Burleigh Grimes

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1916-1917, 1928-1929, 1934; Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers), 1918-1926; New York Giants, 1927; Boston Braves, 1930; St. Louis Cardinals, 1930-1931, 1933-1934; Chicago Cubs, 1932-1933; New York Yankees, 1934
Manager: Brooklyn Dodgers, 1937-1938
Managerial Record: 131-171

When Burleigh Arland Grimes (1893-1985), pitching in relief for the Yankees, won his 270th game in 1934, it was not only his final victory, it was also the last game in major-league history won by a pitcher legally permitted to throw a spitball.

Oddly, Grimes’s landmark victory was both his only win with the Yankees and his only win in the American League. His previous 269 triumphs had been divided among six National League teams over a 19-year period.

Burleigh Grimes was the last pitcher to be legally allowed to throw a spitball in a major-league game.
Burleigh Grimes was the last pitcher to
be legally allowed to throw a spitball
in a major-league game.

The Pirates were the beneficiaries of both Burleigh’s first and last NL victories and also of his biggest season, in 1928, when he won 25 games. Even though Grimes served three stints with Pittsburgh, the brunt of his work was done with Brooklyn.

Burleigh was traded to the Dodgers by Pittsburgh before the 1918 season after suffering through a 3-16 campaign the previous year, including 13 straight losses. With almost his first outing in Brooklyn, he suddenly became a different pitcher.

Grimes won 19 games for the Dodgers in 1918 and led the league in winning percentage two years later while netting 23 victories. On his first pennant winner in 1920, Burleigh shut out Cleveland, 3-0, in his first World Series appearance but then was beaten twice by the Tribe as the Dodgers lost five games to two.

Ten years later, when Grimes next played on a pennant winner, the 1930 Cardinals, he was a loser in both his World Series starts against the Philadelphia A’s. The following year, however, Burleigh turned the tables on the A’s, topping them twice.

His second victory came in the crucial seventh game of the 1931 Series and was his last decision in fall play. Traded to the Cubs the following year, he closed out his postseason career with two relief appearances in the 1932 World Series.

Nicknamed “Ol’ Stubblebeard” because of his habit of never shaving on days he was slated to pitch, Burleigh’s rugged visage was only one of the weapons he used to intimidate batters. His spitball was among the most effective ever, often breaking some seven or eight inches, but the threat of it was equally valuable. Grimes would fake a spitter on almost every pitch so a batter could never forget the possibility of it. In actuality, Burleigh employed his pet delivery rather sparingly and was proudest when he could win without using it at all.

After his playing career ended, he was hired by the Dodgers to replace Casey Stengel as their skipper in 1937 and lasted two seasons. Grimes was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964.

Here are Burleigh Grimes' major league totals:


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