Tuesday, February 28, 2006

 
February 28th, 1963

Eppa Rixey Dies


Eppa Rixey is one of those guys who names I know--it's distinctive--but not really much beyond it. As it turns out, Rixey is in the Hall of Fame although I'm at a loss to explain why his career record is 266-251 which is a lot of wins--thirty-fourth all time--but a fair amount of losses too--ninth all time. He never led his league in ERA, although he finished second a couple of times, his career ERA+ is just 115. He's still better than Rube Marquard, but then, so is David Wells and we're not putting him in the Hall.

Anyway, Rixey does have some good stories behind him. He was regarded as something of a Southern gentleman, having graduated from the University of Virginia (where he also excelled at basketball for the Cavaliers in addition to baseball) and opponents used to attempt to rile him by making taunts about the Civil War.

Speaking of wars, Rixey joined the army for the First World War after the 1917 when he was put off by the sales of Grover Cleveland Alexander that he retired. As it turned out, Rixey had been planning to retire after one more year anyway, and then go into the army but he kind of pitched a fit and joined the army after the 1917 season instead. Evidently, life as a doughboy made Rixey appreciate life as a ballplayer more as he returned to America in 1919 and promptly pitched for another fifteen years.

Finally, as a closing note, Rixey was apparently something of a student of pitching, he got by largely on his fastball, but knew something about when to use it. In 1927, he gave an interview explaining his theory, in rather plain words: "how dumb can hitters in this league get? I've been doing this for fifteen years. When they're batting with the county two balls and no strikes, or three and one, they're always looking for the fastball. And they never get it."




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