On July 12, 1902, Rube Waddell beat the Boston Americans 3-2, throwing a five-hitter. The Philadelphia Times said:
“Waddell’s brilliant work enables Mack’s men to down Boston.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “Waddell got in his deadly work at critical a stage…was by striking out the batsmen. He seduced nine on strikes.”
The Inquirer also mentioned that before the game:
“Waddell and George (Candy) La Chance engaged in a friendly wrestling match, much to the amusement of the spectators. It was finally won by Waddell, who came within an ace of putting both (of) LaChance’s ears to the ground.
In later years, LaChance’s teammates said the wrestling match was an attempt to keep Waddell out of the game. In 1905, Albert “Hobe” Ferris told The Chicago Inter Ocean:
“Waddell was going to pitch and big George said to (Boston Manager Jimmy) Collins: I’m going to fix Rube so we will hit him all over the field.
“Now, as you know, Rube is willing to wrestle anyone, and George challenged him to a friendly bout. Right on the grass they sailed in. LaChance was trying hard to get a hammerlock on Rube’s left arm, so that he could put it out of business for the afternoon. But after six or seven minutes’ fooling Rube got a fall, and then, much to the disgust of La Chance and Collins, he shut Boston out with four hits and fanned twelve of us, getting George three times.
“’I suppose,’ said Collins after the game, to LaChance, ‘that if you had wrestled ten minutes longer Rube would have shut us out without a hit and struck out twenty men.”
As with most stories about Waddell, later versions embellished some of the facts. In 1918, Bill Dinneen, the losing pitcher in the game—and American League umpire from 1909-1937—told a version of the story to a reporter for The New York Sun.
In Dinneen’s version, “Waddell picked him off his feet as though he were a baby, held him high over his head and dashed him to the earth in a heap.” Dinneen also claimed, “LaChance was barely able to play first base for us that day; he was so sore and bruised.” His version also got the details of the game wrong:
“As for Rube, he shut us out with two hits.”
In 1922, Nick Altrock, who didn’t join Boston until September of 1902– two months after the game—retold the story one his syndicated articles for The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). Altrock got the date wrong (1903), claimed “the two wrestled for an hour,” and said Waddell “struck out 14 men and shut out Boston 1 to 0, allowing three hits.”
The version of the story with Altrock’s embellishments became the most often repeated and was still being told a decade later when Werner Laufer, The NEA’s sports cartoonist memorialized Waddell’s performance: