Tiny Bonham

Tiny Bonham

August 16, 1913
6' 2"
215 lbs
Major League Debut:
8-05-1940 with NYA

Ernie “Tiny” Bonham, aptly nicknamed for his huge 6’2”, 215 pound frame, which late in his career supposedly ballooned up quite a bit over that 215 pound figure, was a star pitcher for the Yankees during the war years and was the first pitcher in major league history to use the forkball, a pitch that Pirate great Roy Face would later use as his bread and butter pitch.  He would come to Pittsburgh in 1947 and tragically die only two short years later.

New York Yankees

He came up in 1940 and went 18-9 in his first two seasons, including a 4-hit one run complete game in the fifth and deciding game against the Dodgers as New York won the 1941 world championship.  His breakout year of 1942, the first war season when Bonham was 21-5 for a junior circuit best .808 winning percentage with a spectacular 2.27 ERA, second in the circuit where he also finished in wins, while leading the Yankees to the American League pennant. 

Tiny again finished second in the AL with an identical 2.27 ERA in 1943 as New York captured the World Series with a win over the Cardinals.  After a 12-9 mark in 1944, Bonham hurt his back and never quite reached the level of play that he did in the war years.

Pittsburgh Pirates

With two sup par years behind him in 1945 and 1946, the Yanks dealt him to Pittsburgh for Cookie Cuccurullo on October 21st, 1946.  He enjoyed a bit of resurgence in 1947 with an 11-8 record and 3.85 ERA, but would fall back to 6-10 the following year. 

While reduced to a spot starter in 1949, Bonham never the less shook off a 1-4 start to run a streak of six consecutive wins after he defeated the Phillies 8-2 on August 28th. 


He soon developed a case of appendicitis and underwent an appendectomy.  On September 15th, only 18 days removed from his last major league game, Bonham died of complications following the surgery.  Pirate manager Billy Meyer, who had managed Tiny at Binghamton of the New York-Penn league in 1936, was terribly shaken after learning of the death.  His wife, Mrs. Ruth Bonham, became the first spouse to receive benefits under the new player pension plan when she got $90 a month for ten years.

In a 10-season career, Bonham posted a 103-72 record with 478 strikeouts and a 3.06 ERA in 1551.0 innings pitched.


    * New York Yankees (1940–1946)
    * Pittsburgh Pirates (1947–1949)

Career highlights and awards

    * 2× All-Star selection (1942, 1943)
    * 2× World Series champion (1941, 1943)

Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia

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