Old Hoss Radbourn

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Buffalo Bisons, 1880; Providence Grays, 1881-1885; Boston Beaneaters, 1886-1889; Boston Reds, 1890; Cincinnati Reds, 1891

Old Hoss Radbourn
Old Hoss Radbourn was elected into the
Hall of Fame for his all-around ability
on the baseball field, among other
great qualities and records.

Whether intentionally or accidentally, Charley Radbourn ended up giving himself his nickname. During his extraordinary 1884 season in which he won a record 60 games for the Providence Grays, Radbourn would warm up in the outfield before a game until he finally proclaimed, “Old Hoss is ready.”

By the end of the season, Old Hoss had logged so many innings he could scarcely lift his arm to comb his hair. Never again was he much more than an average hurler, but his Hall of Fame plaque nonetheless says that he was the "greatest of all 19th-century pitchers."

There is no disputing that Charles Gardner Radbourn (1854-1897) was the game’s supreme pitcher -- for one year anyway -- although no one would have predicted it as late as July 1884. On July 16, in fact, he was suspended without pay by Providence Grays manager Frank Bancroft for a combination of drunkenness and lack of effort.

When the club’s other pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, jumped to the Union Association, Bancroft was forced to reinstate Radbourn. Hoss returned on two conditions: that he receive his release at the season’s end and that he be allowed to pitch every game in the meantime in return for a hefty bonus.

Providence was in a tight pennant race at the time. With Radbourn back in the box on a daily basis, the Grays soon pulled away, romping home 10.5 games ahead of the pack. Toward the end of the season Radbourn did take a day off now and then, but the damage to his arm was already done. After winning 167 games in his first four years in the National League, Radbourn collected just 144 more victories before his wing finally gave out alto­gether during the 1891 campaign.

Radbourn returned to his hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, and opened a billiard parlor. A hunting accident in 1894 partially paralyzed his face. Self-conscious, he retired to a back room, where he sat most of the time in dim light to conceal his disfigurement.

Old Hoss Radbourn was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939. The Old Timers voters who selected him remembered him not just for his fabled 60-win season and his 311 career victories, but also for his all-around ability.

Here are Old Hoss Radbourn's major league totals:

311 194 2.67 528 489 4,535.1 4,335 1,345 875 1,830

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