Burleigh Grimes

Burleigh Grimes

Ol' Stubblebeard
August 18, 1893
5' 10"
175 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-10-1916 with PIT
Hall of Fame:

Burleigh Grimes won twenty games five times, and reached double-digits in wins fourteen consecutive years. He was a hard-nosed battler, who used every edge he could to beat his opponents, including memorizing the rule book in case he had to argue a point with the men in blue. Grimes was the last man to throw a legal spitball in the major leagues. Despite shuffling among six of the eight NL teams, he pitched for three teams in the World Series. His greatest moment came in Game Seven of the 1931 World Series, when he took a shutout into the 9th inning against the two-time defending A's. He won the game and the Cardinals had their second World Championship.

Teams Burleigh Grimes Managed
Brooklyn Dodgers (1937-1938)

Burleigh Grimes Teammates
Gabby Hartnett
George Sisler
Rogers Hornsby
Pie Traynor
Honus Wagner
Babe Herman
Zack Wheat
Paul Waner
Rube Marquard
Jesse Haines
Dizzy Dean
Lefty Gomez
Red Ruffing
Al Mamaux
John McGraw

Best Season: 1928
Grimes led the league in wins with 25, finished third in MVP voting, and paced the loop in games, innings, complete games and shutouts (four). He also hit .321 with eight doubles.

In 1921, Burleigh Grimes led the National League with 22 wins, but was paid the modest sum of $1,960 by Brooklyn.

In a 1925 game, Burleigh Grimes grounded into two double plays and a triple play in a loss to the Cubs. In his three hitless at-bats, he accounted for seven outs.

Burleigh Grimes played with nearly every National League Hall of Famer of his era, and there were a lot of them. He was a teammate of four Hall of Fame first basemen.

The Frisch Feud
Grimes first few seasons in the majors were difficult. "Trouble with me was that I came into the majors a marked man. During four seasons in the minors I'd become known as a kid who'd fight at the drop of a hat. So guys I'd never seen were laying for me. And before I'd made my first swing around the league I was engaged in feuds which lasted for years."

Part of the reason Grimes entered the league with an ornery reputation was that he'd played for Kid Elberfeld at Chattanooga. Nicknamed the "Tabasco Kid" due to his grumpy nature, Elberfeld bred a fiery group of ballplayers, who weren't afraid to confront umpires nose-to-nose. Grimes brought that reputation with him to the major leagues, and it never left him.

Grimes longest running and most famous feud was with Frankie Frisch. In 1919, Frisch put down a bunt and apparently spiked Grimes on a close play at first base. Words turned to shoves and fists, and the battle was on. "For the next ten years I aimed at least two balls at Frankie every time I pitched to him. He was equally rough with me every time we came in contact on the base lines," Grimes said.

The feud didn't last forever however, and the two future Hall of Famers eventually buried the hatchet when they became teammates on the Cardinals. "First thing you know we were bosom pals and we've been ever since," Grimes recalled years later.

Burleigh and Jack
Grimes shares some characteristics with the pitcher of the 1980s, Jack Morris. Both led MLB in wins and almost every other pitching stat for their decade (Grimes in the 1920s). Yet, both posted higher ERA's than other pitchers of their era. Consequently both are underrated.

Grimes was the workhorse of baseball in the 1920s, leading all pitchers in games started (336), wins (190), complete games (234) and innings (2,798). His ERA for the decade was 3.52, below the league average of 3.92. Morris also led MLB in games started, wins, complete games and innings in the 1980s. The Tiger ace posted a 3.66 ERA in the 1980s, while the league came in at 4.07.

Both Grimes and Morris were clearly the most durable and prolific winners of their era, but their ERA, which was 10-12% better than league norms, caused them to receive less acclaim than might be expected from such pitchers. Incidentally, neither was ever regarded as the best pitcher in their own league for one particular season. Morris never won a Cy Young Award, and there was usually one or two pitchers who bested Grimes each season (there was no such award in his time).

