In just their second year in New York, the 1904 Yankees, then known as the Highlanders, almost captured their first-ever pennant. Their MVP that year was a spit-balling right hander named Happy Jack Chesbro who set a modern day record that season by winning 41 games. But the Clark Griffith managed Highlander squad won a total of 92 times that year which means pitchers besides Chesbro had 51 more wins. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had 23 of those 51 victories.
One of the joys I had as a baseball fan and a father was watching my oldest son Matt pitch when he played youth baseball. He started doing so at the age of ten when he was still playing in the first level of our local youth baseball league. At that level, the mound was just 45 feet from home plate and at that distance Matt’s fastball was pretty intimidating. As he advanced to the next levels of play the distance between the mound and the plate grew and my son quickly realized he couldn’t win games throwing just his fastball. Instead he became one of the youngest junk pitchers in history. He began experimenting with different arm angles, grips and speeds. Watching from the stands, it sometimes looked like he was lobbing the ball to the plate and the coaches of teams facing him would scream at their players who were batting that they should be hitting his pitches all over the park. But more often than not, they’d take off balance swings that resulted in outs instead of base-runners and Mattie-boy won a lot more games than he lost.
That’s why as I researched the career of Jack Powell, I came to the conclusion that his pitching philosophy was a lot like my son Matt’s. His entire objective on the mound was to fool hitters, not overpower them. Throw the ball near the strike zone at various speeds using different arm angles with the objective of keeping opposing hitter off-balance. Powell threw so effortlessly that sportswriters covering his games swore even they could hit him. He was one of the very few MLB hurlers to use no windup when he pitched and because he threw so easy, he could start often and give you lots of innings each time he did.
A native of Bloomington, IL, Jack “Red” Powell began his big league career in 1897 with the National League’s old Cleveland Spiders. He also pitched for the Cardinals and the Browns until he was traded by the latter to the Highlanders in March of 1904 for a guy named Harry Howell.
Unfortunately, Clark Griffith overdid things with his two best pitchers trying to win that 1904 pennant. Powell made 45 starts for the Highlanders that season and pitched a total of 390 innings. Add Chesbro’s unimaginable 454 innings that same year and these two guys pitched over 60% of the innings the Islanders played that season. It was absolutely no coincidence that both men developed sore arms in 1905 and neither ever again approached their win totals of 1904. In fact, Powell’s lifetime record through 1904 was 157-134 and just 88-120 afterwards.
His record was 8-13 in 1905, when the Yankees released him late in the season. He returned to the St. Louis Browns, where he continued to pitch until 1912.
Powell shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever.
|SLB (10 yrs)||117||143||.450||2.63||294||264||27||210||27||11||2229.2||2083||900||651||43||486||884||49||1.152|
|STL (3 yrs)||59||54||.522||3.79||131||117||14||101||7||3||999.0||1109||559||421||38||212||297||30||1.322|
|CLV (2 yrs)||38||25||.603||3.06||69||67||2||60||8||0||567.0||573||271||193||10||174||154||25||1.317|
|NYY (2 yrs)||31||32||.492||2.81||84||68||14||51||4||1||593.1||554||261||185||19||149||286||16||1.185|
Yankee GM, George Weiss was again on the prowl for some pennant insurance for the last month of the 1952 season. He approached the Red Sox who were willing to sell veteran hurler, Ray Scarborough’s contract to New York. At the time the deal was made, the right-hander was 1-5 for Boston with an ERA near five. Six weeks later, the Yankees were again headed to a World Series, after holding off a very good Cleveland Indians team by two games, thanks in large part to Scarborough, who went 5-1 for Casey Stengel and posted a Yankee ERA of just 2.91.
If Scarborough got the chance to pitch his entire big league career in pinstripes he may have been much more remembered than he is now. He would get to spend parts of just his last two big league seasons with the Yankees in 1952 and ’53. He spent most of his time in the Majors with the lowly Senators, from 1942, his rookie season, until 1950 when he got traded to the White Sox. He lost two of those seasons to service during WWII. Here’s a hint as to how good a pitcher Ray must have been in his earlier years. In 1948, Washington won just 56 games and finished in seventh place in the then-eight-team American League. There were five starters on that squad. The won-lost records and ERA of the other four were: 8-19, 5.82; 8-15, 3.83; 4-16, 5.88; and 5-13, 4.02. Ray’s record that season was 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA. He finished 80-85 lifetime during his decade-long career.
This other not well-known Yankee pitcher was also born on July 23rd and had two first names in his signature. His Pinstripe Birthday post includes my all-time lineup of Yankees who had last names that are also commonly used as first names. Scarborough also shares a birthday with this long-ago Yankee/Oriole utility player.
|WSH (7 yrs)||50||53||.485||3.69||179||110||36||41||7||5||909.1||934||449||373||39||401||349||1.468|
|BOS (2 yrs)||13||14||.481||5.01||65||30||19||9||1||4||260.2||280||153||145||29||96||100||1.442|
|NYY (2 yrs)||7||3||.700||3.15||34||5||12||1||0||2||88.2||79||34||31||8||41||33||1.353|
|DET (1 yr)||0||2||.000||8.27||13||0||5||0||0||2||20.2||34||24||19||3||11||12||2.177|
|CHW (1 yr)||10||13||.435||5.30||27||23||3||8||1||1||149.1||160||95||88||10||62||70||1.487|