It was a money deal. When Connie Mack of the Philadelphia A’s traded star pitcher Lefty Grove and his second baseman Max Bishop, along with pitcher Rube Walberg, to the Red Sox at the winter meetings following the 1933 season. Mack received two players in return, but it was the $125,000 the Red Sox wired him that was most important.
Connie Mack needed cash to survive the Great Depression, and selling Lefty Grove and other players helped the tall owner of the Athletics survive the economic crisis. He also figured that Grove was on the bad side of thirty, and soon would fade his way out of the game.
He was wrong. For eight seasons, Mr. Mack had to watch Grove pumping his fastball over the plate for Boston, and about 2 or 3 times a season, his former ace would pitch against his own team. Lefty didn’t “fade away,” he won four ERA titles as a member of the Sox, and was named an All-Star five times in Boston, the last coming when he was 39 years old and with grey around his temples.
Grove went 13-5 against the A’s after they traded him away, and he pitched better for mediocre Boston teams than anyone would have imagined: 105-62 in eight seasons. His final win came in the middle of the 1941 season, and it was his 300th victory.
Grove’s outstanding success with both the Athletics and the Red Sox places him among a group of pitchers who have achieved a rare feat: 100 pitching victories with two teams.
|PITCHER||TEAM #1||WINS||TEAM #2||WINS|
|Lefty Grove||A's||195||Red Sox||105|
Here’s a snapshot of the eight pitchers in this exclusive club:
Career: 1911-1930; 373-208 record, won 30 games three times, and topped 25 wins six times. He won 21 games when he was 40 years old.
Best Pitch: His curveball, which seemed as if it came from the third base line when Alex threw it three-quarter sidearm.
“I consider my curve ball my main strong point,” Alexander said. “I have pretty good speed and a good change of pace, which is important, but the main thing with me is curves.”
Iconic Moment: Seventh inning of Game Seven of the 1926 World Series. Alexander strolled into the game from the bullpen to put out the fire when the Yankees had the bases loaded. He was pitching for the Cardinals at that time. Facing young slugger Tony Lazzeri, Alexander threw mostly looping curveballs before fanning Lazzeri on a sinking fastball. The veteran (he was 39 years old) set down the Yanks in the 8th and 9th to finish off the first world championship for the Cardinals.
Trivia Question: Which Hall of Fame pitcher had a future U.S. President portray him in a motion picture? (Ronald Reagan played Alexander in The Winning Team (1952).
Career: 1925-1941; 300-141 record, was named Most Valuable Player in 1931 when he went 31-4. He was 4-2 with a 1.75 ERA in the World Series.
Best Pitch: Grove’s fastball was one of the better speed pitches of his era. He had long arms and legs, and he threw the ball from a a three-quarter arm slot, but could also get on top of the ball. His fastball was straight, he never had any movement on the pitch, unless he was tired. He blew batters away.
“He hardly ever threw a curve,” said Detroit second baseman Charlie Gehringer.
“Sometimes when the sun was out, really bright, he would throw that baseball in there and it looked like a flash of white sewing thread coming up at you,” said Joe Sewell.
Iconic Moment: It gets overlooked because it didn’t happen in a clinching game, but in the fifth game of 1930 World Series, Grove came out of the bullpen on no-days rest and sewed up a crucial win for the A’s. The series was tied 2-2, and neither team could score a run over the first seven innings. Grove came in to relieve the starting pitcher, having started the game the day before. He tossed a scoreless eighth, and then his teammates scored two runs in the top of the ninth against St. Louis. In the bottom of the ninth he allowed a single but set down the Cards to secure the win. The A’s won the title the title two days later in Game Six.
Trivia Question: Who are the only future Hall of Famers to make their big league debut as teammates in the same game as pitcher and catcher? (The date was April 14, 1925, and the catcher was Mickey Cochrane).
Career: 1966, 1968-1993; 324-292 record with seven no-hitters and 11 strikeout titles. Ryan had a 300-strikeout season when he was 25, and his sixth and final 300-K season when he was 42. He never managed to win the Cy Young, but he finished in the top five six times.
Best Pitch: Ryan threw the ball as fast as anyone ever had before, and possibly as fast as anyone ever has. Radar guns in his prime weren’t as sophisticated as the technology we use today, and it’s estimated that Ryan likely tossed a few fastballs at 103-105 miles per hour.
Once, when he was asked why he, as a fastball hitter, wasn’t fond of facing Nolan Ryan, slugger Reggie Jackson replied, “Well, I like ice cream too, but I don’t like it forced down my throat a gallon at a time.”
Iconic Moment: How about 5,000 K’s?
