy for the Michigan State League season of 1889, but apparently Luby played nearly every position.[16]

As the 1890 season began, Luby was handed the ball for the first four games, possibly because pitchers Joe Hennessey and Robert Pender were stiff and sore from the inclement weather. Luby lost the opener to Houston, 5-2, before the home crowd, but won the next three with “fearful speedy curves” that crippled the Houston batters. The scores of his three victories were 16-1, 16-7, and 7-4, and he gave up no earned runs.[17]

Word of Luby’s effectiveness caught the notice of manager Cap Anson of the National League’s Chicago Colts, who sought talent wherever he could in this season when the best players were spread among the National League, the American Association, and the Players League.[18]

Luby continued pitching effectively through April and May, building his record to 9-3, and playing right field in six additional games. In the second week of May he was the victim of a freak accident, falling down an elevator shaft at the Driskill House in Austin, landing in 15 feet of water and having to be fished out with some difficulty. Luby didn’t play on May 12, but he did take the field for most of the remaining games as pitcher, right fielder, or first baseman.[19]

Because of financial losses blamed on bad weather, the Texas League disbanded on June 10 with the Sand Crabs in first place, ahead of Dallas by seven games.[20] Luby’s pitching record for the shortened season was 11 wins against 7 losses with two shutouts, which was a little difficult in the era of unearned runs. He was considered the best-fielding pitcher in the league, but his .197 batting average had a measure of sock, five doubles and three homers to go with his 23 base hits.[21]

The demise of the Texas League opened the door for Chicago’s Anson to secure Luby and his catcher, Jake Stenzel. They left Galveston for Chicago about June 13,[22] and

on June 16 the 21-year-old Luby began his major-league career, pitching the second game of a doubleheader against Pittsburg at West Side Park in Chicago. He had a couple of hits but he lost the game, 4-3. Pittsburg manager Guy Hecker said Luby had good speed, but one “couldn’t tell where he was going to put the ball.” Hecker said he thought Luby and Stenzel were good hitters.[23]

Luby won his first major-league game on June 26, 1890, against Brooklyn, helping his cause with a home run as the Colts won 11-5. Anson, saying Luby “pounds the ball hard and steadily and is pretty sure when men are on bases,” started him in right field on July 5.[24] As a pitcher Luby accumulated a 3-10 record through July, but hit well [.324 average after 12 games]. His inconsistent twirling may have been due in part to a “crippled hand,” which caused him to miss action in 11 games between July 28 and August 5.[25]

When Luby defeated Cleveland 7-1 at League Park in Cleveland on August 6, the Colts were in fifth place with a record of 44-42. They stood 13½ games behind Brooklyn, and from that date the Chicagos went on a tear. Luby shared box duties with Bill Hutchison and Ed Stein, and all three were standouts. Luby in fact never lost again that 1890 season and rolled up 18 straight wins (at the time it was reported as 20 straight), eclipsing Jim McCormick’s record in 1886, originally called 19 straight but since trimmed to 16.  During this historic streak, he defeated such supreme pitchers as Tony Mullane twice, Amos Rusie twice, Kid Gleason, Kid Nichols, Billy Rhines, Adonis Terry, Tom Lovett, and John Clarkson. Without question, the Players League had made off with a major share of baseball’s greatest hitters, but the National League clubs did retain a respectable membership in the box. Luby’s exploits greatly helped Chicago to finish in second place with a record of 84-53.[26] With less hitting competition in the league, Luby also managed to win the National League batting title with a .342 average over 30 games, which has since been revised to .267 by the addition of 2 at bats and 8 fewer hits in 36 games.[27]

Luby’s actual record, as uncertain as it may be, consisted of 37 games: 34 games in the box, two games at first base, and one game in right field. Of his 34 games as pitcher, he had 26 complete games out of 31 starts and three relief appearances. He had the dubious distinction of being the first hurler to hit three batsmen in one inning, a total of three, which is still the all-time record.[28]

After Chicago conducted several exhibition matches against the local Whitings as well as some embarrassing ones against the Milwaukee Brewers of the Western Association, Luby journeyed southward to Charleston for the winter. It was a busy offseason consisting of games with Boston and participating on Al Lawson’s Ocala All-American team against Cuban League clubs. There were rumors of drinking and wagering and throwing games in Havana and Key West, quite possibly to earn enough money for the trip home.[29]

Meanwhile Anson’s Colts were in Denver for the preseason between March and April of 1891. Luby supposedly contracted the grippe and was given permission to practice at home until the third week of April.[30] He finally showed up sporting a yellow mustache, which changed his appearance decidedly. He started the season opener on April 22 against Pittsburg. He pitched well for six innings, but was chased from the box as the Smoky City nine scored six runs in the seventh. Chicago rallied behind Bill Hutchison and won the game, 7-6.[31]

