Year Inducted: 1939 (Veterans Committee)
The Internet can be a crazy place sometimes. Never before in the history of man has there been such a venue for the public to see the absolute creativity of so many people. Twitter, especially, has been ground breaking. Many sports figures have a Twitter account, including Hank Aaron and Joe Morgan. The problem becomes when the image of someone on the Internet takes away from who they really are. Would Chuck Norris be as known today if not for all the Chuck Norris jokes? Probably not. Unfortunately, the way that some people know of Old Hoss Radbourn isn’t due to his fantastic pitching resume, it’s from a Twitter account.
Radbourn was an excellent pitcher in the early years of the game. In 11 seasons, mostly for the Providence Grays, he won 309 games against 195 losses. In his 4500+ innings, he struck out over 1800 batters, walked less than 900, and pitched to an ERA of 2.68.
Radbourn is owner of some of the best pitching seasons of the pre-1900 era. In 1883 he pitched in 76 games, winning 48 times while losing 25 times. That year he threw an incredible 632 innings, struck out 315 batters and had an ERA of 2.05. Not one to rest on his laurels, the next season he pitched in 75 games but started 73 times. He tossed 678 innings that year, struck out 441 batters and had an ERA of 1.38. He won 59 games that season and lost only 12 times. Truly, these were two excellent seasons.
Outside of those two years, there is ample evidence that he was a great and durable pitcher. He was famed for keeping batters off balance by altering his pitching motion (back when pitchers could toss underhanded or overhanded), and it was very effective. Opposing hitters could only muster a .253 average against him, with a WHIP of only 1.15. Radbourn had a strong fastball, but also complimented it well with a good assortment of breaking balls, and had excellent control of each pitch.
As is often the case, the strain of throwing over 1200 innings in 2 years saw him begin a slow decline. He was still very good, but his ERA began to climb the next three years, culminating in an ERA above 4 in 1887, the last year he would throw more than 400 innings. He would rebound decently the next few years with a reduced workload, but would never again reach the heights he did in those two seasons.
Upon his retirement, he ranked 2nd among all pitchers in RA9-WAR, 3rd in strikeouts, 3rd in wins and 5th in innings pitched. Radbourn was easily one of the first pitchers of the early era to gain induction, being voted in by the Veterans Committee in 1939, and was an obvious and easy selection. His Twitter account may be hilarious, but that shouldn’t detract from how great of a pitcher he really was.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 10/6/16, this Cardinal outfielder was extremely fleet of foot.