Ryan struck out 5,714 batters, and the next closest on the strikeout list, Randy Johnson, is more than 800 behind him in second place.
Trivia Question: How many sets of fathers & sons did Nolan Ryan strike out?
Answer: 7 (Dick Schofield and Dick Jr.; Maury and Bump Wills; Hal and Brian McRae; Tito and Terry Francona; Ken Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr.; Sandy Alomar Sr. and Roberto Alomar; and Bobby Bonds and his son Barry.
Career: 1976-1988; 245-193 record; tossed a perfect game, and has the most wins by a Latin pitcher in MLB history.
Best Pitch: Martinez threw the ball from several different arm angles, and he was mostly known for his curve ball. But his best weapon was an intangible. “Mostly,” Martinez said, “I had a big heart.”
Iconic Moment: On July 28, 1991, Martinez pitched the 13th perfect game in MLB history, against Los Angeles in Dodger Stadium. He became the first pitcher born outside the U.S. to toss a perfect game in major league baseball.
Trivia Question: Who was on the receiving end of Dennis Martinez’ perfect game, making him the only catcher to catch two perfectos? (Ron Hassey, who also caught Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981 for Cleveland).
Career: 1986-2008; 355-227 record, four Cy Youngs (consecutive), and 16 Gold Gloves.Over the span of three seasons (1993-95), Maddux went 55-18 with a 1.90 ERA, which was less than half the average ERA for his league.
Best Pitch: “Movement is more important than velocity. Location is more important than velocity. Changing speeds is more important than velocity,” Maddux said. His best pitch were all his pitches: his sinking fastball (which rarely touched 90 miles per hour); his curve, his cut fastball, his change, and his circle change, which dipped away from left-handed batters. Maddux had impeccable control of all of his pitches, and he would throw any of them at any time.
Iconic Moment: In Game One of the 1995 World Series in Atlanta against the Indians, Maddux was masterful. He allowed only two hits and did not walk a batter. He pitched a complete game and faced only 30 batters. He got 16 groundouts, four strikeouts, five pop flies, and only two fly outs were recorded by his outfield. The Braves went on to win the World Series in six games.
Trivia Question: Which Hall of Fame batter never struck out against Maddux, despite facing him 103 times? The answer is here.
Career: 1988-2009; 303-166 record. Big Unit won five Cy Young Awards, four of them after the age of 35. He ranks second all-time in strikeouts, and he tossed a perfect game.
Best Pitch: His fastball scared the shit out of people. Just watch John Kruk.
Iconic Moment: In the 7th game of the 2001 World Series, in Arizona, Johnson came out of the bullpen to pitch in relief. He was going on no days rest, and got four outs without anyone reaching base. When Luis Gonzalez punched a single over the drawn-in infield to win the game, Johnson became the most recent pitcher to win three games in a Fall Classic.
Trivia Question: Which player on this list gave Randy Johnson tips early in his career that helped him become a better pitcher? (Answer is Nolan Ryan, who told Johnson to finish his delivery stronger to get better command on his pitches).
Career: 1991-2008; 270-153 record, he won at least 15 games in a season eleven times.
Best Pitch: Mussina tossed as many as six different pitches during his career, and probably more. His bread-and-butter pitch was typically his two-seam fastball. He was famous for throwing a knuckle-curve, an unusual pitch that Mussina threw with his fingertips, and he usually got great action on it.
Iconic Moment: In Game Three of the 1997 Al Championship Series, Mussina struck out 15 Cleveland batters, a record for the playoff round. Amazingly, his Orioles lost the game 2-1.
Trivia Question: Who is one of only five pitchers to win 20 games in his final MLB season? (Mussina, as well as Henry Schmidt, Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams, and Sandy Koufax).
Career: 2001-2019; 251-161 record, won the Cy Young Award in 2007 with Cleveland. He set the American League record for strikeouts by a lefthander, breaking the previous record held by Mickey Lolich.
Best Pitch: Sabathia had a fantastic slider, but also featured a plus-fastball. All of his pitches came out of the same arm slot. His fastball touched 97 miles per hour, but usually hovered around 95.
Iconic Moment: Twice in the 2009 AL Championship Series, Sabathia manhandled the Angels, pitching the Yankees to a pair of victories in Games One and Four. He had a 1.13 ERA and struck out 12 batters in 16 innings, earning MVP honors for the series. A little over a week later, the Yankees won the Fall Classic.
Trivia Question: How many games did CC Sabathia pitch in relief? (Answer: the first 560 games of Sabathia’s career were all starts. In his last outing on September 24, 2019, the final time he ever pitched in the majors, he pitched to three batters in the fourth inning out of the bullpen. It was the only time he ever pitched as a reliever in the regular season.)