Krell: Vic Willis and the last no-hitter of the 19th century

From SABR member David Krell at The Sports Post on February 19, 2016:

Vic Willis, he of the assonant moniker, hurled with the intensity of a Nor’easter whipping across the Charles River.

Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995, Willis compiled a career 249-205 win-loss record, achieved a 2.63 Earned Run Average, and pitched in 513 games. His 13-year career began with the Boston Beaneaters, for whom he played from 1898 to 1905. Then, he called Pittsburgh home for four seasons, winning more than 20 games for the Pirates in each season. Willis ended his career in 1906, with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Willis came charging out of the gate in his rookie year, notching a 25-13 record. In addition to Willis’s performance, 1898 was an explosive year for Boston’s pitching staff—Fred Klobedanz (19-10), Ted Lewis (26-8), Kid Nichols (31-12). The Beaneaters won the 1898 National League pennant with a 102-47 record.

After his first two seasons, Willis had a record of 52 wins, 21 losses. In 1900, he did not fare as well. A 10-17 record belied Willis’s proficiency on the mound. In his indispensable two-volume series Major League Baseball Profiles: 1871-1900, baseball historian David Nemec explains that rather than adhere to the ritual of spring training in southern climates, Willis opted for working out instead with Boston catcher Boileryard Clarke in the Princeton Gym. “Arm trouble” resulted.

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Originally published: February 22, 2016. Last Updated: February 22, 2016.