William Theodore Stecher
- Bats Unknown, Throws Right
- Debut September 6, 1890
- Final Game October 9, 1890
- Born October 20, 1869 in Riverside, NJ USA
- Died December 26, 1926 in Riverside, NJ USA
Pitcher William Stecher holds a couple of unenviable records: the most career games by a pitcher who lost all his games (10), and the most career innings pitched by a pitcher with an ERA above 10.00 (68 innings, 10.32). He compiled those statistics while playing for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association at the tail end of the 1890 season. He was an undistinguished minor league pitcher when he was hired by the Athletics, who were practically bankrupt and had been forced to lay off their most expensive (and best) players and replace them with amateurs by the beginning of September. The team went 2-26 down the stretch, and while Stecher's 0-10 record contributed to the debacle, none of his teammates did much better than the overmatched youngster.
He was the son of an immigrant from Germany who had moved to New Jersey in 1854. By the time he was a teenager he was pitching for his hometown's amateur team. In 1888, he joined a semi-pro club from Riverton, NJ and in 1889, he began the year pitching for another semi-pro club in Bordentown, NJ. He made his professional debut on July 16th with the Harrisburg Ponies of the Middle States League. On August 9th, he pitched a no-hitter against the Cuban Giants, a team featuring future Hall of Famer Frank Grant. The Middle States League was outside the National Agreement, which explains while it included a colored team like the Giants, who incidentally won the league title that year. He finished the season back with the Riverton club.
In 1890, he started the year back with Harrisburg, which had now joined the Eastern Interstate League. That spring, he had an opportunity to pitch some exhibition games against a few teams from the major league American Association, making a good impression. He went 8-5 for Harrisburg, striking out a lot of batters, but also issuing many walks. 1890 was a season in which three major leagues were in competition, the AA being joined by the well-established National League and the upstart Players League, formed by members of the "Brotherhood" seeking better employment conditions for ballplayers. Each league had a team in Philadelphia, PA - the Phillies of the NL joining teams known as the Athletics in both the AA and the Players League. The American Association team, which was one of the more established franchises in the circuit, started the season well, leading the circuit with a record of 43-37 on July 17th, but then began to sink in the standings. By the end of August, they had fallen to 6th place and were just above .500 at 51-49, when they began losing players in droves.
The team that Stecher joined in early September was thus a shadow of what it had been at the start of the season. Two of its pitchers, Mickey Hughes and Ed Seward, had left the team, as did many of the regulars, replaced by players who were little more than amateurs. Still, William made a successful debut in an exhibition game on September 2nd, defeating the St. Louis Browns, 3-2. When he began playing in contests that mattered, however, it was a different story. In his debut on September 6th, he lost 7-0 to the Louisville Colonels, then followed that with an 18-6 pasting at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles in the second game of a doubleheader that was called on account of darkness after 7 innings. He lost his next two starts by scores of 10-0 and 16-3, then on September 26th, he was beaten 7-3 by the Browns. On the 28th, he started the first game of a doubleheader against the Toledo Maumees and lost, 11-9, being relieved by Ed Green in the 5th, the only holdover form the pre-bankruptcy Athletics. It was the only time Stecher would fail to complete one of his starts. He started the second game of that doubleheader as well, but it was no contest, as he lost, 15-1, in another game called after 7 innings. This was followed by a 14-0 loss to the Columbus Solons on October 1st and a 6-1 loss to the Syracuse Stars on October 4th. His final appearance, on October 9th was yet another loss, 10-4, to the Rochester Broncos. Overall, his pitching line for the year was 0-10, 10.32 in 10 starts. In 68 innings, he gave up 111 hits and 60 walks, while striking out 18. He did better with the bat, going 7 for 29 (.241), which was a lot better than many of his teammates.
After his brief and mostly unsuccessful professional career, he went back to pitching in the amateur ranks for many years. He was tax assessor of his hometown of Riverside, NJ in the 1890s and was elected sheriff of Burlington County in 1914, on his third try. He died when his car was hit by a train at a railroad crossing.
- Jonathan Frankel: "William T. Stecher: Ignominious Record Holder, Community Servant", in Morris Levin, ed.: From Swampoodle to South Philly: Baseball in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, The National Pastime, SABR, 2013, pp. 148-153.