View Full Version : Jack Chesbro - Highlanders FIRST "ACE"

08-14-01, 06:50 AM
"Jack" (John D.) Chesbro “Happy Jack”
Born. June 5, 1874, North Adams, MA
Died. Nov. 6, 1931

Jack Chesbro was an early spitball ace whose 1904 performance with the New York Highlanders still rates five stars. He started 51 games, completed 48 and was the victor in 41 while hurling 454 innings. Between 1901-1906 he won 154 games: an average of 25 per season. Hurling for the pennant-winning Pirates and later for New York in the American League, he led both circuits in winning percentage.
After three mediocre seasons in the minor leagues, the right-handed Chesbro won 40 games while losing only 19 during the next season and a half and was purchased by the Pittsburgh NL team in July of 1899.
Chesbro's fame as a pitcher began when he pitched the Pirates to their first pennants in 1901 and 1902. In 1901, he led the league in winning percentage with a 21-9 record and in shutouts with 6. In 1902 he picked up the spitball, at a time when it was legal and its peculiar properties were first being discovered by a number of pitchers. With his repertoire of pitches complete, he led the league in victories with a 28-6 record, including 8 shutouts. Pittsburgh won the NL pennant both years.

When the troubled Baltimore AL franchise moved to New York in 1903 and began raiding the NL for players. Chesbro was among those who jumped. After going 21-15 in his first season, he had an incredible year in 1904 going 41-12.

Ironically, even though Chesbro won 41 games, this American league season turned on one game that he didn’t win. The Highlanders were part of a season long five-way fight for the pennant. Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia were all factors in the race at various times. The race came down to a five game series between New York and Boston that ended the season. The Highlanders won on October 7th and took a half game lead over Boston. The Pilgrims (Later to become the Red Sox) swept a doubleheader the following day and went ahead by a game and a half. That left a doubleheader the Highlanders had to sweep in order to overtake Boston. Chesbro pitched the first game against Bill Dinneen, Boston’s 23 game winner. The game was scoreless through four innings until New York took a 2-0 lead. Highlanders’ second sacker Jimmy Williams then made a throwing error which allowed the tying run to score.

In the ninth inning, Boston’s Lou Criger singled, then went to second on a sacrifice and advanced to third on a wild pitch. On the next pitch Chesbro wound up and threw yet another of his famed “spitters” and it sailed over the catchers head. Criger came in to score the eventual winning run. And the Pilgrims won the pennant…

At the time, it overshadowed Chesbro's outstanding season of 41 wins, in which he completed his first 30 starts. He pitched 454 innings in 55 games. He completed 48 of his 51 starts, led the league in winning percentage with a 41-12 record, and struck out 240 hitters in a league-leading 454 innings.

Chesbro had a 19-13 record in 1905 and a 24-16 record in 1906. He had now pitched 1,407 innings over four seasons and all that work took its toll. He was 10-10 in 1907, 14-20 in 1908, and New York released him during the 1909 season. He finished his career by pitching one game, a loss, for the Boston Red Sox.

In 1911, Chesbro coached baseball at Amherst College in Massachusetts, and he was briefly a coach for the Washington Senators in 1924. Chesbro appeared in 392 games during his 11 major-league seasons, finishing 260 of 332 starts, and he had a 198-132 record, with 35 shutouts and a 2.68 ERA.

He strung together enough starring seasons to offset his relatively short career. He had only 12 seasons in the major leagues, 9 as a regular starter. Still, with his extraordinary 1904 season, he gained election to the Hall of Fame in 1948.

After Chesbro's pitching skills had dried up and he left the major leagues, he began a prosperous career as a merchant in New England, running a sawmill and lumberyard in North Adams, MA. He continued to pitch, appearing with semi-pro teams, traveling to take on mill town teams who found the pitching of the former major league superstar easy to hit.

He was baseball coach at Amherst College in 1911, and in 1924 Clark Griffith, his manager in 1904, brought him back to the major leagues for a brief role as a coach for the Washington Senators. Although the team was to win the pennant, fans were slow to respond and Chesbro was dropped for payroll reasons.

Historical dates:

July 3rd, 1900 At Pittsburgh, Jack Chesbro beats the Boston Beaneaters (Later the Red Sox), 2-1; The Boston battery is Lewis and Clarke. :lol:

April 30th 1903 Opening day at Hilltop Park - Jack Chesbro and the Highlanders beat Washington 6-2 for the NY'rs inaugural home game.

October 7th, 1904 Jack Chesbro pitches the Highlanders to a 3-2 win over Boston for his 41st victory. His 41-12 record will top the AL in wins and percentage; in 1902 with Pittsburgh, his 28-6 topped that league, making him the first to lead both leagues. The win gives New York a half-game lead over Boston.

August 30th, 1905: Ty Cobb makes his ML debut, doubling off Jack Chesbro, as Detroit defeats New York 5-3. The 2-bagger is the first of his 4,191 hits, a record topped by Pete Rose with 4,256 in 1986.

April 24th, 1946 eleven former players--Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers Frank Chance Jess Burkett, Tom McCarthy, Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank, Ed Walsh, Jack Chesbro, Clark Griffith, and Joe McGinnity are named to the Hall of Fame.

Jack Chesbro in his Richmond VA Minor League Uniform in 1898:

08-14-01, 07:16 AM
Great articile G! There seems to be some debate as to whether that ninth inning pitch was a wild pitch or a passed ball. His wife, or daughter, had tried unsuccessfully for years to reverse the decision. Poor Jack - brilliant career tainted by one pitch. That's baseball, you're either a goat or a hero. If you don't have a good sense of humor then the sport isn't for you. I posted this picture before. How 'bout a daily, or weekly article on an aerly player G? Who's next?

08-14-01, 07:44 AM
Well, What I'm trying to do is some kind of history starting from the Baltimore club right up through the years of the Highlanders and Yankees. That's why I did Chesbro at this point...I was thinkin last night that a collaberation between us would really bring forth the rich history of the franchise ... I have lots of photos at home and I think I'm buyin a scanner today :lol:

You've got tons of great info and photos !! I'll email you with some ideas and let me know what you think...

Additionally I too at some point read that his family was trying to get that pitch changed to a passed ball stating the catcher was slow...However, considering it was a wild pitch that put the winning run on third and it was a spitball, AND 97 years ago...good luck with that...:lol:

08-14-01, 10:09 AM
The only way you would win that many games.
The era of the dead ball!