“Bill James’ Arm is Gone”

5 Jun

Christy Mathewson briefly “wrote” a column for the Wheeler newspaper syndicate in 1916 on the fate of two star pitchers:



“If there is one thing I hate to see in baseball, it is a young pitcher, who has done grand work, have to quit in his prime because his arm has suddenly gone dead.  This has happened often in the past.  And it two stars would be missing this year looks like as if two stars will be missing this year, and, strangely enough, each one from a Boston baseball club.

“I hear that Bill James’ arm is practically gone, and James had as much to do with the Braves winning the world’s championship when no one expected (Braves Manager George) Stallings to do it in 1914 as any pitcher on his staff.”

Mathewson said he had heard from James’ teammate Johnny Evers:

“’Bill James’ arm is gone—for good I am afraid. Everybody on the club, from Stallings down knows it, including Bill James, himself.’

“The big Boston pitcher is only a kid in years and in service, too, for that matter when you compare him to old campaigners like Eddie Plank, Mordecai Brown and me who come from an aged vintage.  But James hurt his arm through foolishness, I believe, for the greatest folly of a pitcher is not to rest regularly his salary soup bone at least four or five months every year.”

Mathewson said James “a big, strong fellow,” ruined his arm by pitching on the West Coast every off-season:


Bill James

“He did a lot of pitching the winter after the Braves had closed in on and taken the world’s championship.  This undoubtedly hurt him for he has never been good since.”

Mathewson said of the other Boston pitcher:

“Joe Wood, once called ‘smoky Joe’ of the Red Sox, is another grand pitcher likely to be somewhere else, perhaps in the scrap heap, when the roll is called this spring.  And I may be myself too, I admit that.  I have heard that Wood’s wing is in bad shape, and he probably will never work again.”

Mathewson said a New York doctor was treating Wood, but:


Smoky Joe Wood

“I have never found any pitcher with a bad wing who got much benefit from the advice of a ‘doc.’”

Unlike James, Mathewson said he felt wood might come back:

“(F)or some club if his arm comes around because he is naturally one of the greatest players ever in the Big League.”

Mathewson, who was 8-14 the previous season, after 12 straight 20-plus win seasons, said of his own future:

“(Giants Manager John McGraw) is a little worried over his pitching outlook.  He doesn’t know whether I am going to be able to deliver anything or whether I will spend the summer playing golf…I will know pretty soon whether I will put my pitching wing in the mothballs for good or whether it will be fit to run another season.  And believe me, I am anxious to find out.”

Mathewson did not put his “pitching wing in the moth balls.”  In 12 appearances with the Giants was 3 and 4 before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in July.

Bill James didn’t pitch at all in 1916.  He only appeared in one more major league game—with the Braves in 1919.

Joe Wood appeared in just seven more games as a pitcher between 1917 and 1920 with the Cleveland Indians but played five seasons in the outfield for the Indians from 1918-1922.

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