One of early baseball’s most colorful characters, Rube Waddell was also one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. Joining the Majors during one of its most turbulent periods, Waddell bounced between the Louisville Colonels, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Orphans between 1897 and 1901. It was in 1902, when he was plucked out of the minors by Connie Mack, that the troubled lefty joined the Philadelphia Athletics and had the first of six consecutive seasons leading the American League in strikeouts. He would win twenty games four years in a row and capture the pitching triple-crown in 1905. His lifetime ERA of 2.81 is eleventh all time, but his lifetime win total of 193 is relatively low for a Hall of Famer, primarily because his career was cut short by hard living and odd behavior. Stories of Waddell’s drinking, as well his being distracted by puppies and chasing fire trucks, are legion and they color his legacy. His death, however, was tragic and heroic. In 1912 he helped the people of Hickman, Kentucky stack sandbags against an oncoming flood and with his already compromised immune system, he caught pneumonia. The following year he would contract tuberculosis. He died in 1914, on April Fool’s Day.
Interred in the same cemetery as fellow Hall of Famer Ross Youngs, Waddell is buried just minutes from The Alamo.
January 5, 2014
San Antonio, TX