Rube WaddellGeorge Edward Waddell
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1946
Primary team: Philadelphia Athletics
Primary position: Pitcher
"He had more stuff than any pitcher I ever saw," legendary manager Connie Mack once said about Rube Waddell.
Mack knew that as well as anyone. As Waddell's manager with the Philadelphia A's starting in 1902, Mack helped the young lefthander harness his electric fastball, devastating curveball and baffling screwball. Waddell posted the first of four consecutive 20-win seasons that year, and led the American League in strikeouts for each of the next six seasons. On July 1, 1902, Waddell became the first pitcher in major league history to strike out the side on nine pitches.
In 1903, Waddell struck out 302 batters—115 more than the runner up. The following year, he fanned 349, to lead the league by 110. No other pitcher would post back-to-back 300-strikeout seasons until Sandy Koufax in 1965-66.
In 1905, Waddell won the AL's pitching Triple Crown, leading the league with 27 wins, 287 strikeouts and a 1.48 ERA. Waddell was instrumental in the early growth of the game, as one of its first real drawing cards and one of its first honest-to-goodness celebrities, as biographer Alan Howard Levy wrote.
As dominant as Waddell was on the mound, he might have been just as notorious for his unpredictable behavior off the field. Born in Bradford, Pa., Waddell earned the nickname "Rube"—a term commonly used to refer to farmboys—because he was a big, fresh kid. He broke into the big leagues with the Louisville Colonels in 1897, and he spent two years with the Pittsburgh Pirates before arriving in Philadelphia.
Waddell had a habit of leaving the dugout in the middle of games to follow passing fire trucks to fires. He performed as an alligator wrestler in the offseason, and also played professional football in the first National Football League, as a fullback for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902. Newspapers of the time referred to Waddell as "eccentric." Others called him "screwball" or "nutsy."
Waddell also battled alcoholism for much of his adult life, and he reportedly spent the entirety of his first signing bonus on a drinking binge. He was so bad at holding onto money that the A's once paid him in dollar bills, in the hopes it would slow down his spending.
Waddell's drinking led to constant battles with his managers and scuffles with teammates, and after the 1907 season the A's sold him to the St. Louis Browns for $5,000. He posted another strong season in 1908, and Browns owner Robert Hedges hired him as a hunter over the next two winters to try to keep him out of trouble. He was released in 1910 and never pitched another major league game. He died of tuberculosis four years later, at the age of 37.
For all his personal demons, Waddell's brilliance on the mound was unquestioned.
"In my opinion," pitching great Walter Johnson once said, "and I suppose if there is any subject that I am qualified to discuss it is pitching, Rube Waddell had more sheer pitching ability than any man I ever saw."
Year Inducted: 1946
Primary Team: Philadelphia Athletics
Position Played: Pitcher
Birth place: Bradford, Pennsylvania
Birth year: 1876
Died: 1914, San Antonio, Texas
Louisville Colonels (1897-1899)
Pittsburgh Pirates (1900-1901)
Chicago Cubs (1901)
St. Louis Browns (1908-1910)
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