Burleigh Grimes

Burleigh Arland Grimes (August 18, 1893 – December 6, 1985) was an American professional baseball player, and the last pitcher officially permitted to throw the spitball.[1][2][3] Grimes made the most of this advantage and he won 270 games and pitched in four World Series over the course of his 19-year career.[4] He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1954, and to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.[4]

Burleigh Grimes
Burleigh Grimes
circa 1916, with Pittsburgh
Pitcher / Manager
Born: August 18, 1893
Emerald, Wisconsin
Died: December 6, 1985 (aged 92)
Clear Lake, Wisconsin
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 10, 1916, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
September 20, 1934, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
MLB statistics
Win–loss record270–212
Earned run average3.53
Managerial record131–171
Winning %.434
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Election MethodVeteran's Committee

Early life

Born in Emerald, Wisconsin, Grimes was the first child of Nick Grimes, a farmer and former day laborer, and the former Ruth Tuttle, the daughter of a former Wisconsin legislator. Having previously played baseball for several local teams, Nick Grimes managed the Clear Lake Yellow Jackets and taught his son how to play the game early in life.[5] Burleigh Grimes also participated in boxing as a child.[6]

He made his professional debut in 1912 for the Eau Claire Commissioners of the Minnesota–Wisconsin League.[7] He played in Ottumwa, Iowa, in 1913 for the Ottumwa Packers in the Central Association.

MLB career

Baseball card of Grimes

Grimes played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1916 and 1917. Before the 1918 season, he was sent to the Brooklyn Dodgers in a multiplayer trade.[8] When the spitball was banned in 1920, he was named as one of the 17 established pitchers who were allowed to continue to throw the pitch. According to Baseball Digest, the Phillies were able to hit him because they knew when he was throwing the spitter.

He then pitched for the New York Giants (1927), the Pirates again (19281929), the Boston Braves (1930) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1930-1931). He was traded to the Chicago Cubs before the 1932 season in exchange for Hack Wilson and Bud Teachout.[9] He returned to the Cardinals in 1933 and 1934, then moved to the Pirates (1934) and the New York Yankees (1934). Grimes was nicknamed "Ol' Stubblebeard", related to his habit of not shaving on days in which he was going to pitch.[10]

At the time of his retirement, he was the last player that was legally allowed to throw a spitball, as he was one of 17 spitballers permitted to throw the pitch after it was otherwise outlawed in 1920. He had acquired a lasting field reputation for his temperament. He is listed in the Baseball Hall of Shame series for having thrown a ball at the batter in the on-deck circle.[11] His friends and supporters note that he was consistently a kind man when off the diamond. Others claim he showed a greedy attitude to many people who 'got on his bad side.' He would speak mainly only to his best friend Ivy Olson in the dugout, and would pitch only to a man named Mathias Schroeder before games. Schroeder's identity was not well known among many Dodger players, as many say he was just 'a nice guy from the neighborhood.'

Post-playing career

Grimes moved to the minor leagues in 1935 as a player-manager for the Bloomington Bloomers of the Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League. He started 21 games for the team, recording a 2.34 ERA and a 10-5 record.[12] He did not pitch again after that season, moving on to manage the Louisville Colonels of the American Association.[12]

Grimes was the manager of the Dodgers in 1937-38. He followed Casey Stengel's term as Dodgers manager.[13] He compiled a two-year record of 131-171 (.434), with his teams finishing sixth and seventh respectively in the National League. Babe Ruth was one of Grimes's coaches. Leo Durocher was the team's shortstop in 1937 and a coach in 1938.[14] When Grimes was fired by general manager Larry MacPhail after the 1938 season, Durocher was hired to replace him. MacPhail said that the team's morale had not been right for a long period of time.[15]

Grimes remained in baseball for many years as a minor league manager and a scout. He managed the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League from 1942 to 1944, and again in 1952 and 1953, winning the pennant in 1943. As a scout with the Baltimore Orioles, Grimes discovered Jim Palmer and Dave McNally.[14] Grimes also assisted in managing the Independence Yankees in Independence, Kansas in 1948 and 1949, where Mickey Mantle started his professional career in 1949.[16]

Later life

Grimes was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964. In 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included Grimes in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.[17]

Grimes died of cancer at age 92 in 1985 in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. His wife Lillian survived him.[13] He is buried at the cemetery in Clear Lake.

