“The pressure never lets up. Don’t matter what you did yesterday. That’s history. It’s tomorrow that counts. So you worry all the time. It never ends. Lord, baseball is a worrying thing.” – Stan Coveleski
Stan Coveleski took his baseball seriously – after all, it was his ticket out of the coal mines surrounding his birthplace of Shamokin, Pa. At age 12, he quit school to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week in the mines, bringing home $3.75 to his large family. Amazingly, he still found time to practice at baseball, after work, in the dark.
The youngest of five ballplaying brothers – his brother Harry also had a lengthy big league pitching career – Stan was signed into pro ball in 1908 after playing just five amateur games.
He surfaced briefly with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1912, going 2-1 before returning to a lengthy minor league apprenticeship. He hit the big leagues for good with the Cleveland Indians in 1916, winning 15 games in his first full big league season. The following year, he led the league with nine shutouts, while winning 19 games and posting an earned run average of 1.81. He won 22 games the following season, the first of four consecutive 20-plus victory seasons.
His high water mark in the big leagues was 1920, when he went 24-14, leading the league in strikeouts and leading the Indians to the AL pennant. In the World Series, Coveleski excelled like few others ever have, winning Games 1, 4 and 7. Each game was a complete game five-hitter, and Game 7 was a shutout. As he gave up just one earned run in each of the other games, his World Series ERA was a sparkling 0.67.
In December 1924, he was traded to the Washington Senators and enjoyed another fantastic season, winning 13 consecutive games and leading the Senators to the 1925 World Series by going 20-5, leading the league with a 2.84 ERA and an .800 winning percentage.
Released in midseason 1927 by the Senators, Coveleski signed as a free agent with the Yankees in December and helped the 1928 World Champions with a 5-1 record in 12 games.
In 1969, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in recognition of a career record of 215-142, a .602 winning percentage, 38 shutouts and a career ERA of 2.89. He was a control pitcher who relied on the then-legal spitball as a key component of his repertoire. When spitballs were outlawed in 1920, he and 16 other pitchers were grandfathered and allowed to continue pursuing their livelihoods as before.
Reflecting on his complete game shutout in the seventh game of the 1920 World Series, Coveleski evoked a different era: “Pitched that game and won it, and walked back alone to the clubhouse. And nobody said a word except maybe ‘Nice game, Covey.’ Just another ball game.”
Coveleski passed away on March 20, 1984.