Rube Waddell

I’ve been listening to an audio book that Hanspostcard recommended and it’s bringing back a lot of memories of my childhood. The book is The Glory of their Times.  When I was a kid I bought any book on baseball or the Beatles I could find…I had a keen interest in old baseball players like Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, and more. My first baseball book was on Christy Mathewson.

Rube could bring it. His career record was 193-143 with a 2.16 ERA. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946. He pitched from 1897 to 1910 with the Louisville Colonels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Orphans, Philadelphia Athletics, and the St. Louis Browns. Waddell still holds the AL single-season strikeout record by a left-handed pitcher. Not as easy to strike out batters at that time because of all of the slap hitters…way before the homerun was popular.

Rube Waddell held a special place in my heart for being so…uh different. He was a childlike man who opposing teams would often buy toys or shiny objects to distract him while he was pitching…he wouldn’t bear down on them if he was happy.

The hardest part was getting him to the park. He would miss starts while playing marbles with kids, fishing, hunting, drinking,  or chasing fire engines. It’s been said that he had to be restrained when he heard a fire bell.  After a win he sometimes would do cartwheels on the mound.

In the off season he took to wrestling alligators. It’s also said he would lose track of how many times he was married and of punching a lion in the face at a show and it bit his left hand.

He was one of baseball’s first gate attractions because you never knew what he would do.

What I didn’t understand as a kid was there was sadness behind the wacky things Waddell did. His was  nicknamed Waddell the sousepaw, a reference to his drinking habit and him being left handed.  Many have speculated that Waddell was clinically disabled or at the very least affected by a personality disorder.

In Kentucky 1912 he was helping people in a flood and caught pneumonia. He then helped in a second flood in the same location and caught pneumonia again.  That same year, while in Minneapolis, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He died in 1914.

He didn’t have 300 wins for a milestone but he did have 4 seasons of over 20 wins and two more with 19. He also topped 300 strikeouts twice and 200 strikeouts 5 times.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

6 thoughts on “Rube Waddell”

  1. Rube is one of those guys that I could never understand- no matter how much I have read about him. he was like a child in an adult world. In one of his books Bill James speculated that he may have been what would be called today- mentally challenged or developmentally challenged. I wonder how he would have done in the modern world as a ballplayer? Think of all the distractions today. A team would have to have a team of people around him- maybe just to make sure he showed up at the ballpark every day. What a talent though. Great write up-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a kid he was like Keith Moon to me…only further out there. From what team mates said he was a good guy just totally unpredictable.
      He must have had a great fastball with all of those strikeouts…especially during that time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting story about a player I’d never heard of. baseball sure had its share of “characters” back then in the early-20th C. Very few these days… Mark Fydrich is last really unusual one who pops into my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought Puig was going to be one but he wasn’t. The thing about the characters of the game… is you usually have to be good to great….to be kept…and Rube was

      Liked by 1 person

      1. no question. I mean if you’re going to be a distraction, or worse yet cause the team trouble you have to be outstanding on the field to stick. I mean why would anyone want to keep, say a .240 hitting, slowish corner outfielder if he couldn’t be relied on to show up for games or throws temper tantrums or whatever?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I want to read a book on this guy…I mean something had to be wrong with him. I like “characters” like Keith Moon and others but there is always a reason they are like that.


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