Sunday, March 11, 2007

100 Greatest Red Sox >> #37 Dutch Leonard

Dutch Leonard, SP, #N/A (1913-1918)

W-L 90-64, 211 G, 162 GS, 96 CG, 25 SHO, 2.13 ERA

Hubert Benjamin "Dutch" Leonard was born on 16 April 1893 in Birmingham, Ohio. He pitched for two seasons in college and one in the minors before getting his shot in the Majors. His BR Bullpen profile mentions a trial in 1911 with the Philadelphia A's. Legal troubles? Did they mean tryout? Research-backed answers get a cookie. He would break into the bigs with the Red Sox as a 20 year old in 1913.

What do we need to know about Dutch Leonard? Leonard was a part of three teams that would go on to WS titles in his career with the Red Sox. The only downside was having to play second fiddle to Babe Ruth for most of that time. He was an excellent pitcher in his own right, averaging over 16 wins a season over his 5 1/2 years with the Sox. Dutch was also a spitballer, and one of the pitchers allowed to continue throwing the pitch after it was banned in 1920.

Dutch's first season, 1913, was successful and unsuccessful. His ERA+ was a solid 122, with a WHIP of 1.307. However, he won only 14 and lost 17, being a good example of why wins and losses aren't a great way to judge a pitcher. The 1913 team finished fourth in the American League. He was on the verge of one of the greatest seasons ever by a starter.

As sophomore slumps go, Dutch didn't have one. He set the modern-day record for ERA at 0.96 with a staggering ERA+ of 279 over 224 2/3 IP. He would go as high as 16th in the MVP voting at the end of the season winning 19 games and helping the Sox move from 4th to 2nd place that season. One would hope, with the years to come, that even Leonard wouldn't see the 0.96 ERA as his crowning achievement.

1915 was an exciting season for the Sox. The first full season for Babe Ruth ushered in a WS title. The Sox would finish the season with 101 wins. Leonard had a good season, but after his phenomenal 1914, one might think it was a let down. Hopefully the WS trophy reduced some of the sting.

The next season was more of the same. Leonard won 18 in support of staff ace Ruth, and the Sox would win another title. Dutch did throw a no-hitter this season, against the St. Louis Browns, on 30 August. It's important to note that Dutch tossed a complete game win in both Series in which he appeared. While Leonard would be a part of the 1918 squad, he would never pitch another World Series game in his career.

Dutch reached a career high in complete games in 1917, finishing 26 of those contests he started. How weak are today's pitchers compared to that era? Dutch would finish only fifth in the league in that category. The Sox would finish nine games behind the White Sox that season, probably due to the departure of Tris Speaker. The Sox as a team held an ERA of 2.20, so it would seem hard to blame anyone but the offense.

1918 was Leonard's last season with the Sox, and he would only pitch half the season, missing time due to service in WWI and some time spend building ships. He would find time to pitch his second and last no-hitter, against the Detroit Tigers on 3 June. He would move on to the those Tigers in 1919, finishing his ML career in the Motor City. However, as with almost all human beings, his life was not without some significant controversy.

First of all, Dutch had a bit of a history with Tigers' superstar and all-around nice guy Ty Cobb. I'm going to let Ty Cobb dot org handle this one:

In 1914, Red Sox pitcher Dutch Leonard hit Cobb in the ribs with a fastball. In the next at bat, Cobb bunted the ball down the right side line. First baseman Clyde Engle covered the play, turning to toss the ball to Leonard just as Cobb spiked him.
Basically, the two had a pleasant history before Leonard arrived to play for Cobb's Tigers. He would never enjoy the same success he had with the Sox, but he was able to arrange some game-fixing while he was there. The story goes like this: Dutch was involved in game-fixing with Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker while he was a Tiger. Ex-Sox pitcher Smokey Joe Wood would also be implicated. Leonard would mostly hurt himself with this, until he produced documentation in 1926 that the incident did, in fact, occur. Speaker and Cobb would be released by their teams after the season. Leonard had already finished pitching the season before. It's important to note that the players did not throw the game for bettors. Quite simply, the Tigers could move into third-place for extra money.

Leonard would not return to baseball. He would become an accomplished wine-maker and a successful golfer. He died at the age of 60 because of complications due to stroke.

Allen once ate a live snake, spine and all. Just kidding. Snakes don't have spines. Find out more at Over The Monster.


Matt said...

Can't believe Dutch isn't higher on this list.

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