See also


  1. ^ Burns, Edward (September 18, 1931). "Grimes says he's woodsman; others say he's great hurler". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 27.
  2. ^ Weiskopf, Herman (July 31, 1967). "The Infamous Spitter". Sports Illustrated. p. 12.
  3. ^ Wolf, Steve (April 13, 1981). "Tricks of the Trade". Sports Illustrated. p. 92.
  4. ^ a b Guzzardi, Joe (April 3, 2016). "Burleigh Grimes, the last great spit-baller". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  5. ^ Niese, p. 10.
  6. ^ Niese, p. 12.
  7. ^ Christofferson, Jason. Diamonds in Clear Water: Professional Baseball in Eau Claire, 1886–1912. Self-published. 2013. p.143-155.
  8. ^ "Robins give Pirates two players for three in big trade; Mamaux obtained by Robins in deal". The New York Times. January 10, 1918. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  9. ^ Snyder, John (2010). Cardinals Journal: Year by Year and Day by Day with the St. Louis Cardinals Since 1882. Clerisy Press. ISBN 157860480X. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  10. ^ "Grimes, Burleigh". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  11. ^ Bruce Nash, The Baseball Hall of Shame 2
  12. ^ a b "Burleigh Grimes Minor League Statistics & History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  13. ^ a b Yannis, Alex (December 10, 1985). "Burleigh Grimes, ex-pitcher and Hall of Fame member". The New York Times. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Grimes back at "home"". Milwaukee Sentinel. February 4, 1972. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  15. ^ ""Lippy" peps up Dodgers". Pittsburgh Press. October 13, 1938. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  16. ^ Niese, Joe (2013). Burleigh Grimes: Baseball's Last Legal Spitballer. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-1-4766-0179-3.
  17. ^ (1981 photo)


External links

1918 Brooklyn Robins season

The 1918 Brooklyn Robins finished the season in fifth place.

1920 Brooklyn Robins season

The 1920 Brooklyn Robins, also known as the Dodgers, won 16 of their final 18 games to pull away from a tight pennant race and earn a trip to their second World Series against the Cleveland Indians. They lost the series in seven games.

The team featured four Hall of Famers: manager Wilbert Robinson, pitchers Burleigh Grimes and Rube Marquard, and outfielder Zack Wheat. Grimes anchored a pitching staff that allowed the fewest runs in the majors.

1920 World Series

In the 1920 World Series, the Cleveland Indians beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, then known interchangeably as the Robins in reference to their manager Wilbert Robinson, in seven games, five games to two. This series was a best-of-nine series, like the first World Series in 1903 and the World Series of 1919 and 1921. The only World Series triple play, the first World Series grand slam and the first World Series home run by a pitcher all occurred in Game 5 of this Series. The Indians won the series in memory of their former shortstop Ray Chapman, who had been killed earlier in the season when struck in the head by a pitched ball.

The triple play was unassisted and turned by Cleveland's Bill Wambsganss in Game 5. Wambsganss, playing second base, caught a line drive off the bat of Clarence Mitchell, stepped on second base to put out Pete Kilduff, and tagged Otto Miller coming from first base. It was the second of fifteen (as of 2016) unassisted triple plays in major-league baseball history, and it remains the only one in postseason play. Mitchell made history again in the eighth inning by hitting into a double play, accounting for five outs in two straight at-bats.

The fifth game also saw the first grand slam in World Series history (hit by Cleveland's Elmer Smith) and the first Series home run by a pitcher (Cleveland's Jim Bagby, Sr.). And in that same game, Brooklyn outhit Cleveland but lost 8–1.

Cleveland had won the American League pennant in a close race with the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees. The Sox's participation in the Black Sox Scandal the previous year had caught up to them late in the season, and their star players were suspended with three games left in the season, when they were in a virtual tie with the Indians. The Yankees, with their recently acquired star Babe Ruth, were almost ready to start their eventual World Series dynasty. For Cleveland, it would prove to be one of their few successes in a long history of largely either poor or not-quite-good enough clubs.

It is notable that all seven games of the 1920 World Series were won by the team who scored first. In fact, Game 4 was the only game in which the losing team scored a run before the winning team had scored all of its runs. The lead never changed hands in any game.

This would be the last World Series until 1980 to feature two franchises that had not previously won a championship.

1921 Brooklyn Robins season

Staff ace Burleigh Grimes won 22 games, but the 1921 Brooklyn Robins fell into 5th place.

