This Commerce, Georgia native, who was born in 1907, didn’t throw his first pitch in a Major League baseball game until he was almost thirty years old. Some may think it was the name his parents gave him that delayed his arrival in the big leagues. Imagine you were the person in the Yankee front office who was responsible for notifying the team’s minor league players that they were being called up to the parent club. Someone hands you a message that reads “Call Spurgeon Chandler and tell him to report immediately.” You’d probably start laughing so hard you wouldn’t be able to pick up the phone.
The truth is, however, that Spud was one of those rare future Major League baseball players who attended college during the years of the Great Depression. After he graduated from the University of Georgia, where he was also a star football player, it took Spud five more seasons to work his way up to the Bronx. Even then, an assortment of nagging injuries cut down on his starts during the first half of his ten-year career in Pinstripes.
That all changed in 1942, when Chandler went 16-5 and then in 1943 he had one the greatest seasons of any Yankee right-hander before or since. Spud went 20-4 that year with a microscopic 1.64 ERA and won the AL MVP Award, leading the Yankees to their third straight AL Pennant. He went on to pitch two complete game victories over the Cardinals in that year’s Fall Classic, giving up just one earned run in the process.
Spud made just five starts during the next two seasons but it was service in WWII and not injuries or school that prevented him from playing full seasons. When he returned from service in 1946 he put together his second twenty-victory season. By 1947, however, he was approaching forty years of age and his body could not do it anymore. Chandler retired with a regular season career record of 109-43. Who knows? He’d probably be in Cooperstown today if he’d skipped college and didn’t serve his country in a war.
This late great Yankee outfielder shares Chandler’s September 12th birthday.
Many Yankee historians believe New York’s 1939-1943 outfield of Keller in left, Joe DiMaggio in center and Tommy Henrich in right was the greatest in pinstripe history. Keller was built like a fire hydrant and with his thick bushy eyebrows atop a set of piercing eyes, he was sort of intimidating to look at. He was even more intimidating with a bat in his hand. Lifetime he had a .286 batting average with 189 home runs and an impressive .518 slugging percentage.
He appeared in five AL All Star games and four World Series as a Yankee and he retired with three championship rings. More than anything else, Keller was an old country boy who loved horses and shied away from life in the big city. He didn’t like to fly in airplanes, he never boasted about himself or his team and he treated the game and his opponents with respect. He just put on his uniform and gave his best effort every inning of every game and when he took that uniform off for the last time, he returned to his Maryland countryside to raise horses.
Also born on today’s date in 1907, nine years earlier than Keller, was this former Yankee pitcher and AL MVP.
|NYY (11 yrs)||1066||4466||3677||712||1053||163||69||184||723||45||760||481||.286||.410||.518||.928|
|DET (2 yrs)||104||138||113||13||32||3||3||5||37||0||24||18||.283||.409||.496||.904|