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Jack Chesbro


Position: Pitcher
Teams:
Pittsburgh Pirates, 1899-1902; New York Highlanders, 1903-1909; Boston Red Sox, 1909

On the last day of the 1904 season, Jack Chesbro pitched the first game of a doubleheader for the New York Highlanders against the Boston Pilgrims. Had Chesbro won the game, it would have been his 42nd victory; more important, the Highlanders would have been mere percentage points behind the Pilgrims and positioned to cop the AL pennant if they took the second game as well.

Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro
Jack Chesbro holds the modern
record with 41 wins in 1904, but
he needed a 42nd to have won
a pennant that year.

At the top of the ninth, with the score 2-all and Boston catcher Lou Criger on third base with two out, Chesbro unleashed a spitball on an 0-2 count to Freddy Parent. Reports conflict whether the pitch sailed over the head of catcher Red Kleinow or if Kleinow was slow in getting his glove up to spear it. As the ball rolled to the backstop, Criger scored, giving Boston the game and the pennant.

The stigma attached to that loss and what was officially labeled a wild pitch marred the remainder of Chesbro's life. More than his modern-record 41 wins, that game came to be the most vivid memory for John Dwight Chesbro (1874-1931). Long after his death, his widow continued her unavailing efforts to have the scorer's decision on the pitch officially changed to a passed ball.

"Happy Jack" won only six games in his 1899 rookie year with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Showing only intermittent brilliance during his first two seasons, in 1901 he emerged as the ace of the Pittsburgh staff by snaring 21 victories and pacing the NL in winning percentage.

The winning percentage champ again in 1902, Chesbro led the loop with 28 wins while pitching for perhaps the most dominant team of all time. Playing only a 140-game schedule, the Pirates won the pennant by 271/2 games, the widest margin in major-league history.

The New York Highlanders in 1903 made Chesbro an offer so enticing that he jumped to the junior loop. After falling to only 21 wins that year, he exceeded all expectations the following year -- at least until the last weekend of the season. For Happy Jack not only lost the game that decided the pennant; he was also defeated two days earlier by Boston. Incredibly, Chesbro had a 41-10 record before suffering those setbacks.

After the 1904 campaign, Chesbro reached the 20-game plateau only once more, in 1906, when he bagged 24 wins. He began the 1909 season just one victory short of 200 but was released after five defeats in five starts. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1946.

Here are Jack Chesbro's major league totals:

W L ERA G CG IP H ER BB SO
199 131 2.68 392 261 2.897 2.642 864 690 1.265

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