1923 Brooklyn Robins season

A poor season found the 1923 Brooklyn Robins in sixth place once more.

1930 Boston Braves season

The 1930 Boston Braves season was the 60th season of the franchise.

1931 World Series

The 1931 World Series featured the two-time defending champion Philadelphia Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals beat the Athletics in seven games, a rematch and reversal of fortunes of the previous World Series.

The same two teams faced off during the 1930 World Series and the Athletics were victorious. The only day-to-day player in the Cardinals' lineup who was different in 1931 was the "Wild Horse of the Osage", Pepper Martin—a 27-year-old rookie who had spent seven seasons in the minor leagues. He led his team for the Series in runs scored, hits, doubles, runs batted in and stolen bases, and also made a running catch to stifle a ninth-inning rally by the A's in the final game.

The spitball pitch had been banned by Major League Baseball in 1920, but those still using it at that time were "grandfathered", or permitted to keep throwing it for the balance of their big-league careers. One of those who "wet his pill" still active in 1931 was Burleigh Grimes, with two Series starts, two wins and seven innings of no-hit pitching in Game 3. "Wild" Bill Hallahan started and won the other two for the Cards, and saved Game 7.

The Athletics had captured their third straight American League pennant, winning 107 games (and 313 for 1929–31). But this would prove to be the final World Series for longtime A's manager Connie Mack. As he did after the Boston "Miracle Braves" swept his heavily favored A's in the 1914 Series, Mack would break up this great team by selling off his best players, this time out of perceived economic necessity rather than pique and competition from the short-lived Federal League. It would be the A's last World Series appearance in Philadelphia and it would be 41 years—and two cities—later before the A's would return to the Fall Classic, after their successive moves to Kansas City in 1955 and Oakland in 1968. This would also be the city of Philadelphia's last appearance in the Series until 1950. It was also the last World Series until the 2017 edition in which both teams who had won at least 100 games in the regular season went the maximum seven games.

1933 Chicago Cubs season

The 1933 Chicago Cubs season was the 62nd season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 58th in the National League and the 18th at Wrigley Field. The Cubs finished third in the National League with a record of 86–68.

1937 Brooklyn Dodgers season

Former Dodgers pitcher Burleigh Grimes was brought in to manage the 1937 Brooklyn Dodgers, but the team continued to struggle, finishing in sixth place.

1964 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting

Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1964 followed the system introduced for even-number years in 1962.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players with provision for a second, "runoff" election in case of no winner. The runoff was necessary this year, with Luke Appling the winner.

Meanwhile, the Veterans Committee was meeting annually to consider executives, managers, umpires, and earlier major league players.

It selected six people: Red Faber, Burleigh Grimes, Miller Huggins, Tim Keefe, Heinie Manush, and John Montgomery Ward.

Further, the eligibility of retired players was reduced from having retired thirty years prior to election to twenty.

Bloomington Bloomers

The Bloomington Bloomers were a minor League baseball franchise based in Bloomington, Illinois that played between 1889 and 1939. They were affiliates of the St. Louis Cardinals (1935), Cleveland Indians (1938) and Chicago Cubs (1939). They played primarily in the Illinois-Iowa-Indiana League during their existence. Their home park was Fans Field. Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees Burleigh Grimes and Clark Griffith played for Bloomington.

Central Association

The Central Association was an American minor league baseball league. It began operations in 1908, and ran continuously through 1917. It was reorganized thirty years later, operating as a Class-C league from 1947-1949, with major league affiliates for most teams. Hall of Fame Inductees Burleigh Grimes and Jake Beckley are league alumni.

Eau Claire Commissioners

The Eau Claire Commissioners were a Minnesota–Wisconsin League minor league baseball team that played under that name from 1910 to 1912. The team was based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Notably, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes played for the team. Jack Kading played for the club when they were the Puffs.

Emerald, Wisconsin

Emerald is a town in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 691 at the 2000 census. The census-designated place of Emerald is located partially in the town.

Joe Stripp

Joseph Valentine "Joe" Stripp (February 3, 1903 – June 10, 1989) was an American professional baseball third baseman. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Boston Bees between 1928 and 1938. Stripp hit .300 or better 6 times, with a career best .324 with the Reds in 1931."Jersey Joe" Stripp was the last major league batter to bat against a legally thrown spitball, at the end of the career of Burleigh Grimes in 1934. Grimes was one of 17 pitchers who were allowed to continue to throw the spitball, after it was banned in 1920.He died, aged 86, in Orlando, Florida.