On April 27 Luby lost 1-0 at Cincinnati. The victories came harder this season for several reasons. Not only did he have to confront a better class of batters returning from the defunct Players League, but his shoulder was bothering him, causing a loss of velocity in the later innings. Another problem was Luby’s binge drinking, for which he was fined by Anson a couple of times.[32]

Luby didn’t win his first contest until May 12, when he defeated Kid Nichols and Boston, 11-6, giving up 11 hits and five runs, only two earned. By the end of May he had a 1-4 record with three no-decisions and one relief appearance. However, the Colts were doing well with a 20-11 record, mostly due to Bill Hutchison, who had piled up 12 wins.[33]

Chicago finished in second place again without much assistance from Luby, who struggled all season with a sore arm, a struggle that was manifested by a high walk ratio and a 4.76 ERA. He was actually released with his catcher Bill Bowman for “conviviality” on August 8. A buzz of rumors circulated that Luby was headed for the Boston Reds of the American Association, but a man-to-man talk with Anson complete with a promise to clean up his act, to take a “brace on himself,” proved fruitful for the Southerner and his release was withdrawn on August 10. In any event, Luby’s final start in the box was a lopsided 28-5 rout of Brooklyn for his eighth victory on August 25. However, from then to October 1 he saw no action, a total of 32 games, as Captain Anson made the decision to go with pitchers Hutchison, Ad Gumbert, and Tom Vickery in his race to catch the Boston Beaneaters, the eventual pennant winner.[34]

Luby returned on October 2 in a wild defeat at the hands of Cincinnati at West Side Park with its short foul lines. Tom Vickery started for the Colts but was soon knocked out of the box and replaced by Luby. Although he was not much of an improvement over his predecessor, he did whack out a homer, triple, and single in three times up.[35]

The next day, in the Colts’ last game of the season, Vickery was once again chased from the box by the victorious Reds and relieved by Luby. It was described as a farce of a game, attended by about 1,000 unhappy patrons. Luby lost a possible home run when Bug Holliday made a remarkable leaping backhand catch.[36]

Luby was 8-12 for 1891, with 24 starts, 18 complete games, and six relief appearances. He pitched better and twice as often at Chicago’s 35th Street Grounds (where the Colts played their home games on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) than at West Side Park with its shorter field. His batting average a plummeted to .245, but 8 of his 24 hits were for extra bases. He led all the National League pitchers with a .962 fielding average.[37]

Immediately after the regular season, Anson’s Colts played a six-game series in Iowa against the Sioux City Cornhuskers, champion of the Western Association. After the Colts lost the first match behind Hutchison, 8-1, Luby defeated the Huskers 7-4 on a cold, windy day. Sioux City went on to win the series, four games to two.[38]

Anson took the team to Hot Springs, Arkansas, in March 1892 for its spring exercises, and Luby was reported to have excelled with perfect control and speed. The assessment is a bit confusing since a team of professionals led by Buck Ewing pounded Luby and the Colts in a couple of games. That was followed by a 12-game series with Cleveland, in which the Colts lost nine. Luby was pummeled at times, but Anson said that he, Ad Gumbert, and Bill Hutchison were “showing up in their former excellent shape.” In fact, the trio did almost all the box work during the season.[39]

The absorption of the American Association into the National League in 1892 created a 12-team colossus that played a split season to heighten fan interest. Luby’s first start came on April 15 in Louisville, where the 22-year old notched an 8-4 victory. That event was followed by four straight defeats, including a forfeit on the 23rd when several thousand cranks poured onto the field at Chicago, a practice that was probably not uncommon in the late innings. With the Colts leading 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, a barrage of cushions were hurled from the stands, causing some skirmishes that the police were unable to control in time, which registered an unfair defeat for Luby.[40]

With April’s mischances behind him, Luby began to turn it around and reeled off five straight victories as the Colts won 19 out of 22 games in May. That month he missed several games with what he called a bilious attack, a stomach ailment. Anson, a cigar smoker, was more inclined to believe the problem was traceable to smoking cigarettes. In any case, Luby finished the month with a 7-4 record.[41]

The rest of the season’s first half was a major disappointment for Chicago, which finished 31-39 in eighth place, 19 games behind Boston. It was a group effort, as the Colts were last in runs scored and 11th in batting with a .225 average. However, all three starters for Anson had ERAs just over 2.00.[42]

One bright spot for Luby that season was his marriage on July 12 to the former Jenny L. Whipple, a 23-year-old “lady of means.” The next day the groom hurled a 1-0 masterpiece against Philadelphia, the only shutout of his major-league career.[43]

In the second part of the split season, as the Colts toiled to a 39-37 record, Luby missed a stretch of 27 games and wound up just 2-6 for the second half, and 8-12 for the entire season. His batting was unremarkable throughout the season; he hit a paltry .195 in 40 games. On October 11 in Cincinnati, Luby pitched and won his final regular-season game with Anson’s Colts. Chicago finished the year in seventh place with a 70-76 record, 30 games behind Boston for the entire season.[44]

There wasn’t much of a postseason schedule, but one particular game featured Luby and another pitcher combining to defeat the Belleville Clerks 8-3 on October 14. Three days later the Colts disbanded for the season, just before the dedication ceremony for the Chicago’s World’s Fair.[45]

Before the end of 1892, Anson’s patience with Luby, based on his great rookie season, had run its course and Luby was released by the Colts. He wintered in Chicago, however, with his wealthy bride.[46]

Luby wasted no time in securing another position. First on his list was his hometown of Charleston, which was not willing to forward the “handsome advanced payment” he insisted on. A few days later Luby and an old drinking buddy, catcher Kid Baldwin, were signed by manager Abner Powell of the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern League. Though there was a question of how the Pelicans could sign the “crack battery” and stay below the league’s $1,000-a-month payroll limit, league president Toby Hart approved the contracts in February.[47]

The Southern League had struggled and dissolved after Luby left for the Texas League, but it resumed in 1892 with eight clubs. For the 1893 campaign, four additional teams were added to bring the total to 12, a collection of towns from Charleston to Memphis to New Orleans.[48]

During the exhibition schedule, Luby pitched for the first time from the new 60-foot 6 inch distance with mixed results. The official opening took place on April 20 at Mobile, and Luby lost 18-2, being knocked out in the fourth inning. However, his fortunes improved somewhat as he built up a 9-9 record and hit with authority. One writer remarked that he was regaining his form from 1890 and that there were “no flies on Jack, who is keeping as straight as a string.”[49]

Luby and the Pelicans eventually faltered and wound up ninth in the first part of the split season, 20 games behind the champion Augusta Electricians or Dudes. Before the first half ended, Luby was being primarily used as a first baseman, a position he continued in the second half of the season, batting usually cleanup or third in the order. With a .378 batting average, he finished second to Charlie Frank (.390) of the Memphis Fever Germs.[50]

Assessing Luby’s pitching at the new distance was uncertain. His record of 9-13 was hardly praiseworthy if consistent with the rest of the staff, but his final start came on June 22 at Augusta when he failed to make it through the first inning in a game that was later shortened by a Kentucky cyclone. Luby apparently never pitched again that year.[51]

The season ended in failure on August 12, and Macon, as the leader of the uncompleted schedule of the second half, was declared champion, six games ahead of the Pelicans in sixth place.   A few days later, Luby asked for his release from New Orleans and announced he was leaving baseball and preparing to enter into business. However, he was signed a short time later by Chicago, which had decided to finish out the last month by experimenting with new players. Perhaps Luby’s signing was based upon his abandonment of the dissipating lifestyle he had engaged in before his marriage. However, the club did not use him during the closing weeks of the major-league season.[52]

Sometime before mid-November, Charlie Cushman, manager of Milwaukee of the Western League, offered Luby a job playing right field, doing some spot pitching, and taking over as captain of the Brewers for the 1894 season. With this opportunity solidified, Luby and Jennie settled down for the winter on the South Side of Chicago.[53]

The Western League was newly formed under Ban Johnson and consisted of eight clubs: the Sioux City Cornhuskers or Huskers, Toledo White Stockings or Swamp Angels, Kansas City Blues or Cowboys, Minneapolis Millers or Minnies, Grand Rapids Rippers or Rustlers, Indianapolis Hoosiers, Detroit Wolverines or Creams, and the Milwaukee Brewers.[54] The Brewers had 23 former and future major leaguers throughout the season, using 37 players overall, but began the regular season with about 12 or 13 men. In the Brewers’ first game, played at Kansas City on April 25, Luby patrolled right field during the 12-3 drubbing. The first home game wasn’t played until May 5 and the Brewers lost, the first of four straight losses. On May 9 Luby made his initial start on the rubber and defeated Kansas City, 7-6. However the Brewers continued to lose more than they won, causing manager Cushman to take more control of the team. He changed the roster frequently, accounting for the 37 players on the roster during the year. Luby was unhappy, and was even scolded for lackadaisical play going after a fly ball in right field in May. He was dropped from the roster and several weeks later, with Milwaukee mired in last place, 20 games behind Sioux City, he was formally released. He was immediately picked up by manager John S. Barnes of the Minneapolis Millers, who were in fifth place at the time with a 36-35 record.[55]

Luby made just one appearance in a Millers uniform, one that was described as his “Waterloo,” as he pitched against his former Milwaukee mates, who “found his curves for 22 hits” in a 16-9 shellacking. Evidently Luby was shelved or released and was out of action between July 23 and September 3.[56]

With each change of uniforms, Luby rose a few more notches in the standings as he signed with manager Dennis Long and the third-place Toledo Swamp Angels. His first outing came at Milwaukee on September 3, and he impressed with a six-hit performance in a 3-3 tie. Luby patrolled right field for the Swamp Angels in eight out of the next 10 games. He shifted to first base on September 16 and played there for the balance of the season. Over the last two weeks of the season, Toledo finished 10-3 at home and snatched second place.[57]

