- August 22, 1881
- 5' 9"
- 169 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-22-1904 with PIT
The Kentucky native, who was referred to during his career as “the Kentucky Rosebud” or simple “Red”, was an integral part of the great Pirate teams of the latter part of the 20th century’s first decade, but also would find himself later on as an enemy of the franchise.
Howie Camnitz came to the club in 1904 and after two abbreviated seasons, found himself a firm member of the starting rotation in his first full year in 1907 where he was 13-7 with a 2.15 ERA that included his one and only no-hitter, a 5 inning 1-0 victory versus the New York Giants on August 23rd. After a fine 1908 campaign where Howie finished 4th in the NL in ERA with a career low 1.56 mark, Camnitz would enjoy what would be his career season the following year.
Red finished second in the senior circuit in wins with 25, while leading the National League in winning percentage with a .806 mark. His 1.62 ERA was good for 4th as he helped lead the Pirates to the 1909 world championship.
As the Bucs were getting ready to face Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, they unfortunately found that their star pitcher might not be ready for it. Camnitz had gotten sick in early October and reports were that he was suffering from either Tonsillitis or Quinsy, a painful inflammation of the throat. There were others who felt that Camnitz’s woes were directly related to him falling off the wagon and drinking again.
Whatever the problem was, Camnitz was able to toss only 3 2/3 innings for the club in the series, in which he gave up 8 hits for a 9.82 ERA, losing game 2, 7-2. Luckily for Pittsburgh, Babe Adams picked up the slack, winning three games for the championship.
With the sub-par post-season behind him, Camnitz came into 1910 unable to shake out of his slump as he fell to a 12-13 mark. The pitching staff as a whole was not as effective in this campaign causing a disgusted sportswriter to question the staff claiming among others that Camnitz was fat.
If nothing else, the Kentucky Rosebud would prove resilient as he bounced back to win 20 games in both 1911 and 1912, the latter year with a 22-12 record good enough for 5th place in the NL in wins and a top 10 finish in winning percentage. 1912 would prove to be his last good season as Red collapsed to 6-17 the following year prompting owner Barney Dreyfuss to send him to the Phillies in August with Cozy Dolan and cash for Bobby Byrne. Camnitz went 3-3 the rest of the season before coming back to the Steel City the following year, not with the Pirates, but the Rebels of the new Federal League.
While Howie went only 14-19 in his two Federal seasons, he would become more known for the controversy he would rile up with his former club. Camnitz took to actively recruiting the young Pirate players for the new league, forcing Dreyfuss to acquire an injunction to stop him from the practice. Camnitz’s methods so infuriated the usually mild mannered Honus Wagner who called him a troublemaker and threatened him if he didn’t leave the young players alone.
Eventually the league collapsed, as did the career of Howie Camnitz, who at 34, never came back to the majors after his run with the Pittsburgh Rebels. Despite the controversial ending, Camnitz still goes down as one of the best Pirate pitchers of all-time. His life time ERA of 2.75 ranks him 87th in league history, but most importantly, his efforts in 1909 gave the team something more important, its first world title.
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