Jack Chesbro

John Dwight Chesbro
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1946
Primary team: New York Yankees
Primary position: Pitcher

A 20-win season remains the standard for big league pitchers.

But in 1904, Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro almost doubled that number by himself when he won a modern era record 41 games during one of the finest seasons of any pitcher in the history of the game. It was the crowning season of a pitcher whose career numbers added up to a place in Cooperstown.

Born on June 5, 1874 in North Adams, Mass., Chesbro began playing baseball on sandlot teams and earned the nickname “Happy Jack” because of his pleasant disposition. His professional career began in Albany, N.Y., of the New York State League in 1895. At a time when baseball leagues were struggling to get off the ground, Chesbro bounced around and even spent time in 1896 as a semi-pro in Cooperstown, N.Y.

In July of 1899, Chesbro was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He won 21 games and led the league in winning percentage with .677 in 1901 as Pittsburgh captured their first National League pennant.

In 1902, Chesbro changed his approach and began throwing a then-legal spitball. He described the spitball as the “most effective ball that possibly could be used.” With his new pitch, Chesbro led the league in wins with 28 and shutouts with eight and the Pirates won their second pennant

“I can make the spitball drop two inches or a foot and a half,” said Chesbro.

Before the 1903 season, Chesbro jumped to the American League and joined the newly formed New York Highlanders. He went 21-15 with a 2.77 ERA in his first season with the club. But it was in his second year that Chesbro had his personal best season on the mound.

En route to his 41 victories, Chesbro also led the league in winning percentage (.774), games (55), games started (52), complete games (48), and innings pitched (454).

Going into the last two games of the season to be played on Oct. 10, Chesbro’s Highlanders trailed the Boston Red Sox by 1.5 games in the pennant race. He took the mound in Game 1 with confidence and an impressive season behind him.

“I’ll pitch and I’ll win,” said Chesbro before the game. “I’ll trim ‘em Monday if it costs an arm.”

But Boston’s Bill Dinneen pitched well, and the score was tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth with the Red Sox’s Lou Criger on third base and Fred Parent at the plate and an 0-2 count.

"I still remember the first day he threw the thing in a regular game. We were playing Cleveland. He had a tough first inning. They hit him for three runs. He came back to the bench and said, ‘Griff, I haven’t got my natural stuff today. I’m going to have to give ‘em the spitter next inning, if it’s alright with you.’ I told him to go do and you know what? He fanned fourteen. They didn’t get another run and we won the game 4-3. "
Clark Griffith, Manager, New York Highlanders

Career stats

ESSENTIAL STATS
Year Inducted: 1946
Primary Team: New York Yankees
Position Played: Pitcher
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Birth place: N. Adams, Massachusetts
Birth year: 1874
Died: 1931, Conway, Massachusetts
Played for:
Pittsburgh Pirates (1899-1902)
New York Highlanders (1903-1909)
Boston Red Sox (1909)
CAREER AT A GLANCE
GamesG
392
HitsH
2647
RunsR
1206
Innings PitchedIP
2896.2
WinsW
198
LossesL
132
Winning %Winning %
.600
Games StartedGS
332
ERAERA
2.68
Complete GamesCG
260
ShutoutsSHO
35
WHIPWHIP
1.152
SavesSV
5
Earned RunsER
864
WalksBB
690
StrikeoutsSO
1265