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Stan Coveleski

Stan Coveleski

Position(s):
P, OF
Nicknames:
Covey
Born:
July 13, 1889
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 11"
Weight:
166 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-10-1912 with PHA
Hall of Fame:
1969

Using a fluttering spitball that dove sharply and broke inside on lefties and righties, Stan Coveleski helped two unlikely teams to the World Series. He won three games in the 1920 Series — the first championship for Cleveland, and in 1925 he helped the Senators to the World Series in his first year with that club, winning 20 games. He consistently topped 275 innings pitched and was a valuable pitcher well into his mid-thirties. Coveleski learned the spitter while in the minors in 1913-1915, earning a permanent spot in the big leagues in 1916 when the Indians bought his contract. A longtime resident of South Bend, Indiana, the ballfield in that college town bears his name.He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

Biography


He was born Stanislaus Kowalewski in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, which was mining country. He and four brothers all became professional baseball players. The last name was changed to "Coveleskie" for all formal matters, but somewhere along the line sources dropped the last "e" and made it "Coveleski." Stan's Hall of Fame plaque, and the stadium in South Bend, Indiana that bears his name, both spell the last name "Coveleski," but during their playing days, Harry (the only other brother to make the big leagues) and Stan were known as "Coveleskie."

Stan's brother Harry also pitched in the big leagues. The two of them made baseball history when they both won 20 games in a season, the first siblings to do so in MLB history. Harry first won 20 for the 1914 Detroit Tigers, Stan first won 20 for the Cleveland Indians in 1918. The two right-handed hurlers toiled in the American League together from 1916-1918, but never faced each other on the field. They made an agreement that they would never pitch against each other. Harry "The Giant Killer" was a fine pitcher, winning 22 games in 1914, 22 again in 1915, and 21 in 1916, all for Detroit. In 1917, he suffered an arm injury and was never the same, retiring from the majors in 1918 with 81 career wins.

According to research by SABR member Steve Steinberg, five Coveleski brothers played baseball, and at least four of them played professionally. Of course, the family name was actually Kowalewski, and one of the brothers might have played under that name. In addition to Stan and Harry, there was Jacob, the oldest, who played in Indians, though whether he played professionally at all is unknown. Stan claimed that Jacob was killed during the Spanish-American War, in 1898. The next oldest, Frank (or Fred), born in 1880, pitched in Shamokin in 1906 and later spent time in the International and Federal Leagues. Lastly, John (1884-1940), apparently had tryouts with big league clubs but never made the show.

Coveleskie always said it was the spitball that made him a major-league pitcher. He had a three-hit shutout in his debut with the A's in 1912, but was returned to the minors for seasoning and learned the spitter while with Portland (PCL), shortly before being acquired by the Indians.

Despite the spitter's eccentricity, Coveleskie (as the name was spelled during his playing days) was a control pitcher who averaged one walk every 3.86 innings over fourteen years. His spitball broke three ways - down, out, and down and out - and he said he always could control its movement by the placement of his fingers on the ball. It was his bread and butter pitch, although he sometimes went two or three innings without throwing it and had the usual fastball and curve to mix things up.

He was equally sparing with strikeouts (981 lifetime). Because of his control many batters swung at his first pitch. A number of times he got out of an inning with three pitches, and on one occasion he went seven innings when every pitch was a strike, a foul, or a hit. He claimed success in fanning Ruth and in reducing Cobb's effectiveness by feeding him fastballs inside.

Overall, he had 39 shutouts, a streak of 13 wins in 1925 when he was 36 years old, and six consecutive seasons pitching more than 276 innings. His best years were with Cleveland, particularly the championship year of 1920 when he won three splendid five-hitters against Brooklyn in the Series. He allowed a total of two runs and two walks, struck out eight, and had an ERA of 0.67. After two under-.500 seasons, Cleveland traded him to Washington for two nonentities. His .800 (20-5) winning percentage and 2.84 ERA led the AL as the 1925 Senators repeated as AL champions. He lost two, however, in the Series against the Pirates.

World Series Aces

Pitchers who have hurled three complete game wins in one World Series:

Christy Mathewson, Giants (1905 vs. A's)
27 IP, 14 H, 18 K, 1 BB, 0.00 ERA

Babe Adams, Pirates (1909 vs. Tigers)
27 IP, 18 H, 11 K, 6 BB, 1.33 ERA

Stan Coveleski, Indians (1920 vs. Robins)
27 IP, 15 H, 8 K, 2 BB, 0.67 ERA

Lew Burdette, Braves (1957 vs. Braves)
27 IP, 21 H, 13 K, 4 BB, 0.67 ERA

Bob Gibson, Cardinals (1967 vs. Red Sox)
27 IP, 14 H, 26 K, 5 BB, 1.00 ERA


Mickey Lolich, Tigers (1968 vs. Cardinals) 27 IP, 20 H, 21 K, 6 BB, 1.67 ERA

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Tagged:
1920 World Series, 1925 World Series, 1969 Hall of Fame, Baseball History, Cleveland Indians, Spitball, Stan Coveleski, Washington Senators
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