“He Would Deliberately Pitch Himself into a Hole”

25 Aug

Connie Mack never tired of talking about Rube Waddell and in 1925 told Frank Menke of King Features that the southpaw, “had an arm which was the remarkable of any pitcher who ever walked onto a diamond.”

Rube’s, “speed was blinding, his curves bewildering, and his control superlative.”

At his best—those six years in Philadelphia when he was 131-86, while going 62-61 in parts of seven seasons with other clubs—Mack said Rube could, “place a ball in exactly the spot where he willed to place it.”

Waddell, whose limited attention span caused him to chase fire trucks and dogs, would get bored on the mound, Mack said:

“I saw Rube go into games, again and again, have the opposition team at his mercy for four or five innings—and then deliberately let down for a while. He would deliberately pitch himself into a hole so that he might have the fun of pulling himself out of it. Oftentimes he purposely put over three bad ones on a batter so that he could put the next three in a groove and fan that man. He purposely put men on bases so that he could spice up the combat and have more fun retiring the side.”

Always broke and always on the make for money, Waddell engaged in elaborate schemes to make a buck. Mack told a story about Rube having run out of money while at a St. Louis amusement park:

“He spent some time in serous financial deliberation—and then embarked on the scenic railway.

“Near the end of the ride, when the train had slowed down considerably, Rube, who had been in the front seat, turned around, and in so doing, extended his left arm. The arm collided with one of the posts that railed in the tracks, whereupon the Rube let out a wild shriek.”

The owner of the park was summoned and realizing who the “injured” party was, assigned an employee to pay Rube up to $100 to avoid “unwanted publicity” for the park.

“The ‘fixer’ went into the office where Waddell had been taken (and) immediately upon his entry, Waddell began yelling in tones even louder than before. ‘Just calm yourself, Rube,’ said the ‘fixer,’ ‘I am going to call a doctor and have him fix you up.’

“’No, no,’ exclaimed the pitcher. ‘I’ll have my own doctor. I’m ruined—ruined for life. Let me out of here—I want a lawyer—I want a lawyer.’”

Waddell was offered $20, asked to sign a paper releasing the park from responsibility, and told if he didn’t, the police would be called for him having crated a disturbance.

Waddell responded, “you’re trimming me,” and said:

“Twenty dollars isn’t enough for a broken arm. Given me $50 and I’ll sign the paper.”

The man stood firm and Waddell accepted the $20; Mack noted that he signed the paper “using the hand of the ‘broken’ arm.”

Later, Mack said, as the employee told the park owner that Waddell accepted only $20, “and he trimmed me at that,” telling the owner to look over at the park’s bandstand:

“The owner looked—and there was Waddell in the bandstand, leading the orchestra and waving a cane in place of a baton—waving it vigorously and enthusiastically with the same arm that had been ‘broken’ a half hour before.”

One more Rube story Friday

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