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Lefty Grove

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1932 U.S. Caramel

Robert Moses Grove (born Robert Moses Groves)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1947

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[edit] Biographical Information

1926-29 PC Exhibit
1933 Tattoo Orbit
"Lefty Grove could throw a lamb chop past a wolf." - attributed to several
" . . . perhaps the greatest pitcher who ever lived. " - Bill James

Lefty Grove is regarded by many as the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, rivaled for the honor only by Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson. He won over two-thirds of his lifetime decisions, and was a perennial league leader in ERA. Grove's 148 ERA+ is the second highest in history, two points above Walter Johnson's and six points behind Pedro Martinez.

[edit] Minor League Star

In spite of his great major league career, Grove did not come to the majors until age 25 in 1925. Prior to that he was a star pitcher for the minor league Baltimore Orioles. In 1920 he went 12-2 for them, leading the International League in winning percentage. He had a 3.81 ERA.

Grove went 25-10 with a 2.56 ERA in 1921 and led the IL in both walks (179) and strikeouts (254), allowing 237 hits in 313 IP and completing 26 games. Sheriff Blake, the strikeout runner-up, was 67 behind Lefty. In 1922, Grove whiffed 205 and walked 152, again leading the IL in both departments. He was 18-8 with a 2.80 ERA and allowed only 146 hits in 209 IP in the heart of a high-offense era. Tommy Thomas was second in strikeouts, 46 behind.

In 1923, Grove went 27-10 with a 3.11 ERA. He led the IL in games pitched (52), shutouts (6), walks (186) and strikeouts (330), allowing 223 hits in 303 IP. He He broke Al Atkinson's IL strikeout record of 307, set back in 1888. No one since then has come within 100 strikeouts of Grove's record, which has stood for 84 years as of 2007. That year, he amazingly struck out more than #2 (Jack Wisner, 167) and #3 Walter Beall (143) combined and possibly more than the entire Newark Bears staff (the 8 primary pitchers there whiffed 308 combined).

Grove's strikeout total fell to 231 in 1924, but he still led the IL for the 4th straight year, only four ahead of Beall. He led in wins (26), winning percentage (.813) and shutouts (5) and for the first time, did not lead in walks (108, 5th-place). He had a 3.01 ERA, .25 behind Beall in his pursuit of a pitching Triple Crown.

Grove played so long for Baltimore because owner Jack Dunn didn't want to sell him to the majors; when Grove was finally sold, it was for $100,600, a record at the time. Grove had finished his IL run with over 1,100 strikeouts, just shy of the career record. In 2008 he was elected to the International League Hall of Fame.

[edit] The American League

Well seasoned in the IL, Grove went on to lead the American League in strikeouts not only as a rookie but for the next six years running. He anchored the starting rotation for powerhouse Philadelphia Athletics teams strong enough to wrest the pennant from the "Murderer's Row" Ruth-Gehrig Yankees each year from 1929 to 1931 and win the World Series in 1929 and 1930. He was in 28-5 in 1930 and 31-4 in 1931, winning the pitching Triple Crown each year.

"Just to see that big guy glaring down at you from the mound was enough to frighten the daylights out of you." - Hall of Famer Joe Cronin

Lefty was a teammate of Hall of Fame first baseman Jimmie Foxx on the Athletics; both were eventually traded to the Boston Red Sox in Connie Mack salary dumps. In 1939, the pair welcomed future Cooperstown icon Ted Williams in style, Grove going 15-4 with an AL leading 2.54 ERA and Foxx topping the league with 35 homers and a .694 slugging percentage (to Williams' impressive rookie .609).

Grove retired with exactly 300 major league wins to go with eight ERA titles, seven strikeout crowns, leading the league in win percentage five times, wins four times, and completing 298 of his 457 starts. Though not an official statistic at the time, he also registered 55 saves by modern standards, including what would have been a league leading 9 in 1930 en route to that year's Triple Crown.

The most similar player through 2012 (according to similarity scores) is Jim Palmer. However, Grove's scores do not reflect the five successful years Grove spent with the minor league Orioles, then much closer in caliber to a Major League team then today's AAA squads. A more appropriate comparison adding in extra MLB service would be fellow lefthanded fireballer Randy Johnson, Grove having a more spectacular career than durable Hall of Fame lefty Warren Spahn (363-245) and longer than flame-throwing lefty sensation Sandy Koufax (165-87).

  • First Baseball Card appearance 1926-29 PC Exhibit

Sources include The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics by Marshall Wright

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 6-time AL All-Star (1933 & 1935-1939)
  • AL MVP (1931)
  • 2-time AL Pitcher's Triple Crown (1930 & 1931)
  • 9-time AL ERA Leader (1926, 1929-1932, 1935, 1936, 1938 & 1939)
  • 4-time AL Wins Leader (1928, 1930, 1931 & 1933)
  • 4-time AL Winning Percentage Leader (1930, 1931, 1933 & 1938)
  • AL Games Pitched Leader (1930)
  • AL Saves Leader (1930)
  • 7-time AL Strikeouts Leader (1925-1931)
  • 3-time AL Complete Games Leader (1931-1933)
  • 3-time AL Shutouts Leader (1931, 1932 & 1936)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 11 (1927-1933, 1935-1937 & 1939)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 8 (127-1933 & 1935)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 3 (1930-1932)
  • 30 Wins Seasons: 1 (1931)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 11 (1926-1933 & 1935-1937)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (1930)
  • Won two World Series with the Philadelphia Athletics (1929 & 1930)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1947


AL MVP
1931 1932 1933
No Award Lefty Grove Jimmie Foxx

[edit] Further Reading

  • Jim Kaplan: Lefty Grove: American Original, SABR, Cleveland, OH, 2000.

[edit] Related Sites

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