Teams: Chicago White Sox, 1904-1916; Boston Braves, 1917
Originally, Edward Augustine Walsh (1881-1959) had an overpowering fastball and little else. In 1904, however, while in spring training with the Chicago White Sox, he learned how to throw a spitball from teammate Elmer Stricklett, reputedly the first hurler to master the pitch. Walsh's spitter became so effective that Sam Crawford once said of it, "I think the ball disintegrated on the way to the plate and the catcher put it back together again."
Ed Walsh is the last pitcher to win 40 games in a season,
accomplishing the feat in 1908.
In 1908, Walsh labored an American League-record 464 innings, hurled 42 complete games, and became the last pitcher in major-league history to notch 40 victories in a season. Notwithstanding his superhuman achievement, the White Sox finished third. The team's problem, a weak attack, was most glaringly in evidence on October 2 when Walsh ceded Cleveland just one run and fanned 15 batters but lost 1-0 because his mates were unable to get a single man on base against Addie Joss.
The Joss perfect-game defeat was typical of Walsh's fate all during his career with the White Sox. Two years later, when he led the AL with a magnificent 1.27 ERA, he nonetheless had a losing record (18-20) as the Sox hit just .211 and scored a meager 457 runs in 156 games.
Despite a woeful dearth of offensive support, Walsh never lacked for confidence in his own ability. Charles Dryden called him the only man who "could strut while standing still." Another Chicago writer, Ring Lardner, made Big Ed his model for Jack Keefe, the cocky bumpkin hero of You Know Me Al, the classic baseball novel.
Playing for the notoriously penurious Charlie Comiskey, Walsh never earned more than $7,000 in a season and usually had to pitch well over 400 innings just to avoid having his salary cut. By 1913, overwork had taken its toll, and he was never again a front-line hurler.
Although Ed hung on until 1917, he won only 13 games in his last five seasons and thus ended his career five short of 200 victories. What he lacked in wins, however, he more than compensated for in other departments. His 1.82 career ERA is the all-time lowest. Walsh was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946.
Here are Ed Walsh's major league totals:
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