September 26, 2021

Red Ruffing: HOF Perseverance

January 8, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

How does a pitcher start his career 39-96 and end up in the Hall of Fame?  This is the amazing story of Charles  Herbert “Red” Ruffing.  He was born on May 3, 1905 in the tiny village of Granville, Illinois.  At an early age,  Ruffing dropped out of school and tended to a mine ventilation system.  Regrettably, he lost four toes on his left foot  when it caught between two coal cars.  Fortunately, he displayed the ability to surmount obstacles and  prevail over perilous situations.

In 1924, Ruffing made his Major League debut for the Boston Red Sox pitching in relief against the Washington  Senators.  At 19, the right-hander appeared overmatched while compiling a 6.65 ERA in 23 innings pitched.  Over  the next five seasons, Ruffing would struggle with run support for the perennial last-place Red Sox leading the  American League in losses during the 1928-29 seasons.  Few people could have envisioned the meteoric rise his  career was about to embark upon.

Ruffing was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for backup outfielder Cedric Durst and $50,000 on May 6, 1930.  The change of scenery altered his career dramatically from a second-rate pitcher to a legendary hurler.  The “Murderer’s Row” Yankees would supply the offense to help define the next fifteen seasons of the right-hander’s career.  Ruffing won 231 games and tossed 40 shutouts while pitching on seven AL pennant winners and six world championship teams.

From 1936-39, Ruffing recorded twenty-or-more wins each season and anchored the Yankees pitching staff to four consecutive World Series titles.  He compiled a 7-2 record, 2.63 ERA, and eight complete games during ten Fall Classic starts.  Ruffing performed brilliantly on the biggest stage placing him tied for second place on the all-time wins list during World Series competition.

In 1943, Ruffing enlisted in World War II despite his physical limitations.  He was stationed at the Long Beach Army Air Base with the 6th Ferrying Group of the Air Transport Command.  In July 1945, Ruffing returned to the Yankees pitching effectively down the stretch, posting a 7-3 record in 11 starts.  Ultimately, the loss of two seasons prevented the hurler from winning 300-games during his career.

Ruffing finished his playing career with the Chicago White Sox in 1947.  Upon retirement, he worked for the White Sox and Indians as a minor league manager.  In addition, he was part of the 1962 New York Mets coaching staff during their inaugural season.

In 1967, “Red” Ruffing was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his final year of eligibility.  He compiled a career record of 273-225, 3.80 ERA (highest HOF), and 335 complete-games over a 22-year MLB career.  An amazing story of perseverance enabled a pitcher from a tiny Illinois town claim baseball immortality after beginning his career as an unheralded starting pitcher.  His exploits on the diamond were not limited to pitching.  Ruffing is considered one of the greatest hitting pitchers of all-time.  He compiled a lifetime .269 average while slugging 36 home runs.

On February 17, 1986, Charles “Red” Ruffing died at the age of 80 in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.  The Hall of Fame pitcher overcame many obstacles in his life and proved that a change of scenery could actually alter the course of history.


One Response to “Red Ruffing: HOF Perseverance”
  1. Sven Jenkins says:

    Just another example of why the Red Sox were losers for 100 years.

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