According to the official records, Luby batted.329 in 65 games in 1894. He was last in fielding at first base among those with at least ten games, with a 933 average. His work in the outfield was even worse, 13 errors and an .831 average in 42 games. Luby pitched in 15 games for his three clubs and had a probable 3-8 combined record. However one assesses him based on these figures, Toledo apparently thought enough of Luby to claim him for 1895.[58]

Louisville, the worst club in the National League, also wanted Luby and signed him with a contract clause compelling him to abstain from alcohol. The 1895 spring exhibition season in the Deep South went smoothly for Luby despite a sprained wrist for a short time. His arm was “speedier than ever” as he held his old club from Chicago scoreless for six innings on March 17. He garnered praise with his talent around first, buttressed by his stature. It was suggested that he might very well find a permanent place at first base for the Colonels.[59]

Luby’s first appearance in the regular season came in relief of Phil Knell in the fourth inning against Pittsburg on April 19 at Louisville’s Eclipse Park, which was not much better than a cornfield. The Pirates managed just six hits off Luby but had the game well in hand. Four days later Luby made the first of his six starts and won his final decision in the majors over Chicago, 18-14, with only three of the runs against him earned. Two weeks later the White Stockings turn the tables and beat Luby 3-2. He showed some flair in that game, snaring a liner by Anson in his left hand and flipping the ball to Jack Glasscock for a double play.[60]

Louisville fell behind quickly in the standings, however, and the inability to score runs led the team to acquire Dan Brouthers, now in his 17th season, from Baltimore. Luby was relegated to spot pitching and right field until another fielder was acquired. His final performance in the National League was a start against the Boston Beaneaters on June 11, an 11-0 defeat that may have sealed his fate. He was released soon thereafter.[61]

His pitching record for the Colonels was 1-5 with six starts and five relief appearances. Luby batted .278 (15-for-54) in 19 games, according to the figures released at the time. [62]

Being cut by one of the worst clubs in baseball history (a record of 6-32 on June 11) was not the only thing that befell Luby that season. On June 15 Jennie, who had patiently tried to keep her husband “in the straight and narrow way,” sued for divorce on the grounds of desertion.[63]

Whether his marital problems had an effect on him is unknown, but Luby quickly found employment with the Scranton Coal Heavers of the Eastern League, not realizing that he had drawn the interest of manager Connie Mack of Pittsburg. Scranton’s manager was Billie Barnie, who went through 34 different players during the season trying to improve his club, which was in sixth place when Luby arrived. Luby’s first appearance was in right field in a home game on June 25 against Toronto. He batted ninth in a 7-5 triumph. He injured his left hand in practice trying to stop a hot grounder and sat out several games before starting in the pitcher’s box on July 4. It was a premature move as the wound reopened, forcing a change of pitchers in the sixth inning, and sidelining Luby for more than a week.[64]

On July 12 Luby had recovered sufficiently to start against the first-place Springfield Maroons. The result was a 10-1 complete-game loss, although just three runs were earned. That was followed by his third defeat, at the hands of Providence in a game that was marred by eight Scranton errors. Through the rest of July and the first week of August, Luby appeared in ten contests as either a pitcher, right fielder, or center fielder.[65]

Luby’s unraveling with the Coal Heavers began with his reaction to jeers from the home crowd about his poor work on the rubber against Toronto on August 7. He pitched feebly, with four walks, two hit batters, and a wild pitch as he gave up six runs. Luby pulled a childish stunt and quit the game in the sixth inning. Manager Barnie managed to smooth his “ruffled feathers” the following day, but the exchange between the two apparently did not help matters. Two days later Luby once again took the rubber with a “sickly” attitude and even stood at the plate in the eighth inning, taking three strikes from Toronto’s William Brunneman without moving the bat off his shoulder. With the crowd hissing over what appeared to be a dishonorable showing, Luby cast his bat aside and walked towards the exit behind the grandstand, perhaps looking for a fight before an astute officer prevented him from doing so. Luby was fined $100 and suspended immediately after the game.[66]

Luby’s next move was 22 miles northeast of Scranton to Carbondale, home of the Anthracites of the Pennsylvania State League. Manager Barnie and the Scranton directors denied him permission to finish the season there, but that apparently didn’t matter to Luby. It was only a two-week stint in which he pitched in three games, winning twice, and played the outfield in four others. Scranton eventually released Luby towards the end of the year.[67]

Around mid-December, Luby signed with the Rochester Blackbirds of the Eastern League as a pitcher for the 1896 campaign, a club he had faced four times the past season. He was to be paid in two installments, but when the second payment was not forthcoming, he jumped back to the Carbondale Anthracites or Cracker Jacks of the Pennsylvania State League.[68] Cracker Jacks was a relatively new slang term meaning excellent quality or ability, something remarkable, and Luby lived up to that meaning with eight straight pitching victories, finishing at 9-3. He also hit a robust .391 over the 19 games he played with Carbondale.[69]  But persistent rumors about the club’s future as well as that of several other financially challenged clubs came true as third-place Carbondale disbanded on June 20 and merged with seventh-place Pottsville. Luby and his catcher, Will Patchen, failed to report to Pottsville and were quickly suspended by the league. Furthermore the Cracker Jacks left Luby in a Hazelton jail on their last trip of the season for not paying a $75 hotel bill. The suspension was eventually lifted and Hornellsville, a semipro team, bailed Luby out, acquiring his rights for the effort.[70]

