- March 23, 1893
- 6' 1"
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-18-1924 with PIT
Today, the acquisition of a 31 year old career minor leaguer would likely only appear in aggregate type under TRANSACTIONS on the back page of a sports section and reasonable hopes of the player contributing to a major league team would be to serve as a mop up man, or if lefthanded, as a one batter specialist. But once upon a time, such moves were not uncommon, and, in one case for the Pirates, the player in question turned out to become the club’s top pitcher and a World Series hero.
The pitcher in question is Ray Kremer, a 10-year minor league veteran who the Pirates obtained from the Oakland Oaks of the PCL after the hurler had won over 20 games. The acquisition was not cheap. The Pirates gave up three players who they had paid something in the neighborhood of $35,000 to get the year before as well as another $15,000 in cash. Bill McKechnie was met with instant criticism for making the trade, especially when Kremer, who looked much older than his stated age first met the front office. McKechnie, who had seen the righthander pitch, replied, “He could be a big winner even if he’s 60.”
Kremer won 18 games as a rookie, establishing a Pirate freshman record which still stands, in 1924 and anchored the staff for seven more seasons. He was not a power pitcher and never struck out more than 74 batters in a season, but his control was good and he had an excellent sense about pitching.
In 1925, Kremer went 17-8, although his ERA rose one half a run form 3.19 to 3.69. He was a solid performer throughout the season and in the World Series, he was one of the key men in the Pirates’ miraculous comeback. Kremer lost Game 3, 4-3, in a route going performance. In Game 6, the righthander gave up runs, including a homer to Goose Goslin, in the first two innings, but he shut the Senators down the rest of the way and Eddie Moore’s homerun in the fifth provided him with a 3-2 win. McKechnie turned to Kremer in the fifth inning of Game 7 with only one day rest. He again pitched well, allowing one run before being removed for Carson Bigbee who’s pinch double tied the game in the eighth. Kremer was credited with the victory when Kiki Cuyler doubled in the go ahead runs later in the inning and Red Oldham pitched a perfect ninth to seal the win.
Kremer, who’s given name was Remy, emerged as the NL’s toughest pitcher to score against the next two years, becoming the only Pirate to lead the league in ERA consecutively. He also led the league in wins (20) and winning percentage (.767) in 1926. His 19-8 in 1927 was supported by the lowest ERA (2.47) and he missed a shot at 20 wins due to an early season injury. Kremer helped pitch the Pirates into another World Series that year, but suffered from poor defense and lasted only five innings in losing Game 1 to New York. The Yankees disposed of his teammates the next three games without Kremer getting another chance to pitch.
Kremer’s ERA rose to 4.64 the next year as his record dropped to 15-13. He improved his numbers to 18-10, and while his ERA was 4.26, it was almost ½ a run better than the league average of 4.71. In 1930, Kremer won 20 games despite becoming the first 20 game winner in modern baseball with an ERA over 5.00. The 29 homeruns he allowed set a post-1800’s record as well. Game accounts indicate when he pitched with any efficiency, he won, but had several games when he was pounded by the opposition early, which inflated his ERA.
Although he reduced his ERA by almost 2 runs, Kremer had his first losing season in 1931, going 11-15. His won loss record was indicative of the down turn the team took that season and arm problems limited him to only 10 starts in 1932 as he finished with a 4-3 record. Hoping to comeback strong in 1933, Kremer reportedly hid himself in the mountains during the offseason to fully devote himself to training, but his arm showed little improvement and he was released during the season.
Even with his late start, Kremer continues to rank in a seventh place tie for most wins by a Pirate pitcher. Only Bob Friend and Vern Law have won more games for the black and gold since Kremer retired 70 years ago. He rates eighth in team history in innings pitched, sixth in winning percentage and tenth in complete games.