Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
It’s tough to be a big league player, that’s why the Minors exist. Unlike football or basketball, where college is a good prep for a pro-career, the talent gap between MLB and College Baseball is way too wide for most players to make a complete transition. However, that never stopped people from trying. Connie Mack and the A’s signed a pitcher out of Gettysburg College who had yet to play in the Minor Leagues but had attended an academy with instructors like Ty Cobb to a contract and tryout in Spring Training, and the legend of Eddie Plank was born.
Plank was one of the best pitchers of the 1900’s, despite rarely leading the league in many categories. In 17 seasons, mostly with Mack’s A’s club, Plank won 323 games while pitching nearly 4500 innings and carried an ERA of 2.35. Plank was a fidgety pitcher (like an early version of The Bird) that drove many opponents, teammates and fans crazy. However, Plank used those moves to aid him in striking out over 2200 batters in his career while walking only 1072 batters. Plank’s ritualistic style of pitching can also be compared to a modern day pitcher in Jon Lester. Plank rarely threw over to first, arguing that he only had so many pitches in his arm and didn’t want to waste them. Plank rarely had to throw to first anyways as his WHIP was only 1.12 and his average against was a mere .238.
Plank’s rememberance in baseball lore is hurt by a similar issue that Don Drysdale suffered from. Plank had many great seasons, but was constantly overshadowed by pitchers like Walter Johnson or Christy Mathewson and even earlier pitchers like Cy Young and Rube Waddell would be looked at more than Plank. This is primarily why Plank was relegated to the Veterans Committee instead of being voted in by the BBWAA earlier.
Upon retiring in 1917, Plank ranked: seventh in wins, sixth in ERA, fifth in strikeouts, seventh in fWAR and seventh in RA9-WAR. Like during his career, his numbers are seemingly overshadowed by some of the legends of the game, but Plank himself is rightfully one of those legends. One of seven pitchers ever to be worth over 90 RA9-WAR at his retirement, he was also one of only three pitchers at the time (Mathewson and Johnson the others) to do it entirely after 1900, during a time when great pitching was more abundant than it typically was due to the Dead Ball Era. Plank was a star of the early pitching years and should be remembered as one of the best of all-time.
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