There are many characters of the baseball world and Rube Waddell was certainly one of them. To add to his legacy, he was born on Friday the 13th and died on April Fools day It was all the stuff between there that made Waddell a character. At 6’1″ and almost 2oo lbs., he was a great athletic specimen. It was said he had the mind of a child and the attention span of a four-year-old.
He had a reputation for being a pitcher and was asked to come to a tryout hosted by manager Patsy Donovan. Before the first day, the team had breakfast and Waddell sat near Donovan After listening to the eccentric pitcher during breakfast, Donovan released him before he got to the field. The Louisville Colonels signed him in 1897.
He was a fantastic pitcher with a blazing fastball and struck four times more batters than he walked. Batters had little success against him unless the team could find a way to break his concentration. That wasn’t difficult to do. It was reported that one team had a couple of puppies and kittens (smuggled) brought into the stadium and would have patrons hold them up at various times with Waddell on the mound. He would stop and stare at them and forget about batters and runners.
He had an affinity for fires. He once heard a fire engine roaring by the stadium with all of its bells and sirens blaring and dropped his glove on the mound and followed it. He regularly assisted firefighters, from a bucket brigade in Pewaukee, Wisconsin to large departments in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, or Washington.
During spring training (never during the regular season) he would instruct his infielders to stay in the dugout for the next half inning and he would strike out the side during games. Eventually, by 1902, he was a success and attendance in Philadelphia increased dramatically as fans wanted to see this character. He had cigars, liquor and other items named after him.
In was the 1903 season that was traumatic for Waddell. He got married in June to a girl he met three days earlier. They never actually spent time together and she turned him into authority asking for and receiving support. The marriage, in name only, lasts for six years. In July, he was suspended and jailed for being up a spectator in the stands after being goaded by a gambler.
During the offseason, Rube could be found trying his hand at traveling theater The production company used his name but never gave him much of a part in any of the shows. He was a frequent no-show and they had to tear up his contract. He would head to Florida in the winter and wrestle alligators for show.
In 1905, he outdueled the great Cy Young in a 20 inning game. He reportedly used the game ball to barter for free drinks at saloons in his path. He would give the barkeep the ball for free drinks that night. He must have had hundreds of “so-called” game balls from that Cy Young game.
Just before the World Series in 1905, Waddell claimed he had a sore shoulder and couldn’t pitch. His story is that he and another player argued over a straw hat and he injured his shoulder. Many believe that gamblers paid him to miss the World Series. Things went downhill for Rube Waddell from there and he eventually moved from team to team with diminishing baseball skills.
His health got poor after helping lay sandbags in Kentucky with an impending flood ready to destroy some towns. He contracted pneumonia and stayed ill for several months. He lost 60-70 pounds and couldn’t hold up as he contracted tuberculosis. He died on April 1, 1914, at the age of 37.
WAR 57.9 W 193 L 143 ERA 2.16 G 407 GS 340 IP 2961.1 SO 2316 WHIP 1.102