On the field, Waddell struck out eight batters per nine innings at a time when the best pitchers rarely fanned more than four per nine. He threw every pitch – he threw as hard as anybody of his era, as well as a baffling assortment of curves and change ups. He pitched the Athletics to the American League pennant twice and was the first pitcher to fan 300 batters under the modern rules (60′ 6″ from rubber to plate and the foul strike rule). He owned the single game strikeout record, the single season strikeout record, and for a while held the record for most consecutive innings pitched without allowing a run. He even outdueled Cy Young over 20 innings once to get a win over Boston.
But it was what he did off the field (or on the way to the park) that kept him in the news – on any page of the paper – every other day of the year. A fan might see him on stage, tending bar (or drinking heavily), wrestling alligators, putting out fires, or saving cities from floods. His marriages were disasters – and the last two ended in nationally covered divorces.
Rube had issues with maturity; he couldn’t pay rent and he couldn’t dependably show up on time for games. In many cases, he would leave the team and pitch in semi-pro games or work wild west shows when he should have been available to pitch or attending practice. Rube’s off-field exploits and child-like behavior became the stuff of legend – and over the years the craziest stories were told about Rube.
The problem, of course, is that memories fade over time – and many of the stories told about Rube were rehashed in the 1940s when Bob Feller challenged Rube’s single season strikeout record. Much of what you may have heard about Rube is fiction or exaggerations of what really happened.
In “Just a Big Kid: The Life and Times of Rube Waddell”, Paul Proia looks back at what was written about Rube when he was alive, getting to the truth and adding color to the myths or correcting details of the legend.
If you want to hear me discuss the book with Joe Magennis of Baseballisms.com, give us a listen! (Then, go buy the book!)
Order direct from the author and pay just $20, which includes the cost of shipping. You’ll save nearly $15 (the list price is $29.99, plus shipping and handling) and get the book personalized for your collection, or the collection of your favorite baseball fan!