Sunday, March 20, 2005

March 20th, 1984

Stan Coveleski Born

One of my Obscure Hall of Famers, Stan Coveleski was a pitcher in the teens and twenties and among the seventeen pitchers who had their use of the spitball "grandfathered" after the pitch was outlawed prior to the 1920 season. The decision to grandfather those seventeen was something of an odd one; although we think of them today as "spitball pitchers" in those days, everyone threw a spitball. Now, people like Coveleski were perhaps more skilled (and almost certainly more blatant), but in truth, everyone did it. If you could mark up the ball, there was no reason not to. And given how rarely balls in play were replaced, a pitcher was likely to find that if he hadn't messed with the ball, his counterpart probably had.

Back to Coveleski, he lasted until 1928 throwing his spitball, mixing it with a curve and fastball, although contemporaries characterized his success as being entirely based on the spitter. In The Glory of Their Times Coveleski was quoted as saying that he produced the necessary spit by keeping alum in his mouth (an unappealing thought, that) and was able to make his spitter break down, out, or a combination thereof.

Coveleski used the spitter to win two-hundred fifteen games with an ERA twenty-percent better than league average for his career. Although he's not the worst pitcher in the Hall of Fame (hello Rube Marquard) he is among them, and must make poor Bert Blyleven bang his head against the wall whenever he sees Stan's Hall of Fame plaque.

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