Teams: Troy Trojans, 1880-1882; New York Giants, 1883-1892
Pitcher Mickey Welch had the second
shortest career of any 300-game
winner in history.
“Smiling Mickey” Welch, so tagged because of his nonchalant smile that never dimmed no matter how many errors his teammates made behind him, attributed his remarkable pitching success to drinking beer. He even coined a short ditty that embodied his philosophy: “Pure elixir of malt and hops/Beats all the drugs and all the drops.”
Whatever the secret Welch knew that most other pitchers did not, he had the second shortest career of any 300-game winner in history. Only Old Hoss Radbourn toiled fewer than Welch’s 13 seasons in top company.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Michael Francis Welch (1859-1941) made his professional debut in 1878 with Auburn in the minor-league National Association. The following year, he was with Holyoke in the same circuit. Hired by the Troy Trojans of the National League for the 1880 season, Mickey was installed as the team’s ace pitcher.
Welch came through with 34 wins in 64 starts and 574 innings as a rookie. Despite his extraordinary yearling season, Mickey was replaced as Troy’s ace the following year by Tim Keefe.
After again playing second fiddle to Keefe in 1882, Welch regained his status as the club’s No. 1 pitcher when Troy moved to New York for the 1883 season and Keefe was shifted from Gotham’s National League franchise to the New York Metropolitans of the American Association.
To Welch fell the honor of pitching the first game for the home team in the original Polo Grounds. The forerunner of the New York Giants got full value from Mickey, a 25-game winner in 1883 and a 39-game winner the next season.
In 1885, when Keefe returned to the club from the Metropolitans, the pair won 76 games between them, with Welch contributing 44 victories. The New Yorkers were unable to garner a flag until 1888. Welch netted 26 wins for the pennant winners, then another 27 victories a year later, when the Giants repeated as champions by capturing the title on the last day of the season in the closest pennant race in history to that point.
With most of the leading stars gone to the Players League in 1890, Welch toppled to just 17 wins. Used sparingly the following season, he started only 15 games, winning six and losing nine. After being knocked out of the box in an early-season start in 1892, Mickey was shipped to Troy in the Eastern League. Despite his 308 career wins, he was neglected by Hall of Fame voters until the Veterans Committee named him for enshrinement in 1973.
Here are Mickey Welch's major league totals:
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