Even though the Hornells, managed by C.H. Armstead, were not a member of any organized league this season, they filled their schedule, which began on May 20, with matches against various opponents, including the Cuban Giants. The main goal, however, was the Steuben County championship against Corning, with a series of 35 games toward that end. Luby was available for many of these games, and apparently stayed on in the city after the season.[71] That didn’t prevent him from signing with the Paterson (New Jersey) club of the Atlantic League in February or March, about the same time he ventured to Chicago to be best man at his pal Chick Fraser’s wedding. However, Paterson released Luby in May, before the season began. He immediately signed with Washington of the Central League, but was suspended within two weeks. Finally Luby hooked on with the Hornells, with whom he played from May 28 through July 5. Hornellsville loaned him to Wayland, another independent team, some 20 miles to the north, between August 4 and 6.[72]

Luby next signed with Lyons of the New York State League, where he played between August 17 and September 10 to finish the 1897 season. Lyons finished in fourth place with a 45-45 record. Luby played in 18 games, batting.274 and finishing on top with a .983 fielding average at first base. One article stated that “John P. Luby, a National Leaguer of renowned reputation, is playing the initial bag in fine manner, as well as hitting the ball, so that next year he will no doubt graduate as a colt.” After the season, Luby stayed at the Osborne House in Hornellsville, presumably with his second wife, Etta.[73]

Luby had lost much of his ability, but could still perform at this level. Probably due to his age and experience, he was named captain for 1898 and played first base, but an indication of his waning eye with the bat can be seen by his placement in the batting order, usually sixth. The team hovered in the middle of the standings. Luby was playing just about every match, hitting .238 in 37 games and once again leading in fielding at first base when suddenly, with Lyons on a seven-game winning streak, he asked for his release and returned home to Hornellsville. He played his last professional game on June 30, 1898. Lyons, with a record of 40-37, dropped out of the league on August 12, a month before the end of the campaign.[74]

One can only speculate why Luby left the team voluntarily, but it’s possible that it related to the illness that eventually took his life. Despite advertising his services for the coming season in February 1899, Luby made his final journey to Charleston in mid-March to be with his family. Five weeks later on the evening of April 24, 1899, Luby succumbed to phthisis pulmonalis or consumption at the age of 30. Two days later he was buried in St. Laurence Cemetery in Charleston.[75]

W.A. Phelan of the Chicago Daily Journal wrote that Luby was “good humored and intelligent.” His old teammate Jake Stenzel said that Luby “in his prime was one of the fastest pitchers that ever threw a baseball.” The South Carolinian was just one of many of Chicago Colts who died young, or so it seemed at the time.[76]

The years after Luby’s death saw an attack on his record that brought Luby’s family, especially his brother James, to his defense. His batting title of 1890 was eventually stripped in favor of Jack Glasscock, who was probably more deserving even before Luby’s batting average was adjusted downward to .267. The greatest controversy, however, surrounded his winning streak of 20 games in 1890.[77]

The first salvo was the claim that pitcher James McCormick had won 26 straight in 1886 with Chicago, but that streak was eventually trimmed to 16. Luby’s record remained secure after challenges by Jack Chesbro with 14 straight in 1904, and George Mullin with 11 straight and Ed Reulbach with 14 straight, both in 1909. The matter was brought to the fore when Rube Marquard was on his way to 19 straight victories in 1912. Reporters and others began to check Luby’s victory skein and determined that he in fact had won 17 straight, not 20.

There’s no denying the confusion surrounding Luby’s game accounts especially between July 8 and August 6 of 1890. He could easily have been charged with defeats on six separate dates. The confusion may lie in the practice of awarding decisions based on earned runs allowed by the pitcher, as errors were a large factor in run-scoring in the 19th century. Much of the support for Luby was based on memory due to the absence of written accounts by Chicago writers. Anson, Malachi Kittridge, Ed Stein, and other surviving Colts were certain that Luby had won 20 straight games.[78]

In early 20th century publications, Luby’s streak was given as 17, a list that did not include a game that was mistakenly awarded to Ed Stein on August 13, 1890. That would raise his streak to 18. Modern lists add the August 13 game but omit the September 13 victory he originally was given in relief of Stein. In any case, Luby retains the rookie record for most consecutive games won.[79]

John Luby’s career was a mixture of brilliance and gradual deterioration of his abilities with enough past laurels to hang on for years with various clubs and leagues always trending downward to the lower levels of professional baseball.

