October 31, 2014

Addie Joss: The Best Unknown Hall of Fame Pitcher Ever

November 5, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

The story of Hall of Fame pitcher, Adrian “Addie” Joss, is one of a remarkable baseball prodigy cut short by a fatal illness. He was born on April 12, 1880, in Woodland, Wisconsin, the only child of Swiss immigrants. Joss grew up in the small community of Juneau, before starting his minor-league career with the Toledo Mud Hens of the Interstate League in 1900.

On April 26, 1902, Joss dazzled in his Major League debut twirling a complete game, one-hit shutout against the St. Louis Browns. In fact, only a sixth-inning outfield line drive, ruled a trap, denied him of tossing a no-hitter. An auspicious first appearance propelled Joss to finish his rookie season with a 17-13 record, 2.77 ERA, and an American League league-leading five shutouts.

The 6’3” lanky right-hander gained the nickname “the human hairpin” for using an exaggerated delivery to the plate. His deceptive pitching motion combined the unconventional mannerisms employed by Hideo Nomo and Juan Marichal. A corkscrew, back-turning motion to the hitter and a high leg kick to the plate enabled Joss to overwhelm American League hitters for nearly a decade. Despite his unorthodox pitching motion, Joss completed his delivery in proper fielding position.

Joss won 20 or more games, four consecutive seasons from 1905-08, including a career high 27 wins in 1907. He led the league in ERA twice, including a career low 1.16 in 1908. The right-hander completed exactly 90 percent of his 260 career starts (234 complete games) and hurled 45 shutouts. Joss displayed legendary control of his fastball and hard breaking curveball. He is the career leader in WHIP (walk+hits/innings pitched), 0.968, earning him the distinction as the toughest pitcher of all-time to reach base against.

In one of the greatest pitching duels in baseball history, Joss battled “Big” Ed Walsh on October 2, 1908 at League Park in Cleveland. An exciting three-team American League pennant race came down to the final days of the season. At the start of the game, the Chicago White Sox trailed the Cleveland Naps by one game and Cleveland trailed the Detroit Tigers by one-half game. Walsh pitched a masterful four-hitter (one unearned run allowed) striking out 15 but Joss performed even better. He fired the second perfect game in American League history using only 74 pitches! It was a game for the ages. Arthur Daley of the New York Times, 50 years later, described the performance by Addie Joss as, “the most astonishing clutch job baseball has had.” Despite his pitching heroics, Cleveland finished second (.5 games back) to Detroit and it was the closest Joss ever came to pitching in the World Series.

April 20, 1910 proved to be the last great performance of his career. Joss fired his second career no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox. It would mark the only time in MLB history that a pitcher no-hit the same team twice. However, Joss never regained his dominant pitching prowess. A stellar career appeared to be jeopardized by a torn ligament in his pitching elbow following a July 25th start against the Philadelphia Athletics. However, Joss expected to pitch again the following season despite his reoccurring arm injuries. This would turn out to be the least of his problems.

On April 3, 1911, Joss fainted on the field prior to an exhibition game in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His physical condition deteriorated so rapidly that he died eleven days later from tubercular meningitis, two days after his 31st birthday. He posted a career record of 160-97 and an incredible 1.89 ERA, second lowest in MLB history.

Joss was so revered throughout the league that a collection of All-Star players including Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, and Walter Johnson played an exhibition game against the Cleveland Naps to raise money for his widow and two sons. Hall of Fame Second Basemen/Manager, Napoleon Lajoie said, “In Joss’ death, baseball loses one of the best pitchers and men that has ever been identified with the game.”

In 1978, the Veteran’s Committee inducted Addie Joss into the National Baseball Hall of Fame despite pitching only nine seasons. He is the only player to have the ten-years of service rule waived. After decades of debate, the proper decision was finally bestowed upon one of the least heralded great pitchers in baseball history. Joss’ legacy continues to resonate in the record books despite a century of time elapsing since his last pitch.

Comments

4 Responses to “Addie Joss: The Best Unknown Hall of Fame Pitcher Ever”
  1. Craig says:

    Great article, Josh! Love this website…thanks for introducing it to me. Keep up the good work guys!

  2. runrunkak says:

    Great article. Little known fact: Veterans Committee actually allowed Joss into HOF because they did consider him having “ten years of service” since he was under MLB contract in 1911, on Cleveland’s roster during exhibition games in 1911 (playing in some of the earlier exhibition games in 1911), and I believe considered on their roster at start of 1911 (season started on April 11th, 3 days before his death). Joss would have been on what today would be considered the unable to perform or injured list at start of season, and he was under a major league contract at the time. It is also why Chris Benson has 10 year pension coming even though he actually only played 9 years (in 2001 he did not play due to injury but was on 2001 roster and under contract, and thus, conceivably could get votes toward HOF if he had been a better player).

  3. Lulu Bean says:

    This is a great story and a great site. I am thrilled to have found it.
    Here’s hoping it lasts for decades.

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