Lefty Grove

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Philadelphia Athletics, 1925-1933; Boston Red Sox 1934-1941

Generally acknowledged to be the greatest left-handed pitcher ever, Lefty Grove is considered by many authorities to be the greatest pitcher, period. The holder of the highest career winning percentage among pitchers who posted 300 or more career victories, Grove in addition compiled a 112-39 record in the minors to give him a combined winning percentage of .696, which is far and away the highest of any pitcher in organized baseball history.

Lefty Grove had a .707 winning percentage for the remaining 15 years of his career.
Lefty Grove had a .707 winning
percentage for the remaining
15 years of his career.

Born in Lonaconing, Maryland, Robert Moses Grove (1900-1975) quit school in the eighth grade to work in a coal mine. Later an apprentice glassblower and railroad worker, Lefty was 20 years old before he decided that baseball might offer a brighter future. After six games with Martinsburg in the Blue Ridge League, he was purchased by Jack Dunn, owner of the Baltimore Orioles in the International League.

For the next four and one-half years, Grove was trapped in Baltimore, unable to move up to the majors because International League teams at that time were exempt from the draft system and allowed to retain their stars for as long as they wished. Although Grove was paid better by Dunn than he would have been by several major-league owners, he was nevertheless impatient to leave Baltimore.

Finally, after the 1924 season, Connie Mack of the Philadelphia A’s agreed to pay Dunn $100,000 for Grove’s contract, plus an extra $600 to make the purchase higher than the amount the Yankees paid the Red Sox for Babe Ruth.

For all his minor-league training, Grove was still not quite ready to become a major-league star. The control problems that had beset him in Baltimore persisted during his first two seasons with the A’s. But in 1927, Grove for the first time in his career gave up less than three walks per game. Not coincidentally, he also won 20 games for the first time in the majors.

The following year, Lefty topped the American League in wins for the first of four occasions. In 1929, he paced the AL in winning percentage for the initial time, a feat he was to repeat on five occasions. That year Grove also led the loop in strikeouts for the fifth of what would soon be seven straight seasons. It was his stinginess with runs that was Grove’s greatest forte, however. On nine separate occasions he topped the AL in ERA.

Grove had his finest season to date in 1930, when he won 28 of 33 decisions and led the AL in winning percentage, ERA, and strikeouts. It seemed that he had surely reached his pinnacle, but incredibly his 1931 season was better. That year, Lefty had a 31-4 mark and an .886 winning percentage, the highest in history by a 30-game winner.

The real topper, though, was his 2.06 ERA that was 2.32 runs per game below the league average of 4.38. Grove received the first AL MVP Award voted upon by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Traded to the Red Sox by the A’s after the 1933 season when Connie Mack wanted to unload his high-salary players, Grove was never again the game’s most dominant hurler, although he collected four ERA crowns and one winning percentage crown with Boston.

In his later years, Lefty developed a great curveball when arm trouble reduced his blazing speed. After winning his 300th game in 1941, he hung ’em up for good. Just six years later, he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Here are Lefty Grove's major league totals:


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