March 6 – Happy Birthday Lefty Grove

Lefty Grove did not start pitching for an organized baseball team until he was 17-years-old. Though he started the game late, he had the makings of a fastball that would one day become legendary and since he was born in Maryland, it was real easy for the Baltimore Orioles to scout him and sign him before any Major League team could beat them to it. Grove would spend the next five seasons pitching for the Birds, compiling an amazing 108-36 record during that span. The problem was, he should have won at least half those games in the Major Leagues but the Orioles were in no hurry to lose their meal-ticket. They waited till Grove was 25 years of age in 1925 before accepting Connie Mack’s offer of $100,600 for their star pitcher.

Grove would then spend the next nine seasons helping Mack’s A’s become an American league mini-dynasty. During those nine years, Grove would lead the AL in wins four times, ERA five times and finish with the most strikeouts, seven years in a row. He would also help Philadelphia capture three straight AL Pennants (1929, ’30 and ’31) and two straight World Series. But it was not easy or much fun playing with or managing old Lefty. He was mean and ornery most of the time and didn’t get along with Mack at all. That’s why Connie did not cry when financial difficulties hit the A’s franchise and he was forced to unload many of his star players, including Grove who had gone 24-8 during his last season with the A’s in 1933. Tom Yawkey had just purchased the hapless Red Sox franchise that had been losing loads of money and ball games consistently since the Babe Ruth trade fourteen years earlier. The new owner idolized his new pitching star and pretty much treated him like the crown prince of his baseball team.

Boston fans were disappointed when Yawkey’s new boy got off to a mediocre 8-8 start as a Red Sox in 1934. Then in ’35, the Fenway faithful were treated to a much more typical Lefty Grove season, when he went 20-12 and led the league with a 2.70 ERA. During his eight years in Boston, Grove would go on to compile a record of 105-62 and help attract new players and new fans to the franchise. His most historic win in a Red Sox uniform was his last one in 1939. He pitched six innings in Boston’s 8-6, August 16th victory over the Washington Senators to earn his 300th career victory. He retired after that 1939 season at the age of 41 and was later elected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame in his first year of eligibility. His real name was Robert Moses Grove and he died in 1975 at the age of 75.

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