Home > Uncategorized > A visit with Rube Waddell

A visit with Rube Waddell

A big left-hander who pitched in the Major Leagues from 1897, 1898-1910, he was 193-143 lifetime. One has to wonder what his lifetime wins-against-losses record would’ve been if he’d been a more dependable player, not given to alcoholism or to what would be considered Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder today.

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Rube Waddell during his playing days.

His career earned run average of 2.16 and his 2,316 career strikeouts (six times, he led the league in strikeouts as a pitcher) are both astonishing, considering he pitched in the Deadball Era, when batters focused more on making contact with the ball and getting on base rather than trying to hit tape-measure home runs. 

The true irony of George Edward “Rube” Waddell was that he had little control over his personal behavior or his spending habits, but had excellent control of his fastballs and curveballs. Baseball managers, such as Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics, tolerated Rube because, when he was on, he was close to unhittable. Unfortunately, he was also high maintenance: he’d often show up late or not at all for scheduled starts, would leave a game abruptly to follow fire engines and was easily distracted by opponents.

And, on March 16, I got to meet him.

That day my sons and I went to Mission Burial Park South to visit the final resting place of Rube Waddell. He died in a sanitarium on April 1, 1914 at 37 of complications from pneumonia. Having no money, it’s been said Waddell would’ve been buried in a pauper’s grave if not for the generosity of Mack.

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A few weeks from now on April 1, 2014, it will mark the 100th anniversary of Waddell’s passing. His tombstone is an impressive large, vertical slab, about six feet tall. There is what appears to be a stone ball protruding out of the top. As I looked at the slab, weathered by time, I wondered how many people know this is the final resting place for a man who, for the first decade of the 20th century, was considered one of the top draws in Major League Baseball.

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Waddell,” I said. “I’m sorry your life ended so soon. I read about your life and it sounds like you were very fun to watch play. I don’t know what your spiritual beliefs were, but I’d love to see you in heaven someday.”

Next time I visit, I think I’ll print out a picture of Waddell, laminate it and leave it there along with a baseball.

Richard Zowie’s favorite baseball team is the Houston Astros, Like Waddell, he is also left-handed. Post comments here or e-mail them to fromatozowie@gmail.com. 

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