Former greats from the Indians and Reds were up for the HOF this year.
By HAL MCCOY FS Ohio
When Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig wrote their book, “The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All-Time” in 1988, they included pitcher Wes Ferrell.
Funny thing, though. Ferrell was not in baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Nearly 25 years later, Ferrell still isn’t in the Hall of Fame.
Two former pitchers, Cleveland’s Ferrell and Cincinnati’s Bucky Walters were among 10 finalists on a pre-integration ballot for possible 2013 induction. But when the voting results were announced Monday, they remained excluded from Cooperstown.
A committee of 16 voted and a candidate needed 75 percent (12 votes) for induction. Ferrell and Walters each received three votes or fewer, according to the Hall of Fame's press release.
Rubbing rosin into Ferrell’s snub is the fact that his brother, Rick, a catcher, is in the Hall of Fame.
Ferrell won only 190 games, but his career was cut short by a shoulder injury in 1933 after he had won 20 games in six of his first 10 major league seasons. And Ferrell is the only pitcher to win 20 or more games in his first four full seasons in the majors.
He led the American League in complete games four times and in innings pitched three times.
Why isn’t he in The Hall? Maybe his temper.
He signed with the
Indians when he was 19 but was rarely used the first two season. He pitched in only two games in 1928, his second season. The Tribe put him to use, though – they relegated him to batting practice pitcher.
One day, though, he said enough is enough and refused to pitch batting practice. So the Indians sent him deep into the minors, to Terre Haute in the low-level Three-I League, where he was 20-8.
The Indians brought him back in 1929 and this time it was to pitch. And pitch he did. He was 21-10, the start of his four-year run of 20 wins or more.
His temper, though, never subsided. Several times during his career he was fined and/or suspended for refusing to leave the mound when the manager wanted him to leave — did that help him lead the league four times in complete games? — or for leaving the mound when the manager didn’t want him to leave.
During one tantrum, he turned the clubhouse into wreckage, ripped his uniform into strips of rags and punched himself in the jaw so hard to nearly scored a knockout.
In 1931, he pitched a no-hitter on April 29 against the St. Louis Browns and the closest the Browns came to a hit was a ball stroked by his brother, St. Louis catcher Rick, but it was ruled an error.
Ferrell also drove four runs that game. Later in the season he also hit two home runs in a game in August.
And that was another facet of Ferrell’s game — he could hit almost as well as his Hall of Fame brother.
He once drove in six runs in a game and five times he hit two home runs in a game. When his shoulder crashed in 1933, he played his last 13 games for Cleveland in the outfield.
“I didn’t see any big deal in being a good hitter as well as a good pitcher,” he once told an interviewer.
The Indians traded him to the
Boston Red Sox after the 1933 season and he bounced from Boston to Washington to the New York Yankees to the Brooklyn Dodgers to the Boston Braves. He pitched only four innings for Brooklyn and one inning for the Braves in 1941 and retired, sort of. He remained playing in the low minors, but as an outfielder, and won two batting titles.
Walters was a hitter, too, but not good enough. He signed with the Boston Braves as a third baseman and was traded to the Boston Red Sox as an infielder.
It was when the Red Sox traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1934 that Walters found his niche — on the mound instead of at the hot corner.
Even then, it took another trade to ignite his career because he was only 34-45 in three years with the Phillies, including 11-21 in 1936.
Reds saw something. They traded two players, Spud Davis and Al Hollingsworth and threw in $50,000 to get Walters in 1939.
Using his drop ball — called a sinker these days — Walters became a force when the Reds acquired him.
It was a trade that pushed the Reds over the top as Walters helped pitch them to a pennant in 1939 and a World Series championship in 1940.
Walters won a pitcher’s version of the triple crown in 1939 when he had the most wins in the National League (27-11), the best earned run average (2.29) and the most strikeouts (137).
In 1940, the Reds trailed the Detroit Tigers three games to two in the World Series and Walters won Game 2 with a three-hitter. Pitching Game 6 four days later, Walters pitched a five-hit shutout and the Reds won Game 7.
Walters was 160-107 in 11 years with the Reds and was a six-time All-Star and three times led the National League in wins.