Dick Redding: The man who threw faster than Bob Feller

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“[Redding] was a nice fellow, easy going. He never argued, never cursed, never smoked as I recall. I never saw him take a drink.” — Buck Leonard

“Speed is by no means the only asset of a successful pitcher, but it is a wonderful help if employed correctly.” — Dick Redding

The people who study the history of african-american baseball in the United States say Dick Redding might have thrown harder than any pitcher in the negro leagues. His fastball was probably the equal to Walter Johnson, his contemporary in the white major leagues. Redding, who was nicknamed “The Cannonball,” reportedly threw seven no-hitters in one season. He is credited with tossing possibly as many as two dozen in a career that stretched into his mid-40s.

Unfortunately, Redding pitched his best seasons in the 1910s, when barely any statistics remain for black professional baseball. He likely led his leagues in strikeouts many times. In an exhibition game in 1917 against an MLB All-Star team, Redding struck out Babe Ruth three times. In 1924, Redding, who was a big, barrel-chested right-hander, pitched against a team of stars from the white professional leagues, and fanned 11 batters in six innings, including Rogers Hornsby and Sunny Jim Bottomley twice each. 

Several sources claim Redding was illiterate, but that’s false. As a teenager, he passed an entrance exam to Morris Brown College in Atlanta, and in 1918 he successfully enlisted in the U.S. Army. In the service, Redding fought on the front line in France, and according to one source, earned the nickname “Grenade” for his fighting achievements.

Following his playing career, Redding did not fare well. He lost most of his money and eventually ended up in an asylum due to an unknown physical condition. He died in 1948 at the age of 58, having lived to see Jackie Robinson integrate the segregated major leagues. Redding was buried with military honors in Long Island National Cemetery.

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is the author of three books about baseball, including Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Major League Baseball Advanced Media. He lives in Michigan where he writes, runs, and enjoys a good orange soda now and again.
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