Cubs of Yore: George Waddell

September 17, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

In a world where no other Cubs of Yore requests have ever been made, Rube Waddell is the most requested one, garnering at least three requests. Rube was one colorful character, to say the least. I first heard of Rube when stumbling across a Chip Wesley mercenary piece over at what was then The Sports Yenta. Though it's tough to tell the fact from fiction surrounding this honyack, it's one that will surely make you chuckle.

Nickname: Rube, Hayseed

Played for The Cub: 1901, and technically for The Chicago Orphans

Random Write-up: Rube originally made his debut in the big leagues in 1897 with the Louisville Colonels, appearing in 10 games as a pitcher in his first two seasons, before he and his teammate Honus Wagner were traded to Pittsburgh. His eccentric personality lead him to bounce around teams quite a bit, earning the nickname "Mike Morgan Before Mike Morgan Was Around". Even with his crazy persona, his services were definitely in need, as his lifetime career ERA of 2.16 boasts. His lone year in Chicago saw him go 14-14 with 26 of those being a complete game, striking out 168 with a 2.81 ERA. His short tenure in Chicago also showed that (for at least one year) he was no easy wind with the bat either. He hit .251 with 2 home runs, 14 RBI, 3 doubles and three triples in 98 at-bats.

It would be his move to Philadelphia where his numbers really began to take off. Just look at a few of these lines, and pay particular attention to his K's in relation to innings pitched:

1902 Athletics 33 27 24 7 .774 2.05 26 3 0 276.1 224 63 90 7 64 210 11 10
1903 Athletics 39 38 21 16 .568 2.44 34 4 0 324 274 88 109 3 85 302 9 8
1904 Athletics 46 46 25 19 .568 1.62 39 8 0 383 307 69 109 5 91 349 8 15
1905 Athletics 46 34 27 10 .730 1.48 27 7 0 328.2 231 54 86 5 90 287 10 10
1906 Athletics 43 34 15 17 .469 2.21 22 8 0 272.2 221 67 89 1 92 196 10 10
1907 Athletics 44 33 19 13 .594 2.15 20 7 0 284.2 234 68 115 2 73 232 4 16

Stats courtesty of

What the hell?: Sure, his baseball statistics alone look like video games numbers, and you can see why he was elected to The Hall of Fame in 1945. All of that aside, it was perhaps his zany personality and off-the-field antics that have really made his legend grow. Always known as being extremely immature, Rube struggled with the simplest of things like remembering to pay rent while in the minors, leaving the Chicago team to join a Wild West Show, going into the stands to fight someone that had taunted him, and missing practice after going on benders. If management tried to tighten the reigns on him, he'd simply quit the Major League team and sign on with a semi-pro traveling team, getting payed room and board. As tales of his success with said traveling teams made their way back to the bigs, Connie Mack persuaded him to return, even going so far as to hire the famous Pinkerton Agents to bring him back to Philly.

Even in the bigs, Waddell was still known to miss starts. What could possibly keep him away? Beer? Women? Well, how about deciding to go fishing. Or challenging the local street kids to games of marbles. And let's not leave out wrestling an alligator in a nearby lagoon in Florida during Spring Training. But those were all off-the-field antics. Surely he had to be all business when he was on the mound, right? Nope. On more than one occasion, Rube would call in all the players in the infield and outfield, striking out the side. To Rube's credit, however, he only did this in exhibition games. He frequently pitched games while drunk, which is astonishing considering his numbers.

Just some of Rube's hobbies: helping fight fires, drinking, getting married, tending bar in his baseball uniform, theatre acting, fighting, leaving mid-season, saving people's lives, and leading parades, rugby, professional football player.

Also of Note: Rube's 349 K's in 1904 still stands as the most strikeouts in one season for a left handed pitcher in the American League. Rube is also one of only 6 pitchers in baseball history to have back-to-back 300 strikeout seasons.

Further Sources of All Things Rube:


"He (Rube Waddell) was the atom bomb of baseball long before the atom bomb was discovered. . ." - Connie Mack

"Sell him, release him, drop him off the Monongahela Bridge; do anything with him you like, so long as you get him off my ball team!" - Pittsburgh manager Fred Clarke demanding of owner Barney Dreyfuss

No player that ever lived, not even Babe Ruth, has so captured the affections of the fans of his day as did Waddell." - The Sporting News - November 4, 1926

FIVE STRENUOUS DAYS RUBE WADDELL SPENDS, THEN GOES TO BUTLER Throws Up His Job with "Stain of Guilt" Company, Butts in at a Fire, Hires Out as a Beer Slinger, and is Sued by Wife for Non-Support - local paper in Wheeling, WV

He would rip open his shirt and let four people stand on his chest, then lift himself into a kind of human bridge. This he once executed, according to the writer, "in a Fourth Avenue wet goods emporium (where) a quartet of the female species were the first aids to the big boob." - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"He had the classic flaws of the mythological hero. He had an Achilles brain. He was a legitimate hero, standing in the flood waters trying to build a sand bag wall to save a small town in Kentucky, which ultimately led to his death at age 37. He was born on Friday the 13th and died on April Fool's Day. When it gets to the big screen, people will say, 'Aw, that's just Hollywood.'" - Screenwriter Dan O'Brien