Pat Crawford (baseball)

Clifford Rankin "Pat" Crawford, a.k.a. "Captain Pat", (January 28, 1902 – January 25, 1994) was a major league baseball player. He graduated from Sumter High School, class of 1919. Crawford went to Davidson College. He played baseball for several semi-pro and minor league teams throughout the 1920s including a stint as the left fielder for the 1922 Kinston Highwaymen in the Eastern Carolina Baseball Association, an independent or "outlaw league" team not affiliated with the National Association. Crawford got his big break in 1929 when he made it to the majors with the New York Giants, which were still being managed by the Hall of Famer John McGraw. On May 26, 1929, Crawford hit a pinch hit grand slam off Socks Seibold in the sixth inning. Les Bell then hit a seventh inning pinch hit grand slam off Carl Hubbell. This was the only time in history that two pinch hit grand slams were hit in the same game. In 1931 and 1932, he had over 237 and 236 hits respectively for minor league Columbus, Ohio. He went in and out of the majors through the 1934 season and was named league MVP of the American Association while playing for the Columbus Senators in 1932. In 1934, Crawford found himself playing on the world champion St. Louis Cardinals. The last two games of his major league career were World Series games. His teammates on the Gashouse Gang that year included HOFers Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher, Joe Medwick, Dizzy Dean, and Burleigh Grimes. All told, Pat had a .280 batting average in 318 major league games. He was one of the initial inductees in the Kinston Professional Baseball Hall of Fame on February 11, 1983.

Paul Chervinko

Paul Chervinko (July 23, 1910 – June 3, 1976) was a Major League Baseball catcher for parts of two seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1937–1938). He was a native of Trauger, Pennsylvania.

Chervinko was an excellent defensive player who just couldn't hit well enough to stay in the big leagues. Behind the plate he made only one error in 102 chances for a fielding percentage of .990. At bat, however, he was just 11-for-75 (.147) with five runs batted in and one run scored in 42 total games.

During his time with Brooklyn he was surrounded by some quite notable people. His manager was Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes, and some of his teammates were future Hall of Famers as well: outfielder Heinie Manush, pitcher Waite Hoyt, and shortstop Leo Durocher. Also on the team was All-Star infielder Cookie Lavagetto, who would later gain fame in the 1947 World Series.

Chervinko died in Danville, Illinois at the age of 65.

Red Faber

Urban Clarence "Red" Faber (September 6, 1888 – September 25, 1976) was an American right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball from 1914 through 1933, playing his entire career for the Chicago White Sox. He was a member of the 1919 team but was not involved in the Black Sox scandal because he missed the World Series due to injury and illness.

Faber won 254 games over his 20-year career, a total which ranked 17th-highest in history upon his retirement. At the time of his retirement, he was the last legal spitballer in the American League; another legal spitballer, Burleigh Grimes, was later traded to the AL and appear in 10 games for the Yankees in 1934. Faber was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.

Steve Swetonic

Stephen Albert Swetonic (August 13, 1903 – April 22, 1974) was a pitcher in Major League Baseball, who played his entire career for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1929 through 1935. Swetonic batted and threw right-handed. He was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania.

Swetonic provided a solid support in Pirates' pitching staffs of the early 1930s that included Larry French, Burleigh Grimes, Waite Hoyt, and Ray Kremer. His most productive season came in 1932, when he went 11–6 with a career-high 2.82 ERA and tied for the National League lead with four shutouts. In 1933 he recorded career-numbers in wins (12), starts (21), and innings pitched (164 ⅔ ). His career ended prematurily at the age of 28 because of a chronic sore arm.

Swetonic went to spring training with the Boston Braves in 1934 but did not play in the regular season. In a March 24 game against the Philadelphia Athletics, in St. Petersburg, Florida, he yielded four runs in the first inning.

In March 1935, Swetonic was in spring training with the New York Giants team in Miami Beach, Florida. He tossed the final three innings of an intrasquad game between teams captained by Carl Hubbell and Freddie Fitzsimmons on February 28.In a five-season career, Swetonic posted a 37–36 record with 154 strikeouts and a 3.81 ERA in 595 ⅓ innings. He died in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, at age 70.

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