Eddie Plank is one of the best starting pitchers in baseball history. Plank was level headed, reliable and had no sense of humor, the polar opposite of teammate Rube Waddell.
Plank was born on May 13, 1901 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. That's how he earned the nickname "Gettysburg Eddie". He went to Gettysburg Academy and worked part time as a tour guide of the battlefields there.
He also attended Gettysburg College. Up to that time, he hadn't played much baseball. Gettysburg manager Frank Foreman convinced him to play and was doing A's manager Connie Mack a favor. Plank excelled at Gettysburg and Foreman recommended him to Mack.
Mack was impressed.
He signed Plank in 1901. Eddie never even played in the minors. He made the jump all the way to the majors. In his first game, he allowed three runs in four innings. As a rookie, he was quite impressive. He had 17 wins and 13 losses and a 3.31 ERA.
The next year in 1902, the A's won the pennant and Plank 20-15 with a 3.30 ERA. In 1903, Plank won 23 games and had a 2.38 ERA, the first of 15 straight years with an ERA below 2.90.
In 1904, he won 26 games and had a 2.17 earned run average. Despite consistency in the regular season, he had tough luck in the postseason-especially in the Fall Classic.
In 1910, Mack wanted him to sit out the series since he wanted only right handers to pitch. In his World Series career, he had an amazing 1.38 ERA. However, he won two games and was defeated five times.
After a World Series loss in 1914, Mack decided he wanted to rebuild and let most of his veteran stars go-including Plank.
“Eddie was one of the smartest left-handed pitchers in baseball. He was master of the cross-fire delivery and that was one of his big assets," Mack once said.
Plank switched to the Federal League and played for St. Louis. For St. Louis, Plank won 21 games, but the league collapsed. Plank would be forced to come back to Major League Baseball.
He pitched for the St. Louis Browns. For them, he had two great seasons. He was 16 and 15 with a 2.33 ERA in his first season. His last season was 1917. He had a very mediocre season record wise, winning five and losing six. However, his lack of run support was evident, as he had a losing record despite having a 1.79 earned run average.
Hall of Fame second basemen Eddie Collins once said “Plank was not the fastest, not the trickiest and not the possessor of the most stuff. He was just the greatest.”
I second that.
Plank holds two records for southpaws. No left handed pitcher has more career complete games then him, with 410. Also, no southpaw has more shutouts then him, with 69.
After he retired from baseball, Plank returned to his native Gettysburg, where he operated a garage. He died there in 1926 at age 50 after suffering a stroke.
In 1946, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Ironically, Rube Waddell was honored that same year.
However, Plank had a much better career.
Plank had 326 wins and 194 losses to go with a 2.35 earned run average. He only had two seasons with an ERA above three.
Waddell had 193 wins and 143 losses, totaling a .543 winning percentage, while Plank's winning percentage was .625.
Also, Plank was no scrub with a bat in his hands. Despite a low average of .206, he recorded 331 hits, which is in the top 20 for pitchers. Hey, he could compete with Melky Cabrera for the Yankees center field job! Kidding.
But, the Gettysburg man was a legend with his arm.