Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
There aren’t many first generation starters remaining in the Hall of Fame to cover. And, up to this point, a lot of them have been similar. They threw a ton of innings, didn’t strike many out, and had really low ERA’s. They mostly had short careers, but there were a few that pitched longer than 15 years like Pud Galvin and Cy Young. But, only one of the first generation of starting pitchers could rack up strikeouts like some current pitchers. That would be Philadelphia Athletics lefty, Rube Waddell.
Waddell pitched for 13 years in the majors, tossing a little less than 3000 innings while winning 198 games against 143 losses. He held an ERA of 2.16 in his career with a WHIP of 1.10 and struck out 2316 batters while issuing only 803 walks. Waddell was one of the most dominating starters of the early years, holding opposing batters to an average of only .227. That average against was fifth all-time among pitchers with more than 2000 innings, with only one of the pitchers above him (Addie Joss) having finished their careers. Waddell was truly a great pitcher in an era populated by great pitching.
The thing that made Waddell stand out the most, of course, was his ability to strike batters out. Connie Mack, the A’s manager at the time, said Waddell had one of the best combinations of speed and curve of any pitcher ever, and indeed it shows. Upon his retirement, Waddell’s 7.04 K/9 ratio was the highest ever. It was a record he held fully until Sandy Koufax retired in 1966, 56 years later. In raw strikeout numbers, Waddell finished his career in third place behind Tim Keefe and Young, each of whom threw at least 2000 more innings than Waddell did.
Waddell was also a colorful character on and off the field. Whether missing time in Spring Training to lead a parade down Main Street, or just to go off fly fishing, or any other zany antics that he and his drinking habits would get himself into, patrons would always storm the gates the day that Waddell pitched in hopes of seeing either a good performance, pitching or otherwise.
Waddell’s drinking habits caused a fair share of cuts and suspensions in his career, as well as a sudden retirement in 1910 after only 33 innings. Waddell died a few years later due to pneumonia that he contracted from helping his town sandbag during an icy, cold flood. While remembered more for his personality than his tremendous pitching, Waddell was an easy selection in 1946 when the Commissioner’s office sought to induct more of the older pitchers.
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