Schechter: Eddie Rommel, making Plan B work

From SABR member Gabriel Schechter at The National Pastime Museum on February 9, 2017:

Much has been made of the Indiana farm boy who ran afoul of a corn thresher that tried to separate the boy’s right hand from his wrist. Little Mordecai Brown grew up to be “Three Finger” Brown. Mangled fingers forced him to find a unique grip that gave him the most unhittable curveball of his generation, leading to a Hall of Fame career.

Baltimore native Edwin Americus Rommel achieved a lesser-known adaptation to adversity. After two seasons in the low minors, the 6-foot, 2-inch 20-year-old got a winter job in 1917 as a steamfitter’s helper on a ship. When a mishap severely scalded his hands, he couldn’t grip a baseball normally. Instead, he used his fingertips and became the standout knuckleball artist of his era, fashioning a 171–119 record in thirteen seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics.

John McGraw gave Rommel a tryout in 1919 but quickly jettisoned him. Pitching for Newark in the International League, Rommel won 22 games, including a no-hitter. Connie Mack saw him pitch and offered him a contract. By 1921 he was Mack’s workhorse, going 16–23 for a franchise that finished last for the seventh straight season. From 1921 to 1925, Rommel averaged 50 games, 32 starts, 19 complete games, and 283 innings per season.

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Originally published: February 9, 2017. Last Updated: February 9, 2017.