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Born in Lonaconing, Maryland, Grove was a sandlot star in the Allegany County, Maryland area in 1919 with the Midland, MD club. His performance caught the eye of former Major League infielder Bill Louden, who was managing the Martinsburg-WV club of the Class D, Blue Ridge League in 1920. The lefty Grove, who was originally known as Groves, pitched seven games for the Martinsburg Mountaineers before his contract was sold in late June to Jack Dunn, the owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles, who also discovered Babe Ruth.
is a member of
Hall of Fame
Grove joined the Orioles in 1920 and embarked on an epic minor league career which saw him regarded by some as one of the best pitchers in baseball, even before he ever threw a pitch in the majors. Breaking into the team's pitching rotation at midseason, Grove posted a 12-2 record. Over the next four seasons, he posted marks of 25-10, 18-8, 27-10 and 27-6, leading the International League in strikeouts every season.
Grove remained in the minor leagues through 1924 because Dunn, who ran an independent operation with no major-league affiliation, refused several offers from the majors to acquire him. Finally, early in 1925, Dunn agreed to sell Grove's rights to the Philadelphia Athletics for $100,500, the highest amount ever paid for a player at the time.
He battled injuries as a rookie and posted only a 10-13 record, despite leading the league in strikeouts. Grove then settled down in 1926 and won the first of a record nine earned run average (ERA) titles with a mark of 2.51. In 1927, Grove won 20 games for the first time and a year later, he led the league in wins with 24.
The Athletics won the pennant in three successive seasons (1929 to 1931), as well as two straight World Championships 1929 and 1930. During the Athletics championship run, Grove led the way as the league's top pitcher, posting records of 20-6, 28-5 and 31-4 in those years, the last of which being his best. Grove led the league in wins, ERA (2.06), strikeouts (175), winning percentage, complete games and shutouts. He was also chosen as league MVP in 1931, making him one of only a handful of pitchers to achieve this honor. His MVP Award is the only one not housed in Cooperstown, instead being housed at the Georges Creek Library in Lonaconing, Maryland.
The Athletics continued to contend for the next two seasons, but finished second to the New York Yankees in 1932 and third behind the Washington Senators and Yankees in 1933. Following the 1933 season, team owner Connie Mack sold Grove to the Boston Red Sox. Grove led the American League in strikeouts his first 7 seasons (1925-1931), making 11 consecutive years leading his league counting his last 4 minor league seasons. (Red Ruffing defeated him by 2 strikeouts in 1932). Dazzy Vance of the Brooklyn Dodgers led his first 7 full seasons (1922-1928) after making token appearances in 1915 and 1918. Grove often pitched in relief in between starts, and actually pitched in relief in 5 consecutive games in 1933.
At the time, the Red Sox were a bad team, and Grove didn't help much his first year, when an arm injury held him to an 8-8 record. However in 1935, Grove returned to form with a 20-12 record and a league-leading 2.70 ERA. Grove won his eighth ERA title a year later, and also led the league in that category and winning percentage in 1939. Grove did not win as many games in Boston as he did in Philadelphia, as managers he had some bouts of arm trouble. Nevertheless, Grove continued to post outstanding records, including 14-4 in 1938 and 15-4 in 1939. Grove set still-standing major league records by leading the league 9 times in earned-run-average and 5 times in won-lost percentage, as well as 7 consecutive 20-win seasons by a lefthander. His 8 20-win seasons are an AL record for a lefthanded pitcher (Eddie Plank had 7 20- win seasons in the AL and 1 in the Federal League (1915) and Warren Spahn had a total of 13 in the NL, but not more than 6 in a row.
Grove retired in 1941 with a career record of 300-141. His .680 lifetime winning percentage is still eighth all-time; however, none of the seven men ahead of him won more than 236 games (Whitey Ford). His lifetime ERA of 3.06, when normalized to relate to overall league ERA and adjusted for the parks in which Grove played during his career, is second only to the still-active Pedro Martínez), at 48 percent above average.
Grove was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947 along with batterymate Mickey Cochrane, Carl Hubbell, and Frankie Frisch. He died in Norwalk, Ohio and was interred in the Frostburg Memorial Cemetery in Frostburg, Maryland.
In 1999, Grove ranked number 23 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players of all time. He was the highest-ranked left-handed pitcher. That same year, Grove was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
- In 1928, Grove twice struck out the side on 9 pitches. On August 23, he did it in the second inning of a 3-1 win over the Cleveland Indians to become the third American League pitcher and seventh pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning. On September 27, he did it in the seventh inning of a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox, becoming the first pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the feat twice in a career; since then, only Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan have joined him. Grove, however, remains the only pitcher to ever do it twice in the same season, just one month and four days apart.
- Baseball Hall of Fame
- Baseball-Reference.com - Major league career statistics
- Lefty Grove on Whilbr, Western Maryland History Online
- Georges Creek Public Library
|American League Most Valuable Player|
|Major League Baseball | MLB All-Century Team|
Nolan Ryan | Sandy Koufax | Cy Young | Roger Clemens | Bob Gibson | Walter Johnson | Warren Spahn | Christy Mathewson | Lefty Grove