The Day I Met a Pitching Star From 1911

You know you are getting old when you can tell people you met a pitching star whose rookie season was 1911. That was a century ago. 

 I am not a time traveler, I did not meet him in 1911; but at my age when reflecting on early parts of my life it sometimes seems  I am traveling through time.  The present is a totally different world from the late 1950’s.

I was in either grade school or perhaps junior high (middle school). My father had been  a pitcher in his youth, playing in an industrial league where I grew up. He gave that up when he decided to marry and have a family.

One of the umpires in the industrial league was a former major league pitcher who had an eatery in downtown Hoquiam, Washington, where I grew up. He told my dad-this is dad’s story- that this umpire told him he was good enough to pitch in the Pacific Coast League.

Who Knows? 

Vean Gregg with the Cleveland Indians.

Image via Wikipedia

 But my dad took me to the eatery and introduced me to Vean Gregg, a pitcher who had a Hall of Fame start to his career until his arm went bad. In his rookie year of 1911 with the Cleveland Indians he was 23-7 with a league leading 1.80 ERA. Had there been a Rookie of the Year award he would have won.

The next two years he was 20-13 both seasons with ERA’s of 2.59 and 2.54. Then arms woes. He was 9-3 in 1914 before being traded to the Red Sox where he went 4-4. He was with Boston through 1916, then the Philadelphia A’s in 1918 and a final fling with Washington in 1925. His career record was 92-63 with a 2.70 ERA.

I remember sitting on a lunch counter stool and looking at Gregg as my father introduced me. I recall Gregg had nice smile and I have this image of the three of us going to a back room where I got to see some memorabilia. 

He played on the same team as Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the great hitters of the game. He was also a teammate of Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie. Gregg also played with the only player to be killed by a pitched ball, Ray Chapman.

And oh, yes, when he was traded to Boston he was on the same staff with a 19 year old pitcher named Babe Ruth.

Babe Ruth pitching with Boston Red Sox, Comins...

Image via Wikipedia

I wish I could recall every word of the conversation.  Did I ask him what it was like to pitch to Ty Cobb? I remember images, not the words of the conversation. Knowing what I now know of baseball history I wish I could have that conversation again.

But at least I have the memory of meeting Vean Gregg, a star pitcher for three great seasons. That is what baseball can do. Give you memories that link to a bygone era. Sort of like being a time traveler.

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