“That Ruffing is a wonder,” Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx once said. “Always in there winning that important game for you.”
Indeed, Charles “Red” Ruffing was the epitome of a big-game pitcher.
A key starter for seven pennant winners with the Yankees, Ruffing won seven of his nine decisions in World Series play. In his postseason career, Ruffing posted a 2.63 ERA and helped New York win championships in 1932, 1936-39 and 1941.
During the Yankees’ four consecutive title seasons from 1936-39, Ruffing won at least 20 games each year.
Ruffing will forever be identified with the Yankees dynasty, but he started his career with the rival Red Sox in 1924. After posting a 39-96 record in seven years with the Red Sox, Boston traded him to the Yankees during the 1930 season for Cedric Durst and $50,000. In 15 seasons with the Yankees, Ruffing was 231-124.
Born in Granville, Ill., Ruffing lost four of the toes on his left foot in a mining accident as a youth. The accident hastened his transition from the outfield to the mound, but he remained dangerous with a bat in his hands. In 1932, Ruffing threw a complete game shutout and hit a 10th-inning home run to give the Yankees a 1-0 win against the Washington Senators. In 1935, he led the Yankees in both wins (16) and batting average (.339 in 109 at-bats.) He finished his career with 36 home runs and a .269 batting average.
Ruffing was the consummate competitor on the mound. He led the American League with 25 complete games in 1928, and led the circuit with five shutouts in 1939. In 1932, he paced the AL with 190 strikeouts. He worked at lest 220 innings in every season from 1928-40.
After missing the 1943 and ‘44 seasons while serving his country in World War II, Ruffing returned to the Yankees at the age of 40 in 1945 before finishing his playing career with the White Sox in 1947.
A six-time All-Star, Ruffing was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967. He passed away on Feb. 17, 1986.