“Batter, batter, batter!”

April 13, 2011

ED REULBACH

I was surprised the other day when I stumbled across the information that Ed Reulbach is buried in a Catholic cemetery in Montclair, New Jersey. I have always associated Reulbach with the Chicago Cubs, and I have never associated him with New Jersey.

Reulbach’s name is not well known today, except by people like me who live in the past. He was well known in his own time, however; he was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. Actually, in some respects he has had relatively few equals in the whole history of the game, but he pitched in the dead-ball era and he isn’t on the minds of the play-by-play announcers whose memories don’t go back much farther than the 1960s.

I’m in the midst of reading The House that Ruth Built, a new book about the 1923 baseball season in New York. (A review will follow soon.) The author refers to a pitcher who threw both ends of a double header, and that’s what got me thinking about Reulbach. Modern pitchers are such fragile creatures that the idea of one of them throwing a double header is absurd. A modern pitcher rarely throws more than five or six innings at a time.

JOE McGINNITY

This wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t long ago that a starting pitcher was expected to throw a complete game. Whether he did or not depended on his performance on the mound, not the number of pitches he threw. Even then, pitching double headers was unheard of after 1926, when Dutch Levsen, pitching for the Indians, became the last to do it.

The most spectacular performance in this regard was turned in by “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity of the New York Giants, who pitched three double headers in the month of August, 1903, and won all six games without relief. McGinnity won 31 games that year. Perhaps more significantly — in view of the modern practice of counting pitches — he won 35 games in 1904, , 21 in 1905, and 27 in 1906.

Altogether, there were 45 instances of a pitcher throwing a double-header. Grover Cleveland Alexander did it a couple of times. Also in this elite group was Fred Toney, who won a double bill for Cincinnati in 1917. What’s even more remarkable is that in that same season, Toney and Hippo Vaughan of the Chicago Cubs joined in the only game in history in which both pitchers pitched no-hitters for nine innings. Vaughan lost it in the 10th.

Reulbach’s performance stands out, because on September 26, 1908, he pitched two games for the Cubs against Brooklyn, and they were both shutouts. He’s the only pitcher in the history of the game to pull that off. To emphasize his point, he allowed a total of eight hits in the two games.

ED REULBACH

For the record, Reulbach pitched nine more seasons after the year of his double shutouts and he finished with a .632 won-loss percentage and an ERA of 2.28.

So why is he buried in New Jersey — along with his wife and their son? I notice in his stats that Reulbach played the 1915 season with the Newark Peppers in the short-lived Federal League, which was the last serious attempt to establish a league to compete with the American and National circuits. The Federal was given major league status retroactively in 1968.
Reulbach finished his career in 1916 and 1917 with the Boston Braves, but maybe he had settled his family in New Jersey and didn’t want to move again.
His son was ill for most of his life, and that might have been a consideration.
Reulbach is largely forgotten now. It’s a melancholy thing that his grave marker takes no notice of his baseball career. He deserves better; he was a powerhouse on the mound, still among the very best in several categories.
There’s a detailed biography of the pitcher at THIS LINK.

The stone on the Ruelbach family grave makes no mention of the pitcher's career. His lifetime ERA has been bettered only 10 times, and he was the first pitcher to throw a one-hitter in World Series play.

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2 Responses to ““Batter, batter, batter!””

  1. shoreacres Says:

    Very interesting about Ruelbach, especially since “pitch count” is one thing I hear discussed in terms of our poor Astros.

    Most of my attention was drawn by your title, though. I didn’t have a clue what “batter, batter, batter” meant. Now, I’ve been introduced to the concept of “chatter”, watched a hilarious parody of baseball applied to life (“Lawyer, lawyer, lawyer, sue lawyer!),
    discovered the “batter batter” clip from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and watched Bugs Bunny beat the Gorillas to the tune of Trace Adkins “Swing Batter Swing”.

    So much education in one night!

  2. charlespaolino Says:

    Chatter has at times played a large role in baseball. Some players can take the heckling from the other bench, and some can’t. It affects their performance. Umpires are often the targets of the chatter. We were at a minor league game a few years ago, sitting right behind the plate. I couldn’t hear the home team catcher, but I could see his jaw moving almost non-stop while he was crouched behind the plate. Around the third or fourth inning, I told my wife, “This catcher isn’t going to last the game.” Sure enough, he finally said just the right — or wrong — thing, and the umpire tossed him out.

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