Clubhouse Headcase, Fan Favorite: The Story Of Rube Waddell
George Edward "Rube" Waddell was born on October 13, 1876 in Bradford, Pennsylvania. John, his dad, labored in the Pennsylvania oil fields as an employee of the National Transit Company. His mom, Mary, gave birth to Rube, the sixth child in a stacked family.
When Rube was a teen, the Waddells moved to Butler County, Pennsylvania. This is where Rube's baseball legacy is. He began playing baseball in sandlots and grew up watching greats such as Wee Willie Keeler, Hughie Jennings and others. He played for numerous amounts of semi pro teams.
In 1897, at 21, he earned a try out with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who released him before he even played a game, likely because of his alleged "retartedness". He had brekfast with manager Patsy Donovan, who sent him back to Butler County forty minutes later. The Louisville Courier Post said: "Patsy heard him talk and released him as soon as breakfast was over."
The Louisville Colonels looked past the "mental retardness". They signed him later that year. In his debut, he lost to the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1. However, it was encouraging, as the O's were the defending champions and he showed poise in his debut. After appearing in relief a little bit, Waddell was sent to the minor leagues.
He began 1898 with Detroit of the Western League. He pitched just nine games and was kicked off because of a fine that is unclear. Waddell came back in 1899 in the Western League, where he won 26 and lost just eight for Columbus.
He rejoined Louisville and won seven, compared to just two defeats.
During the off season, Rube returned to Columbus, where he married Florence Dunning, the first of his three wives. When he was alive, he didn't even remember that he married three women.
In an event which didn't come as a shock to the public, Rube was divorced by Florence two years later. When the Colonels moved to the National League in 1900, Waddell was traded among nine others to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was clear from the beginning it wouldn't work. Manager Fred Clarke was a "no nonsense" guy and Waddell was involved in plenty of nonsense.
He played one season there, winning eight and losing thirteen. Despite an un-flattering record, he had a 2.37 earned run average. He also missed two months of the season. After losing his first two decisions, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he had 14 wins and as many losses along with a 2.81 ERA.
Waddell was AGAIN traded in 1902, to Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics. His career turned around. In 1902, he had a 24-7 record and a 2.05 ERA. He had solid seasons in 1903, 1904 and 1905. He had win totals of 21, 25 and 27.
In between starts, he would get hammered and wrestle with alligators as part of a carnival. Despite his wild nature, the fans loved him. He was a true crowd pleaser and rarely let them down. He would often come to the games in which he pitched three or four minutes before first pitch.
After winning 15 in in 1906 and 19 in 1907, his wild nature earned him another trade-this one to the St. Louis Browns. There, he won 19 and lost 14 in his first season and was 11-14 in his second and last full season in Major League Baseball. In 1910, he won three and lost one. The once chunky Waddell was down to 130 pounds in 1914 at the mere age of 38.
He passed away on April 1, 1914. Connie Mack, always one for kinds words, said "He was the greatest pitcher in the game, and although widely known for his eccentricities, was more sinned against than sinner. He may have failed us at times but to him, I and the other owners of the Athletics ball club, owe much." He was laid to rest in Mission Burial Park South, in San Antonio."
In his career, he had 193 wins, 143 losses and a 2.16 earned run average. Despite his wild personality, you have to like a guy like Rube.
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