February 3, 2011




[1] The evidence on aspects of Luby’s life varies. Although most reference books after 1950 give his nickname as Pat, the author found no evidence that he was ever publicly known by that name in his lifetime. He was always called John or Jack. Reed Howard of the SABR Biographical Research Committee provided the source for Luby’s left-handed batting: Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 14, No. 19, p. 7; http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player states that Luby batted right-handed, which may be an assumption. An article in the Sporting Life dated November 18, 1890, gives his age as 22, which places his birth in 1868. An 1891 scorecard from the Weiss Scrapbook states that Luby was born in 1868. www.thedeadballera.com gives Luby’s age as 31 at the time of his death.

[2] Charleston County Public Library, Charleston, South Carolina; Ancestry.com; 1870 and 1880 federal censuses; 1884 and 1886 directories of the City of Charleston. In the 1870 Census John was listed as 1½ years old. In the 1880 Census his age is given as 12, which indicates that his birth was in 1868; An article dated November 1890 in Sporting Life, V. 16, No. 8, p. 1, gives his age as 22.

[3] Sholes’ Directory of the City of Charleston, 1884.

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleston,_South_Carolina; New York Clipper, February 18, 1893; Sporting Life, various issues.

[5] Sporting Life, various issues; Charleston News and Courier, April 20, 1889

[6] Sporting Life, various issues

[7] Sporting Life, 1897, Volume 29, Number 15; 1897, Volume 33, Number 7, p. 7; 1892, Volume 25, Number 14, p. 9; 1891, Volume 17, Number 13, p. 8

[8] Sporting Life, 1889, Volume 13, Number 13, p. 7; O’Neal, Bill, The Southern League, Eakin Press, 1987, p. 298. Sporting Life does not agree with the standings recorded in The Southern League, which credits Charleston with a 22-14 record.

[11] www.baseball-reference.com; Sporting Life, 1889, various issues

[12] Okkonen, Marc. Minor League Baseball Towns of Michigan, Thunder Bay Press, 1997, p. 58; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Rapids,_Michigan; Sporting Life, April 5, 1889

[13] Sporting Life, November 5, 1889, Vol. 14, p. 1. The final standings as recorded by Sporting Life differ from the standings recorded by www.baseball-reference.com

[14] Charleston Directory, 1888-1890

[15] O’Neal, op. cit.; Sporting Life, January 1, 1890

[16] Sporting Life, 1890, various issues; Galveston Daily News, February 2, 1890

[17] Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 15, No. 2, p.. 11; SABR Encyclopedia

[18] Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 15, No. 2, p. 11

[19] Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 15, No. 8, p. 15

[20] Discrepancies exist for the final figures between Sporting Life, The Sporting News, and O’Neal’s The Texas League; Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 15, No 11, p. 16

[21] Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 15, No. 16, p. 6; www.baseball-reference.com

[22] Galveston Daily News, June 14, 1890, p. 12

[23] Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 2 and 9

[24] This particular game has not been recorded by many if reference books, if any at all, giving Luby 37 games played, not 36; Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 15, No. 15, p. 2; Jon Murphy, The Sporting News, June 21, 1890, p.1

[25] Sporting Life, 1890, various issues; The Sporting News,  Aug. 2, 1890, p. 5

[26] http://www.retrosheet.org/; Lowry, Philip J. Green Cathedrals, Walker Publishing Company, Inc., New York, 2006. The expanded two-year substitution rule was viewed as confusing for reporters. Thus, the number of victories Luby was credited with has changed over time (20, 21, 23).

[27] The final original batting figures listed in The Sporting News and Sporting Life record 39 hits for 114 at-bats in 30 games. These original figures were the “official” averages as submitted by National League President Nicholas Young. There were no hard and fast rules for determining batting championships in the 19th century and early 20th century. Even pitcher Al Maul was credited by Sporting Life, as National League batting champ in 1887 with just 16 games played. Various modern references, including the SABR Encyclopedia, record 31 hits in 116 at-bats. The author counted 37 hits in 127 at-bats from the published box scores in The Sporting News which are illegible in many cases, and counted 34 hits in 117 at-bats from the published box scores in The Sporting Life, which were more legible.

[28] The Sporting News and Sporting Life; Elias Book of Baseball Records, 2006

[29] Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 16, No. 3, p. 7; Sporting Life, 1890, Vol. 16, No. 18, p. 1; www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?t=73299

[30] Sporting Life, 1891, Vol. 16, No. 26, p.. 7, and Vol. 17, No. 2, p. 2

[31] Sporting Life, 1891, Vol. 17, No. 3, p. 5

[32] Sporting Life, 1891, Vol. 17, No. 3, p. 5 and No. 5, p. 7

[33] http://www.retrosheet.org/; Sporting Life, 1891, Vol. 17, No. 7, p. 3

[34] The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition, 2008; Sporting Life, 1891, various issues; The Sporting News,  various issues; http://www.retrosheet.org/

[35] Sporting Life, 1891, Vol. 18, No. 2, p. 3; Lowry, op. cit.

