Friday, August 17, 2007

Meet The Neighbors

Erik Bedard is in rarefied Oriole air this season as he closes in on the Oriole record for strikeouts in a season. He has already passed the likes of Jim Palmer and Dave McNally and has only Mike Mussina to beat for the record. But there are more impressive goals that Bedard can meet this season. Remember, this franchise was the old St. Louis Browns whose history goes back to the turn of the last century and Baltimore's lefty ace has a very good shot at becoming the franchise leader in strikeouts as well. Here's the top five strikeout performances in franchise history:

Ks Year

Rube Wadell 232 1908

Bobo Newsom 226 1938

Mike Mussina 218 1997

Mike Mussina 210 2000

Erik Bedard 207 2007

Bedard is all but assured of passing Mussina's seasons (barring injury, don't want to jinx it) and with more than a month left in the season has a very good shot at taking the top spot as well.

So who are these guys? Any fan of Baltimore (or baseball in general) of the last 20 years knows Mike Mussina's story so I'm gonna skip him. Let's meet the rest of the company shall we?

Bobo Newsom (1929-1953)

Bobo had one of the most unusual careers (and nicknames) you will ever find in baseball. He was the classic journeyman but was able to parlay modest successes into an unusually long career. He played for 9 different teams over the course of his career and made multiple stops at most of them including 5 different stints for the Washington Senators and 3 different stops as a St. Louis Brown. He started his career in Brooklyn in 1929 playing for manager Wilbert "Uncle Robbie" Robinson. This gives Newsom yet another Baltimore connection as Robinson was the great catcher for the champion NL Baltimore Orioles of the 1890's.

Bobo was an eccentric character and pioneered the art of referring to oneself in the third person 40 years before it was popularized by Moses Malone and Rickey Henderson. Bobo pitched opening day during one of his games for the Senators and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in attendance. An errant throw by his own third baseman fractured Bob's jaw but he continued to pitch and finished the game. When asked why he stayed in the game he replied, "When the president comes to see Bobo pitch, Ol' Bobo ain't a-gonna disappoint him."

The highlight of his career was in 1940 when he won two games for the Detroit Tigers in the World Series and pitched a masterful game in a losing effort in Game 7 as they dropped the series to the Cincinatti Reds.

In 1938, Newsom went 20-16 despite his 5.08 ERA. He struck out 226 in 329.7 innings (!). He has held second place on the franchise list for 69 years.

Rube Waddell (1897-1910)

Waddell was a pitching star at the turn of the last century and is in the Hall of Fame. Oddly enough, he too was quite an eccentric character although in slightly more frightening ways.

Waddell liked to drink but had some eccentric quirks besides. He used to chase fire engines, wrestle alligators and had to be escorted by teammates to ensure he would make it to the games. There's more, a lot more here.

However, his pitching prowess was never in question. At his peak with the Philadelphia A's he led the league in strikeouts for six straight seasons, set an AL record with 349 strikeouts in a season that would stand for 70 years (broken by Nolan Ryan) and recorded 50 shutouts for his career. Rube was famous for going out for the final inning of exhibition games and telling his outfielders and infielders to stay on the bench and then striking out the side. His fastball was only rivaled by the great Walter Johnson.

The Athletics sent him to the St. Louis Browns after the 1907 season due to perceived declining skills. He put together one last great season in 1908 going 19-14 with a 1.81 ERA. His 232 strikeouts that season were second most in the AL. The first time he faced his former Philadelphia teammates, he struck out 16 of them.

If and when Erik Bedard passes him, he will break a franchise record that has stood for 99 years.

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