Rube Waddell in 1902

This article was written by Pete Palmer

This article was published in the 1979 Baseball Research Journal


Rube Waddell started the 1902 campaign with Los Angeles of the California League. He was 25 years old and had some success in the big leagues, but in parts of four seasons, his won-lost mark was only 28-33. Pittsburgh had let him go early in the previous season after two bad outings. He was picked up by the Cubs, but they suspended him for the final month of the 1901 season, so he pitched for various semipro clubs in Wisconsin. Later, he joined a group of American and National Leaguers who played a series of exhibition games on the West Coast. When Rube got to Los Angeles, he decided to stay.

The Cubs wanted him back, however. As the Chicago correspondent to Sporting Life put it, “The pitcher problem is still a tough one. If Waddell would only return. I wonder how many months before Rube will have California touched to a standstill and, unable to raise any more loans, will come back to his old club.”

But Rube liked it in Los Angeles, and as the season went on, there was no more mention of his returning to Chicago. He was playing almost every day, and through mid-June had appeared in 48 of the club’s 60 games. He pitched in 20, with a 12-8 mark and 142 strikeouts, while he was batting .283, good enough to be among the leaders. He won a suit of clothes for hitting the first home run of the season; he sparred with Jim Jeffries, who thought Rube wasn’t a bad boxer, and was talking of learning how to catch, as he had already played all the other positions.

Meanwhile, Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics was in trouble. He had lost Nap Lajoie and pitchers Bill Bernhard and Chick Fraser in a court decision won by the Phillies. Eddie Plank was a year away from becoming a great pitcher, while Chief Bender was still at Carlisle. Waddell pitched for Mack in 1900 at Milwaukee, where he won 10 and lost 3 in a little over a month, after jumping from the Pirates in mid-season. So early in June, Connie sent Rube a wire, and, after taking two weeks to make up his mind, Rube headed east on June 20, much to the disgust of Manager Morley of Los Angeles.

When Rube took the mound for the first time with Philadelphia, it was the 26th of June and the A’s were back in the pack, six games behind the White Sox and only three games out of seventh place. He pitched poorly, losing 7-3 at Baltimore, giving up seven hits, three walks, two hit batsmen and a balk.

July was better. Back home in Philadelphia, he shut out the Orioles on two hits, facing only 27 men and striking out 13. Here is his July log.

 

Date

Club

Score

Decision

Date

 

Club

Score

Decision

                 

 

                   

July

1

Balt.

2-0

win

July

18

Chi.

7-6

win

 

4

Wash.

12-9

win

 

21

Clev.

11-10

win-relief

 

8

@ Bos.

22-9

win-relief

 

22

Clev.

9-4

win-relief

 

9

@Bos.

4-2

win

 

26

St.L.

3-1

win

 

12

Bos.

3-2

win

 

29

St. L.

1-3

loss

 

15

Chi.

9-3

win

 

31

@ St. L.

4-4

tie

 

Against Washington, he allowed five runs in the first Inning, but hung on to win. The 22-9 game against Boston was the one in which Danny Murphy made his American League debut, arriving at the park during the first inning, and proceeding to go 6 for 6 with a home run. Rube relieved in the fifth with the A’s ahead 9-6 and, after Philadelphia scored 12. In the 6th, Mack took Waddell out. The Macmillan research team gave him the win in this game, but other sources, including Sporting Life, did not. The next day he beat Bill Dinneen in 17 innings, driving in an insurance run himself in the final frame after a homer by Monte Cross. On the 21st, he took over for Plank In the eighth with the score tied and Philadelphia pushed across the winning run in the ninth. The next day he pitched six scoreless innings in relief, after coming in with the A’s behind 4-1. The final game of the month was a ten-inning tie halted by darkness. Although all sources do not agree on games won, Rube has at least a claim on winning ten games in a single calendar month, a feat unmatched by any other hurler since the pitching distance was increased to its present length in 1893. And the White Sox lead was down to half a game.

Rube continued to pitch every third game during most of August, and, although he lost his next two, he was still doing quite well.

 

Date

 

Club

Score

Decision

Date

 

Club

Score

Decision

Aug

3

@ Chi.

1-3

loss

Aug.

13

Det.

8-0

win

 

6

@ Clev.

4-5

loss

 

16

Chi.

2-1

win

 

11

@ Det.

1-0

win

 

19

Chi.

2-5

loss

           

22

St. L.

12-4

win-relief

The first shutout against Detroit went 13 innings, and Rube scored the winning run himself, as he tripled and came home on a single by Harry Davis. In the victory over the White Sox he struck out 11, and the Athletics were in first place, a half game ahead of the Browns, with Boston one game out and Chicago two back. Against St. Louis he was called on in the first inning with the A’s behind 3-0.

The only turn he missed all season was on August 25th, but he was now to start one incredible stretch of pitching.

 

Date

 

Club

Score

Decision

Date

 

Club

Score

Decision

Aug.

28

@ Chi.

5-4

win

Sep.

10

Balt.

9-5

win-relief

 

30

@ Chi.

6-5

win

     

5-4

win-relief

Sep.

1

@ St. L.

1-5

loss

 

12

@ Bos.

4-5

loss

 

2

@ Det.

5-1

win

 

15

@ Bos.

9-2

win

 

4

@ Det.

13-4

win

 

19

Bos.

6-4

win

 

6

@ Clev.

3-2

win

 

22

Bos.

5-3

win

 

8

@ Clev.

8-5

win

         

 

Rube was rested in the game on September 4, leaving after six innings when the A’s were ahead 9-0. In the twinbill on the 10th against Baltimore, Waddell appeared in the opening game with the A’s behind 4-0 in the first inning. In the nightcap, he relieved in the eighth with the score tied at four. This climaxed two weeks in which Rube pitched in nine games, winning eight. Next came a loss to Boston in the ninth inning against Cy Young. But he then defeated the Red Sox three straight times, increasing the Philadelphia lead to five games. When it came time for Waddell to pitch again, the pennant was clinched, so he did not try for his tenth victory in September.

The official guide gave Waddell only 23 wins for the season, although there are no score-sheets left to determine exactly which games were credited to him. The July 8th game appears to be the only questionable decision. The Macmillan encyclopedia shows 25 games won for Rube.

He joined the team after they had played 50 games, and, although the schedule called for 140 total, Philadelphia played only 137. Assuming that 24 is the correct victory figure, Rube’s win per team game (24/87) has not been exceeded since the present pitching distance was adopted in 1893. Rube was taken out of only two games, both when the Athletics had very large leads. In six relief appearances, he went 28 innings and allowed only two runs, one earned, winning all six games.

Waddell went on to have several fine years with Philadelphia, but he never matched the exceptional iron-man performance of his first year in the American League, even though it covered only 2/3 of the season.

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