Year Inducted: 1946 (Veterans Committee)
The Dead Ball Era has seen its fair share of great pitchers. Christy Mathewson, Pete Alexander, Walter Johnson are the most famous, but there are many other great pitchers of that time as well. Guys like Chief Bender, Eddie Plank and Mordecai Brown were also tremendous pitchers as well. Before that period, the game was dominated by pitchers like Cy Young and Tim Keefe. Still, none of them have the record for the lowest ERA of all-time. That record belongs to White Sox ace Ed Walsh.
Big Ed may have pitched in fewer than 3000 innings, but his impact on the game is immense. Those innings were spread out over 14 seasons and saw him win 195 games and have the game’s lowest ERA of all-time. Walsh’s ERA was only 1.82. After 14 seasons, even with baseball having some of the worst offensive seasons of all-time, to have an ERA below 2.00 is mind-boggling to say the least. Even the greats like Johnson (2.17), Mathewson (2.13) and Alexander (2.56) aren’t even close to Walsh’s ERA. This is what makes him rank as well as he does. Walsh was also dominant against opposing hitters, striking out more than 5 every 9 innings (a high total for that time), walking fewer than 2 batters every 9 innings and having a career homer rate of only 0.07 per 9 innings. Walsh also held opponents to an average of .219, a mark that, like his ERA, is unapproachable by the other giants of the game during his career.
The only argument against Walsh, and it’s a fair one, is the brevity of his career. Walsh pitched fewer than 3000 innings, an amount that is one of the lowest for a Hall of Fame starting pitcher. Walsh also had a relatively short shelf-life. From the start of his career until 1912, Walsh pitched a lot of innings for the White Sox including nearly 2300 innings from 1907 until 1912. At the end of 1912, against the Cubs in the World Series, Walsh took a line drive off his jaw and tried to pitch through it. Walsh started feeling pain in his right arm after that point and was never the same again. From 1913 until his retirement in 1917, Walsh pitched in only 190 innings total and needed a lot of time between starts to recover. This suppressed a lot of his counting stats like wins and strikeouts, so when time came for Hall of Fame voting, Walsh wasn’t as remembered as Young and Johnson and Mathewson, even though he should have been inducted much sooner than when he was.
Walsh’s dominance may have been brief, and come at a time when offense was down, but it was still one of the most dominant performances ever seen in baseball. He will always hold the ERA record, and will always be one of the best pitchers of all-time.
The next update for today will go up at 7:00 am EDT.