Meal Ticket: The Story of Carl Hubbell
Arguably the best New York/San Francisco Giants pitcher of all time, Carl Hubbell got the nickname "Meal Ticket" because that's what he was to the Giants. Hubbell earned two National League Most Valuable Player awards, an incredible accomplishment for the pitcher, as the award is usually given to hitters.
What most remember him for is his 1934 all-star game performance. He struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin...consecutively. All five of these hitters are Hall-of-Famers. Hubbell's screwball was devastating.
Hubbell was born in Carthage, Missouri in 1903. Oddly enough, Hubbell didn't even throw a screwball in high school, and he wasn't credited for his other pitches by scouts.
However, the Detroit Tigers took an interest in him, and at 22, he signed with them in 1925. But in three seasons, he never pitched an inning for them.
After that bad experience, he was ready to leave baseball and get a job in the oil business. However, the New York Giants and Hubbell had mutual interest—it was settled. Hubbell was sold to the Giants. After being promoted to the Giants from the minors, he started using a screwball.
Hubbell explained how it started by saying, "I was in a jam with men on and Chick Hafey was at bat, and the count was three-and-one on him, I was plenty worried. Shanty Hogan was catching and he signaled for a fastball. I threw Chick a screwball and it fooled him. Shanty gave me the fastball sign again and I threw another screwball and struck Hafey out."
That at bat saved Hubbell from a career of mediocrity. Shanty Hogan intelligently advised Hubbell to keep using his screwball. As a result, Hubbell led the league in earned run average and wins three times. He also had five straight 20-win seasons and his control was excellent, he allowed a mere two walks per nine innings.
In 1929, Hubbell threw a no-hitter against Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1933, he carried the Giants to a pennant, leading the league in both wins and ERA. In July, he had a span of 45.1 scoreless innings, that stood until 1968, when it as broken by Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the World Series in 1933, he was incredible. Hubbell pitched 20 consecutive innings without an earned run, and had two wins and no losses.
Then came the 1934 all-star game. He started out pretty poorly as he allowed a single to Charlie Gehringer and walked Heinie Manush. Then, he struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx all in a row, to end the inning.
He started out the next inning by striking out Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. Between the five of them, there are 2,218 home runs, 9,385 RBI and 13,452 hits.
However, that's not Hubbell's best, in my mind. In 1936, he got 16 straight victories and won another MVP award.
In 1943, the Giants named Hubbell the farm director of the franchise and he held that position until 1977, when he became a scout. In 1947, "Meal Ticket" was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Thank you, Shanty Hogan.
Career Statistics: 253 wins, 154 losses, 2.98 ERA, .622 Win percentage.
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