“My favorite ball is the knuckler. I don’t believe any batter in uniform likes to face a good knuckleballer when it’s sweeping in with a lot of zip and breaking right.” – Jesse Haines
Jesse Haines played his first full season in the major leagues as a 26-year-old in 1920. Despite the late start, Haines would pitch for the next 18 years for the Cardinals thanks to his knuckleball. He finished his career with 210 wins and a 3.64 ERA.
After some initial struggles to break into the big leagues, Haines became a stalwart in St. Louis. In his rookie season Haines pitched 301 2/3 innings and led the National League in appearances with 47. Though he finished the season with a 13-20 record, he did have a 2.98 ERA.
Haines pitched in four World Series, helping the Cardinals to two championships. The first of those titles came in 1926. He beat the Yankees twice in the Fall Classic, shutting them out in Game 3 and winning Game 7 with help from Grover Cleveland Alexander's legendary relief appearance. Haines built on the momentum from the World Series to have the best season of his career in 1927. That year he went 24-10 with a 2.72 ERA and led the National League in complete games (25) and shutouts (six).
Haines won 20 games for the third and final time of his career in 1928 at the age of 34. He pitched for nine more years, winning 70 more games. He appeared in a total of four World Series, including in 1934, when the Cardinals’ “Gashouse Gang” topped Detroit.
Haines retired after the 1937 season at the age of 44.
“When I saw how hard a nice old man like Pop could take it after losing a game, I realized why he’d been such a consistent winner and the Cardinals, too,” St. Louis center fielder Terry Moore said. “I never forgot how much Haines expected of himself and of others.”
Haines was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970. He passed away on Aug. 5, 1978.