Big Ed: The Story of Ed Walsh

Bleacher Report Senior Writer IOctober 24, 2008

Ed "Big Ed" Walsh is the best Chicago White Sox pitcher-ever. Walsh was born on May 14, 1881 in Plains, Pennsylvania. His parents were Irish immigrants who had thirteen children. In his youth, Ed Walsh worked in coal mines.

After playing baseball for a local semi pro team, Walsh was signed by Wilkes-Barre of the Pennsylvania State League in 1902. Walsh pitched four games and won a game and moved up to Meriden of the Connecticut League. There, he was impressive. He was 15-5. The next year, he won twenty games, between Meriden and Newark.

His 20 wins caught the eye of the worst owner of all time in Charley Comiskey. Walsh was not really a big time prospect. He didn't have much of a reportoire, but Comiskey, being the cheapskate that he is, decided to sign Walsh for $750.

In 1904, Walsh learned the spitball from Elmer Stricklett, also a rookie. The way Walsh threw it, it had no rotation, so it was basically a knuckleball.

Stricklett taught him well.

Walsh liked throwing the pitch, but couldn't control it very well. Walsh struggled in his first two years, winning just 14 games combined. In 1906, he finally put it together.

The 1906 White Sox were an incredible baseball team. They finished 93-58 and had greats on the team such as Walsh. Their offense was incredible, as no starter hit .300. However, their rotation was legendary. It consisted of Walsh (17-13, 1.88), Frank Owen (22-13, 2.33), Nick Altrock (20-13, 2.06), Doc White (18-6, 1.52) and Roy Patterson (10-7, 2.09).

That year, the Sox beat the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, four games to two.

In the series, Nick Altrock and Ed Walsh set the tone.

Altrock outdueled Hall of Famer Three Finger Brown in game one, winning by a score of 2-1. Cubs starter Ed Ruelbach dominated the Sox the next day, one hitting them. In game three, Walsh took the hill. The spitball was rarely used by National League pitchers. The Cubs showed they hadn't seen it, striking out twelve times and had three hits, losing 3-0. Brown came right back in game four to outduel Altrock, 1-0. In game five, Walsh pitched again. Walsh was very good, but not at his best. He yielded two runs in seven innings. He was charged with four unearned runs, but he got the win and the Sox were up three to two. In game six, Brown was crushed by the Sox, who roped 14 hits and won 8-3.

The next year, Walsh went 24-18 with a 1.60 earned run average. The less then impressive record is misleading, though. Walsh had eight losses in which he allowed two or less runs and lost. He had 37 complete games in 46 starts and pitched 422 innings. His ERA also led the league.

In 1908, Walsh had, in my opinion, the best season by a pitcher. He had 40 wins. I think that's a typo. No wait, it's not. He had 40 wins and 15 losses, 42 complete games, 269 strikeouts and eleven shutouts. He also had a 1.42 earned run average.

Walsh slid to just 15-11 in 1909 and fans suspected he was overworked in 1907 and 1908. I agree with that.

Walsh went 18-20 the next year, but his earned run averages season-by-season are incredible. Even when he went 18 and 20, he had a 1.27 earned run average. Also, his less then impressive record is quite misleading. The Sox as a team hit .211 and made 314 errors!

He had great seasons in 1911 and 1912, but those were his last great seasons. In 1911, he was 27-18 with a 2.22 ERA. The next year, he was 27-17 with a 2.15 ERA. Both years, he finished second in MVP voting to Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker.

His arm was obviously fatigued.

From 1913 to 1917, he never pitched more then 100 innings, but his ERA never was higher then 3.50! Wow.

In his storied career, he had 195 wins, 126 losses, a 1.82 ERA and 57 shutouts. His ERA is the lowest for any pitcher with more then 1000 innings.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1946.