"Say, did you ever hear of Rube Waddell?"
"Sure, I got an autographed ball from him."
Studs said Rube was no good. Danny didn't have any right to have a ball from Rube Waddell. Studs walked away sore.
- James T. Farrell (The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan)
Some people have said that George Edward "Rube" Waddell was the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball. His earned run average of 2.16 - #11 in the history of baseball - is still the lowest for left handed pitchers. He ranks # 19 in shutouts, and for five consecutive years he led the league in strikeouts. But what will most flabbergast those who have never heard of Rube is his ranking as a home run hitter. In his best year in Philly, he was #8 in overall homers.
Rube hit five.
Obviously there's something up here, and the true cognoscenti will realize that Rube played during the so-called "dead-ball era", that is, the years before the First World War. In the early days of the game, home runs were actually inconsequential for winning a ballgame, and the leader in homers might hit 12 in a season. Then in 1919 another pitcher - and a very good one - smacked 29 balls out of the park. That was Babe Ruth, and in 1920, his HR talley was 54. The dead ball era was over.
Rube was known as much for his antics on and off the field and his undoubtedly strange personality as for his pitching (which the great Connie Mack said was the best he had ever seen). Unfortunately, Rube's career was also during the days where newspapers thought a sensational story was better for copy than an accurate one (and we're glad that isn't true now, aren't we?). So we can't be sure how much we read about Rube really happened or not. But for some stories about Rube - which if not true then oughta be - just click here.