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Howard Ehmke

Howard Ehmke

Position(s):
P
Nicknames:
Bob
Born:
April 24, 1894
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 3"
Weight:
190 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-12-1915 with BUF

Ehmke broke in with the Federal League but was grabbed by Detroit when the Feds folded and twice won 17 games for them. Traded to the Red Sox in 1923, he pitched a no-hitter that would have been a one-hitter had not an Athletics' runner failed to touch first base on an apparent double. Four days later he pitched a one-hitter against the Yankees, the only hit being a ground ball that bounced off the third baseman's chest. Ehmke won 20 games for the Red Sox in '23 and 19 the next season. By 1929, he seemed nearly washed up, having won only seven games for the pennant-winning Athletics. It came as a shock when Connie Mack started him in the World Series opener against the Cubs. Mack reasoned that the sidearming Ehmke had the perfect mix of control and slow stuff to keep the predominantly righthand-hitting Cubs off balance, and gave Ehmke time off near the end of the season to personally scout the Cubs. Ehmke struck out a then-record 13 in pitching an P x x eight-hit, 3-1 victory.

Biography:

Born in Silver Creek, New York, Ehmke was a pitcher for fifteen seasons in the Major Leagues with the Buffalo Blues (1915), Detroit Tigers (1916–1917, 1919–1922); Boston Red Sox (1923–1926), and Philadelphia Athletics (1926–1930). Ehmke won at least 10 games in 9 seasons and had a career record of 166-166 with an ERA of 3.75. His greatest success was with the Boston Red Sox, including a no-hitter and his only 20-win season in 1923. Ehmke still holds the American League record for fewest hits (one) in two consecutive starts. Ehmke also ranks No. 16 on the all time Major League list for hitting batsmen with a pitch. Ehmke hit 137 batters in his career and led the American League in the category seven times, including a career-high 23 in 1922.

Buffalo Blues and Detroit Tigers: 1915-1922

Ehmke began his Major League career in 1915, pitching 18 games (mostly in relief) for the Buffalo Blues of the Federal League. The Detroit Tigers purchased Ehmke from the Blues on February 10, 1916. After seeing limited action in 1916, Ehmke appeared in at least 30 games a year for the Tigers in 1917 and from 1919-1922. Ehmke's best season for the Tigers was 1919 when he finished with a 17-10 record. Ehmke did not have a winning season in Detroit after 1919 and was twice among the American League leaders in losses for the Tigers (18 in 1920 and 17 in 1922). In 1921, Ehmke had a record of 13-14 and an ERA of 4.54 pitching for a team that had the highest team batting average (.316) in American League history.

On August 8, 1920, Ehmke shut out the Yankees 1-0 in just 1 hour‚ 13 minutes‚ one of the shortest games in American League history. With no outs and 2 on in the 5th inning‚ Yankee Ping Bodie fell for the hidden ball trick applied by Tigers' second baseman Ralph Young.

Boston Red Sox: 1923-1926

On October 30, 1922, the Tigers traded Ehmke with Danny Clark, Babe Herman, Carl Holling, and $25,000 to the Boston Red Sox for Del Pratt and Rip Collins. Ehmke flourished in Boston, winning 20 games in 1923 and pitching a no-hitter against the Athletics on September 7, 1923. He followed the performance up with a one-hitter against the Yankees four days later, with the only hit in that game a ground ball that bounced off the third baseman's chest. He still holds the American League record for fewest hits allowed (1) in two consecutive games (Johnny Vander Meer's consecutive no-hitters in 1938 is the Major League record). His 1923 season was the best of his career. That year, he was No. 11 in the American League Most Valuable Player voting, and among the league leaders in most categories, including wins (20), losses (17), strikeouts (121), innings (316-2/3), games started (39), complete games (28), and shtuouts (2), earned runs allowed (133), and batters faced (1,331).

Ehmke followed with another strong performance in 1924, finishing among the league leaders in wins (5th best with 19), ERA (4th best with 3.46), strikeouts (2nd best with 119), and innings pitched (1st with 315). Ehmke finished 15th in the American League Most Valuable Player voting for 1924.

In 1925, Ehmke had a record of 9-20. Ehmke lost 20 games despite pitching a league high 22 complete games, ranking 3rd in the league in strikeouts, and having a 3.73 ERA, best among Boston's starters. The Red Sox were a poor team in 1925, losing 101 games. Ehmke still finished 24th in the AL MVP voting despite losing 20 games.

Philadelphia Athletics: 1926-1930

On June 15, 1926, the Red Sox traded Ehmke and Tom Jenkins to the Philadelphia Athletics for Fred Heimach, Slim Harriss, and Baby Doll Jacobson. The change of scene did wonders for Ehmke. After going 3-10 in the first half of 1926 with the last place Red Sox, Ehmke went 12-4 in the second half of the season with Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane catching and A's slugger, Al Simmons, hitting .341 behind him. Though the frequency of his starts diminished after 1927, Ehmke had a winning record for the Athletics in four consecutive seasons from 1926-1929.

The Athletics won the American League pennant in 1929, and Ehmke was the surprise starter in Game 1 of the 1929 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. Ehmke had started only 8 games the entire season, but Connie Mack correctly concluded that Ehmke's sidearm style and his mix of control and slow pitches would keep the predominantly right-handed Cubs off balance. When it became obvious that the Cubs would win the pennant, Mack gave Ehmke time off near the end of the season to personally scout the Cubs for a week.  In Game 1, Ehmke pitched a complete game and struck out a then-World Series record 13 batters in a 3-1 win over Chicago. At the time, Ehmke also set a record for lowest win total during the regular season by a World Series game 1 starter. Ehmke was 7-2 during the regular season. This record would stand until 2006 when St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Anthony Reyes started game 1 of the 2006 World Series after having gone 5-8 during the regular season. Ehmke also started the final game of the 1929 World Series, holding the Cubs scoreless in the first two innings, but giving up 2 runs with 2 outs in the 3rd. The A's came from behind to win the game and the World Series.

Life After Baseball

Howard Ehmke retired from Major League Baseball after the 1930 season. He died in Philadelphia in 1959.

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