George Edward Waddell (October 13, 1876 April 1, 1914) was an American southpaw pitcher in Major League Baseball. In his thirteen-year career he played for the Louisville Colonels (1897, 1899), Pittsburgh Pirates (190001) and Chicago Orphans (1901) in the National League, and the Philadelphia Athletics (190207) and St. Louis Browns (190810) in the American League. Waddell earned the nickname "Rube" because he was a big, fresh kid. The term was commonly used to refer to hayseeds or farmboys. He was born in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Waddell was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.
Waddell, a remarkably dominant strikeout pitcher in an era when batters mostly slapped at the ball to get singles, had an excellent fastball, a sharp-breaking curve, a screwball, and superb control (his strikeout-to-walk ratio was almost 3-to-1). He led the Major Leagues in strikeouts for six consecutive years.
Waddell was unpredictable, and had a habit of leaving the dugout in the middle of games to follow passing fire trucks to fires. He performed as an alligator wrestler in the offseason.(Would've loved to see this guy!)
He was easily distracted by opposing team fans who used to hold up puppies and shiny objects, which seemed to put Waddell in a trance on the mound. An alcoholic for much of his adult life, Waddell reportedly spent the entirety of his first signing bonus on a drinking binge (Sporting News called him "the sousepaw"). Waddell's eccentric behavior led to constant battles with his managers and scuffles with bad-tempered teammates, and complaints from his teammates forced his trade from Philadelphia to St. Louis in early 1908 despite his importance to the team and his continued success. Recent commentators (such as Bill James) have suggested that Waddell may have suffered from a developmental disability, mental retardation, autism, or attention deficit disorder (ADD). Essentially, none of these mental issues was either known of or properly diagnosed at the time. Though eccentric and childlike, Rube Waddell was not illiterate (as some sources have claimed). Ken Burns' baseball documentary claims Waddell lost track of how many women he'd married.
James wrote that Waddell would not be allowed to be himself today, but would be analyzed, compartmentalized and would not be allowed to compete anywhere save for "heaving a rubber-tipped javelin in the Special Olympics."
Walter Johnson said of Waddell:
"In my opinion, and I suppose if there is any subject that I am qualified to discuss it is pitching, Rube Waddell had more sheer pitching ability than any man I ever saw. That doesn't say he was the greatest pitcher, by a good deal. Rube had defects of character that prevented him from using his talents to the best effect. He is dead and gone, so there is no need for me to enlarge on his weaknesses. They were well enough known. I would prefer to dwell on his strong points. And he had plenty."
Alan Howard Levy, in his book Rube Waddell: The Zany, Brilliant Life of a Strikeout Artist, wrote:
"He was among the game's first real drawing cards, among its first honest-to-goodness celebrities, and the first player to have teams of newspaper reporters following him, and the first to have a mass following of idol-worshiping kids yelling out his nickname like he was their buddy."
Cooperstown historian Lee Allen encapsulated Waddell's erratic behavior:
"He began that year (1903) sleeping in a firehouse in Camden, New Jersey, and ended it tending bar in a saloon in Wheeling, West Virginia. In between those events he won 22 games for the Philadelphia Athletics, played left end for the Business Men's Rugby Football Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, toured the nation in a melodrama called The Stain of Guilt, courted, married and became separated from May Wynne Skinner of Lynn, Massachusetts, saved a woman from drowning, accidentally shot a friend through the hand, and was bitten by a lion."
Louisville Colonels (1897, 1899)
Pittsburgh Pirates (19001901)
Chicago Orphans (1901)
Philadelphia Athletics (19021907)
St. Louis Browns (19081910)
Career highlights and awards
Won American League pitching Triple Crown (1905: 2710, 287, 1.48)
Led NL in WHIP (1.107) in 1900
Led NL in ERA in 1900 (2.37) and AL in 1905 (1.48)
Led AL in Wins (27), wonloss % (.730) and games (46) in 1905
Led NL in Hits Allowed/9IP in 1900 (7.59) and AL in 1905 (6.33)
Led NL in Strikeouts/9IP in 1900 and AL from 1902 to 08
Led AL in Strikeouts from 1902 to 07
Led AL in Strikeouts to Walks (3.28) in 1902
Led AL in Complete Games (34) in 1903
Ranks 10th on MLB all-time ERA list (2.16)
Ranks 18th on MLB all-time WHIP list (1.102)
Ranks 34th on MLB all-time hits allowed/9IP list (7.48)
Ranks 79th on MLB all-time strikeouts/9IP list (7.04)
Ranks 42nd on MLB all-time strikeouts list (2,316)
Ranks 68th on MLB all-time complete games list (261)
Ranks 19th on MLB all-time shutouts list (50)
Ranks 39th on MLB all-time strikeout to Walk list (2.88)
1905 American League pennant
HOF, 1946, Veterans Committee