Though time couldn’t tell the full effect Addie Joss might have had on the game of baseball, he left a legacy large enough to remember.
With his unconventional corkscrew delivery, he was able to get the ball across the plate before most batters even had a chance at seeing it, let alone making contact.
“Joss sort of hid the ball on you,” Hall of Famer Bobby Wallace said. “One moment, you’d be squinting at a long, graceful windup and the next instant, out of nowhere, the ball was hopping across the plate – and a lot of us standing flat-footed with our bat glued to our shoulders.”
The right-hander would turn his back to the batter to begin his windup motion, hiding the ball the whole time before whipping back around to fire it across the plate. His technique resulted in great success, including a 1.89 lifetime ERA, four seasons in a row of 20 or more wins and a career WHIP of 0.968 that is the best in big league history.
Joss never experienced a losing season in the nine years he pitched in the major leagues. His biggest accomplishments came in 1908, when he was 24-11 with a 1.16 ERA and nine shutouts. In his 11 losses, his team scored a total of only 13 runs in support of him.
He gave his club a chance to win every time he stepped on the mound, keeping them in every game he pitched. He had incredible control over his pitches, and in 1908, he walked only 30 batters in the 325 innings he threw.
On Oct. 2, 1908, Joss threw the fourth perfect game in baseball history, a victory over future Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. He accomplished the feat with just 74 pitches. It was the first of two no-hitters he would throw, the second coming in 1910. Both games were against the Chicago White Sox.
Of his 160 career wins, 45 of them were shutouts. His career ERA is ranked second all-time and he led the American League twice in the same category while he was playing.
His dominance as a pitcher was cut short when tubercular meningitis ended his life at the age of 31 on April 14, 1911. His death was a shock to the baseball world and Cleveland’s opener in Detroit was postponed for the funeral in Toledo, Ohio.
The top players in the American League at the time formed an all-star team to play against Cleveland for the benefit of Joss’s widow. The first game of its kind happened on July 24, 1911, and raised $12,914.
Joss was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978.