Annual Holdout
Like many players of his era, Grimes had a habit of holding out for more money. Owners in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s rarely handed out money, and often asked players to take pay cuts. On more than one occasion, Grimes' salary demands prompted his trade or sale to other teams. After winning a career-high 25 games for the Pirates in 1928, Grimes was traded to the Braves after he demanded more money from Pittsburgh. Before he could finish that season he was dealt to the Cardinals, who didn't care how much money he wanted, just that he was a veteran pitcher for their stretch run.

Using the "Spitter"
On July 21, 1940, Grimes, manager of Grand Rapids in the Michigan State League, was involved in a controversial incident on the field. Home plate umpire Robert Williams and Grimes were engaged in a shouting match over a close call, when Grimes, according to Williams, spit in the umpire's face. The ex-pitcher was ejected and suspended by the league for a full season. After several months of testimony and investigation by the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (and some intervention by MLB Commish Landis), Grimes penalty was reduced to the remainder of the 1940 season.

Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1916
Charlie Grimm
Carson Bigbee
Whitey Witt
Greasy Neale
Burleigh Grimes
Urban Shocker
Val Picinich
George Harper
Patsy Gharrity

Uniform Numbers
#16 (1932), #21 (1933 Cubs), #20 (1933-1934 Cardinals), #20 (1934 Yankees)

Similar Players
Red Faber, Early Wynn, Jack Morris (see below).

Related Players
Frankie Frisch

Hall of Fame Voting
Year     Election     Votes     Pct
1937     BBWAA     1     .5%
1938     BBWAA     1     .4%
1939     BBWAA     1     .4%
1948     BBWAA     7     5.8%
1949     BBWAA     8     5.2%
1950     BBWAA     6     3.6%
1951     BBWAA     5     2.2%
1952     BBWAA     9     3.8%
1953     BBWAA     9     3.4%
1955     BBWAA     3     1.2%
1956     BBWAA     25     13.0%
1958     BBWAA     71     26.7%
1960     BBWAA     92     34.2%
1962     BBWAA     43     26.9%
1964     Veterans         %

Post-Season Appearances
1920 World Series
1930 World Series
1931 World Series
1932 World Series

Post-Season Notes
Burleigh Grimes pitched the 1931 World Series with his swollen appendix frozen to numb the pain. After the Series, which the Cardinals won thanks to his 8 2/3 innings in Game Seven, Grimes' appendix was removed.

January 9, 1918: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Al Mamaux and Chuck Ward to the Brooklyn Robins for Casey Stengel and George Cutshaw;
January 9, 1927: Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Brooklyn Robins to the New York Giants. The New York Giants sent Jack Scott and Fresco Thompson to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Philadelphia Phillies sent George Harper to the New York Giants. The Philadelphia Phillies sent Butch Henline to the Brooklyn Robins;
February 11, 1928: Traded by the New York Giants to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Vic Aldridge;
April 9, 1930: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Boston Braves for Percy Jones and cash;
June 16, 1930: Traded by the Boston Braves to the St. Louis Cardinals for Fred Frankhouse and Bill Sherdel;
December, 1931: Traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Chicago Cubs for Bud Teachout and Hack Wilson;
August 4, 1933: Selected off waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals from the Chicago Cubs;
May 15, 1934: Selected off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the St. Louis Cardinals;
May 26, 1934: Purchased by the New York Yankees from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hall of Fame Artifacts
A license plate bearing his initials and his career win total.

Best Strength as a Player
Grimes surrendered few home runs, keeping the ball in the field of play.

Largest Weakness as a Player
Grimes was inconsistent, despite his durability. His ERA+ scores for one stretch were 138, 85, 108, 98, 83, 103, 109.


Sources and links:


  1. ^ Bruce Nash, The Baseball Hall of Shame 2

 External links

Babe Ruth, Baker Bowl, Boston Braves, Brooklyn Dodgers, Burleigh Grimes, Casey Stengel, Chicago Cubs, Committee on Baseball Veterans, Ebbets Field, Hall of Fame, Hank DeBerry, New York Giants, New York Yankees, Ol' Stubblebeard, Ottumwa Packers, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Spitball, St. Louis Cardinals, Zack Taylor
Share |