Vic Willis

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Boston Beaneaters, 1898-1905; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1906-1909; St. Louis Cardinals, 1910

Vic Willis was a big right-hander who gained a reputation for durability. He also possessed a wicked curveball that was employed with much success during a career that began in the 19th century and ended in the 20th. He pitched for the Boston Beaneaters, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, fashioning a 248-204 record. In 1995, he caught the belated attention of the Veterans Committee, gaining entrance into the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Famer Vic Willis
Vic Willis was one of the
hardest-working pitchers ever,
completing 388 of his 471 starts.

Working from 1898 to 1910, "The Dela­ware Peach" led the Beaneaters to a pennant and helped the Pirates win a World Series. A competitor, he gained a decision in 88 percent of his 513 appearances and completed 82 percent of his starts.

Not one to start something he couldn't finish, Willis completed 388 of his 471 career starts. He won 20 or more games in eight of his 13 seasons and -- a workhorse if there ever was one -- never pitched fewer than 212 innings in a season.

His career involved extremes. In seasons in which Willis reached 20 wins, he compiled a 188-93 record. But in the campaigns in which he won fewer than 20, he went 60-101.

In 1902, he delivered 45 complete games, more than any NLer in the 20th century. (That was also the season he led the league in strikeouts.) But in 1904 and '05, pitching for a seventh-place team, he led the league in losses, dropping a total of 54 games. Only three times did his ERA climb above 3.00, however, and he posted a 2.63 mark for his career.

Victor Gazaway Willis (1876-1947) was born in April, the same month in which the National League played its first games. Twenty­-two years later, he broke in with Boston. He appeared in 41 games, making 38 starts, and went 25-13 with a 2.84 ERA as the Beaneaters finished in first place, six games ahead of Baltimore.

He followed that season with a 27-8 mark and a 2.50 ERA in 1899. On August 7, he pitched a no-hitter against Washington in a 7-1 triumph. After falling to 10-17 during the season in 1900, Willis rebounded with 47 victories over the course of the next two years.

Boston, however, was sliding in the standings, and Willis's record suffered, too. An off-season trade sent him to Pittsburgh in time for the 1906 season, where the pattern changed. Whereas Boston had fallen from its glamour days of the 1890s, Pittsburgh was on the way to the top.

Willis joined right in and did his part for the Buccaneers. In his four seasons with the Pirates, he won 89 games and lost only 46 for a .659 winning percentage. Meanwhile, the Pirates finished third, second, second, and finally first.

Despite his impressive play in 1909, Willis did not play a prominent part in the World Series against Detroit. He chipped in with relief work in Game 2 and was the unfortunate victim as Ty Cobb stole home. It seems as though the Georgia Peach got the best of the Delaware Peach. Willis then started and lost Game 6. The following year, he was with St. Louis for the final season of his career.

Here are Vic Willis' major league totals:


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