[36] Sporting Life, 1891, Vol. 18 Number 2 p. 3; Lowry, op. cit.

[37] Lowry, op. cit.; Sporting Life, 1891, various issues; The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition.  The 1951 edition of The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball by Hy Turkin and S.C Thompson credits a 9-12 record, The 1979 edition credits Luby with a 10-12 record. Most modern sources record an 8-11 record for Luby. My totals are based on the following: Luby was 7-11 in 18 complete games. He was 0-1 in six starts he failed to complete,, his one loss coming on August 14, when he was knocked out of the box in the third inning, losing 5-3 at the end of three innings. Brooklyn built up a 10-3 lead before finally winning 10-6. Of the six games he failed to complete, Chicago came back to win five. Luby was 1-0 in six relief appearances; his one win coming on July 25 in relief of George Nicol. His one save was made on June 18.

[38] Sporting Life, 1891, Vol. 18, No. 3, p. 3

[39] Sporting Life, 1892, various issues. Anson started the season with four pitchers, but George Meakim was expendable when Hutchison, Gumbert, and Luby were pitching well.

[40] Sporting Life, 1892, various issues

[41] Sporting Life, 1892, various issues; http://www.retrosheet.org/

[42] Sporting Life, 1892, various issues. Statistics for the First Season were published in Sporting Life, 1892, Vol. 19, No. 18, p. 3 and Vol. 19, No. 17, p.4

[43] Sporting Life, 1892, Vol. 19, Number 16, p. 2; Chicago Daily Tribune, July 10, 1892, Marriage Licenses through Ancestry.com

[44] The batting figures used are the original from the 1893 Reach Guide. Modern sources give Luby a .190 average in 45 games. The pitching figures, according to the author’s calculations, showed Luby starting 27 games and relieving in five others. He also started in the outfield in 14 games, six in center and 8 in right, plus two other times in center after being relieved from the box. That brings his total number of games to 46 as opposed to the 45 games he is now credited with. He was 8-16 in 24 complete games, 2-1 in five relief appearances, 0-1 in three starts he failed to finish. Those three starts he failed to finish are as follows:

June 8: Luby was knocked out of the box in three innings, losing 5-3. The Colts remained behind the rest of the game. He was relieved by Gumbert to finish the third or start the fourth inning. Luby switched with Gumbert, who started the game in center. This was a loss.

June 15: Luby was relieved late by Hutchison and stayed in the game in center. Pittsburg tied the score in the top of the seventh inning, and Chicago took the lead for good in the bottom half. The First Season statistics as published in Sporting Life give Hutchison a 3-2 record against Pittsburg, meaning that they gave the victory to Hutchison instead of Luby.

July 30: Luby started but Hutchison was the pitcher when Cleveland scored the winning run in the 13th inning.

Luby’s record for the above three games was 0-2, giving him an 8-18 record for his 27 starts.

Luby’s five games in relief are as follows:

May 30 (first game): Luby relieved Gumbert in the fifth with Chicago already ahead of Washington for good. Under today’s rules the starter has to go five innings for a victory. In any event, Luby was given the victory, which agrees with Sporting Life’s published record for the First Season for both pitchers. 

May 30 (second game): Luby relieved Hutchison in the second inning down 3-1, Chicago went on to win 10-7, giving Luby the victory.

June 10 (first game): Boston scored three runs in the top of the eighth to break a 1-1 tie, and Luby relieved. Luby was 0-2 against Boston in the First Season, meaning he was given the loss for this game by the National League. The breakdown for this game is unclear.

June 10 (second game): Luby relieved Hutchison with the score 5-0 in favor of Boston, which won eventually, 7-0.

August 10: Luby relieved Hutchison in the fourth inning with Chicago losing 5-3 to Louisville, which won, 8-3; thus, a no-decision.

Most modern references credit Luby with only four relief appearances. By the author’s count, his total record was 10-18, with 32 games in the box. The ESPN Encyclopedia, 2008, gives his record as 11-16. Total Baseball, 1989 gives his record as 10-16. Macmillan Encyclopedia, 1968, gives his record as 10-17. Turkin Encyclopedia 1951 gives his record as 10-18. Turkin Encyclopedia, 1979 gives his record as 9-21. SABR Encyclopedia gives his record as 11-16. Retrosheet gives his record as 11-16. Baseball Reference gives his record as 11-16. Sporting Life credits Luby with a 10-18 record in the 1892 issue, Vol. 20, No. 2, p. 2. The Sporting News credits Luby with a 10-19 record in the November 12, 1892, edition. All modern sources record just 31 games instead of the 32 he actually pitched. The combined tallies of all Chicago pitchers by SABR Encyclopedia and Retrosheet do not add up to Chicago’s total won-lost record in 1892.

