Monday, October 23, 2006

October 23rd, 1894

Rube Bressler Born

Ah, for the good ol' days when ball players were, as a matter of routine, nicknamed things like "Rube." That's Raymond Bloom Bressler if we're being formal about it which, insofar as baseball nicknames in the teens were concerned, they obviously were not. Like a handful of other players--Babe Ruth most famously--Bressler began his career as a pitcher but ended it as a full-time offensive player.

The beginning of his career was the source of his nickname, as he earned the sorbiquet from other, more successful southpaws like Rube Marquard and Rube Waddell, the latter of whom really personified the term. In 1914, however, Bressler was a sensation and seemingly well-deserving of the nickname, going 10-4 with a 1.77 ERA for the pennant winning A's. In 1915, however, Connie Mac decimated the team and with names like Kopf and Schang behind him instead of Collins and Baker Bressler's ERA skyrocketed to 5.20. Having thrown more than three hundred innings between ages nineteen and twenty Bressler also began to suffer arm trouble and it appeared his career was over.

As it turned out, Bressler was just getting started. After a couple more unsuccessful years pitching, Bressler--to that point a career .181 hitter began to see time in the outfield. Batting right-handed with a split-hand grip on the bat taken from Ty Cobb Bressler incredibly began to develop into a quality hitter. Despite one last hooray as a pitcher in 1918, Bressler was already becoming a position player. By 1921, just a few years after he first saw time in the outfield, Bressler hit .307. In 1924 he had actually become one of the better offensive players in the league, hitting .347 and sporting a 133 OPS+. Bressler never such regular action again, but he remained a viable bat until as late as 1930.

For his career Bressler ended up with just twenty-six wins (against thirty-two losses) and a 3.40 ERA. However, he lasted nineteen seasons in the big leagues thanks to a lifetime .301 batting average and 110 OPS+. As neither pitcher nor hitter was he Babe Ruth, but Rube Bressler proved you needn't have been the Bambino to make the transition.

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