Charley Radbourn's Eye-Opening Story

Bleacher Report Senior Writer IOctober 13, 2008

Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn was one of the greatest pitchers ever—and one of the meanest. He was very difficult to like. He was a hard drinker, erratic, capricious, and ill-tempered.

He also won a still-standing record 59 games and often filled in at other positions when not dominating hitters.

However, his personality earned him the nickname "Old Hoss."

At least he had a nickname.

As a rookie in 1880, he injured his arm and was limited to platooning in the infield for Buffalo. He recovered the next year and won 25 games for Providence.

He shared the mound with John Montgomery Ward.

In 1882, he had 20 losses, but won 33 games. He also led the league in strikeouts and shutouts. He was great in 1883, when he led the league in appearances and wins with 48. He also was second in the league in complete games, innings, strikeouts, and ERA.

His personality continued to hold him back. He had a very suspicious personality and rumor spread that he was insane. In 1884, he was in his fifth season in the majors, and Providence decided to bring up 21-year-old rookie Bill Sweeney. Of course, Radbourn was jealous and immediately hated Sweeney.

At midseason, Old Hoss was suspended. He did something very unfathomable when he cursed out his catcher and threw a ball at him, knocking him to the ground.

Radbourn did that because he dropped a third strike! Put Ty Cobb on this guy's team!

After Radbourn returned, Sweeney decided to leave Providence for St. Louis of the Union Association. This was obviously out of fright.

Now, the pitching duties belonged to one man and one man only: Charley Radbourn.

Radbourn immediately offered to pitch the rest of the season for small pay. However, he wanted the right to become a free agent after the season. Providence management agreed, and the suspension was dropped.

Old Hoss didn't pitch every game, but almost every one. He pitched every game from Aug. 21 to Sept. 15, which resulted in a 20-game winning streak and won the team the pennant.

He pitched nearly 700 innings in one year! That is just an inning short of the record set by Will White in 1879.

His 59 wins in 1884 are six more than any other pitcher. Most of his wins were during the win streak. He also led the league in ERA that year.

Because of his 678-and-two-thirds innings, his arm took the punishment. Some days, people said Radbourn couldn't even comb his hair because his arm was so damaged.

Although he won 20 games the next three seasons, his winning percentage wasn't nearly as good, and his strikeout totals plummeted.

His career record was legendary. He had 309 wins and 195 losses, a .613 winning percentage, a solid 2.67 ERA, and 35 shutouts.

After retiring in 1891, Radbourn opened a pool hall and salon in Indiana. He lost an eye in a hunting incident in 1894 and spent the last years of life as a recluse in his salon. He died on Feb. 5, 1897 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939.

His career accomplishments include:

1884 Pitching Triple Crown

19th most wins in history (309)

24th most innings pitched in history (4,535.1)

Eighth most complete games in history (489)

Single-season win record (59)

Nine 20-win seasons

Three 30-win seasons

Two 40-win seasons

One 50-win season

Four 200-strikeout seasons

Two 300-strikeout seasons