[45] Sporting Life, 1892, Vol. 20, No. 4, p. 2

[46] Sporting Life, 1892, Vol. 20, No. 8, p. 5; Sporting Life, 1893, Vol. 20, No. 19, p. 4

[47] The Sporting News and Sporting Life, various issues.

[48] O’Neal, op. cit.

[49] The Sporting News  and Sporting Life, various issues.

[50] The Sporting News  and Sporting Life, various issues; O’Neal, op. cit.

[51] The Sporting News  and Sporting Life, various issues.

[52] Sporting Life, various issues; O’Neal, op. cit.

[53] Sporting Life, various issues

[54] Madden, W.C. and Patrick J. Stewart, The Western League. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2002; Nicknames were found in various issues of The Sporting News  and Sporting Life and The Western League, and in www.baseball-reference.com. No reference to “White Stockings” for 1894 as it applies to Toledo was found. It was restricted to Chicago.

[55] www.baseball-reference.com; The Sporting News and Sporting Life, various issues..Baseball-reference.com names the Brewers ballpark as Borchert Field. The author found no reference by that name in Sporting Life for 1894. It identifies the field as Athletic Park, which the Brewers rented from a Harry Quin

[56] Sporting Life, various issues

[57] http://www.roadmuseum.org/oh_8001.htm; The Sporting News  and Sporting Life, various issues. More references to Swamp Angels than White Stockings were found. Toledo apparently used two ballparks in 1894 due to the blue laws. The only park the author found by name in either The Sporting News  or Sporting Life was Fred Smith’s park in Sporting Life,  issue, 1893, Vol. 22, No. 10, p. 1, which presumably was also named White Stocking Park. Both parks were on Lagrange Street. Ewing Street Park was the other park.

[58] Sporting Life, 1894, Vol. 24, No. 5, p. 4

[59] Sporting Life, various issues. The road uniform of the Colonels was described as follows: “The traveling uniform of the team will be black all through. It was first intended to have the color blue, but it has now been decided, to use black instead. The caps and stockings will also be black with the name ‘Louisville’ written across the player's breast.” (Sporting Life, 1895, Vol. 24, Number 21, p. 7).

[60] Sporting Life, 1895, Vol. 25, No. 7, p. 11

[61] Sporting Life, various issues

[62] The Sporting News , July 5, 1895, p. 2.

[63] Sporting Life, various issues

[64] Sporting Life, 1895, Vol. 25, No. 14, p. 9; www.baseball-reference.com; www.baseball-fever.com/archive/index.php/t-29834.html; http://finner68.wordpress.com/category/uncategorized/.

Brooks Park was also known as Athletic Park on Providence Road in Scranton. See http://www.happeningsmagazinepa.com/SWBYankees/history.html

[65] The Sporting News and Sporting Life, 1895, various issues. Luby appeared in 16 games with Scranton: five in right field, one in center, and ten as pitcher.

[66] Sporting Life, various issues; www.baseball-reference.com

[67] www.baseball-reference.com; Paul Browne. “They Were Cracker Jacks, Beating the Bushes,” SABR Minor League Committee, 2007

[68] Browne, op. cit.; Sporting Life, 1895, Vol. 26, No. 14, p. 9

[69] World Almanac and Book of Facts,  Facts on File, Inc, p. 383; Sporting Life, various issues; Browne, op. cit.

[70] Sporting Life, 1896, Vol. 26, No. 19, p. 3, Vol. 27, No. 9, p. 10; Hornellsville City Directory, 1896.

[71] Sporting Life, 1896, Vol. 27 Number 11, p. 8, Number 13 p. 14;  Browne, op.cit.

[72] Sporting Life, 1897, various issues

[73] The Sporting News and Sporting Life, 1897, various issues. Geneva replaced Batavia during the season.

[74] Sporting Life, 1899, various issues; Spalding’s Baseball Guide, 1899, pp. 124-126; World Almanac and Book of Facts, By Facts on File, Inc,

[75] Sporting Life, 1899, Vol. 32, No. 21, p. 10; Certificate of Death, Health Department of the City of Charleston; Charleston County Public Library, Charleston, South Carolina

[76] Sporting Life, 1899, various issues; Racine Journal, September 16, 1902; Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, September 16, 1902

[77] Sporting Life, 1909, Vol. 54, Number 4, p. 4. Without the old scoresheets it is impossible to determine Luby’s batting average of 1890. Box scores in Sporting Life and The Sporting News did not always agree. Moreland, George L., Balldom, Balldom Publishing Company, 1914,,still listed Luby as the champion for that year. Also, despite current opinions about historical minimum qualifications for winning the batting title, there was no hard and fast rule for the championship.

[78] Sporting Life, various issues; Baseball Magazine, various issues; Kingston Daily Freeman, August 14, 1896

[79] Moreland, op. cit., p. 223. The same list of games was also published in Sporting Life, July 13, 1912, p. 6. John Thorn’s investigation on September 17, 1981, came to the same conclusion of 18 straight, although he also wrote, “maybe 19.”

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