Vic WillisVictor Gazaway Willis
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1995
Primary team: Boston Braves
Primary position: Pitcher
Victor G. “Vic” Willis spent only 13 seasons in major league baseball, but he managed to notch 249 wins along the way. He also had 50 shutouts and a 2.63 lifetime ERA. Of the 471 games he started, he completed 388 of them.
His first season in the game was with the Boston Beaneaters in 1898. He won 25 games that year, and played an important role in helping his team win the pennant.
Willis had his best season in 1899 when he had a 27-8 record, and posted a 2.50 ERA. He threw 342 innings for the Beaneaters, and led the National League with the fewest hits allowed per game. He also had the only no-hitter of his career on August 7. Willis was the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the 19th century.
In 1901 the right-hander had a 20-17 record and finished fourth in the league in ERA. He also pitched more than 300 innings. The following season he completed a league-high and NL-record 45 games, and he threw 410 innings, the second-highest total in modern major league history. He also led the league with 225 strikeouts.
From 1903 to 1905, though he collected only 42 wins for Boston, along with 72 losses, his ERA was 3.02 over the three-year span, and twice he posted a mark of under 3.00. The Beaneaters’ offense hurt the pitcher’s stats, with a combined .238 batting average in the three seasons. But Willis had still developed into the foundation of Boston’s staff when he was traded to the Pirates following that stretch.
In Pittsburgh he averaged more than 22 wins a season, and less than 13 losses, consistently pitching around 300 innings a year. He started his tenure with his new team with three straight shutouts to begin the 1906 season. During his four years with the Pirates, Willis went 88-46 with a 2.08 ERA, despite having another team with offensive troubles.
In 1909 Willis went 22-11 winning 11 straight games at one point during the season. He played a key role in the team’s 110 total victories that season, helping the Pirates get to the Fall Classic and become World Series champions.
He had long fingers, which allowed him to throw a very unique and sharp curveball. Local media outlets penned Willis as almost impossible to hit.
“Willis has speed and the most elusive curves,” the Boston Sunday Journal said. “His ‘drop’ is so wonderful that, if anyone hits it, it is generally considered a fluke.”
The “Delaware Peach” won more than 20 games a total of eight times in his career. When Willis retired, he followed his love for the game and continued to participate in baseball, managing a semi-pro team and coaching at the youth and college level.
Year Inducted: 1995
Primary Team: Boston Braves
Position Played: Pitcher
Birth place: Cecil County, Maryland
Birth year: 1876
Died: 1947, Elkton, Maryland
Pittsburgh Pirates (1906-1909)
St. Louis Cardinals (1910)
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