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Stan Coveleski

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Stanley Anthony Coveleski (born Stanislaus Kowalewski) (July 13, 1889, Shamokin, Pennsylvania – March 20, 1984) was a Major League Baseball player during the 1910s and 1920s. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

Coveleski, a starting pitcher, was known for throwing the spitball; and he was one of the 17 pitchers permitted to continue throwing the pitch when it was outlawed in 1920.[1] His older brother, Harry Coveleski, also gained notability as a professional baseball player.[2]

Early yearsEdit

Coveleski was born as the youngest of five ball-playing brothers in the coal-mining community of Shamokin, Pennsylvania.[3] Like many of his peers, he began work as a "breaker boy" at a local colliery at the tender age of 12.[3] In return for 72 hours of labor per week, the young Coveleski received $3.75, or about five cents an hour.[4] "There was nothing strange in those days about a twelve-year-old Polish kid working in the mines for 72 hours a week at a nickel an hour", he later recalled. "What was strange is that I ever got out of there".[4] Coveleski was rarely able to play baseball as a child, given that he almost never saw the sunlight.[3]

Nevertheless, he worked on his pitching skills during the evenings, when he would "put a tin can on a log, or tie it to a tree, and stand maybe 40 or 50 feet away and throw stones at it".[5] When he was 18 years old, Coveleski's abilities caught the attention of the local semi-professional ball club, which invited him to pitch for them.[5] "When it came to throwing a baseball, why it was easy to pitch", Coveleski recalled. "After all, the plate's a lot bigger than a tin can to throw at".[5] His baseball career in Shamokin was short-lived, however. After five games with the local ball club, Coveleski relocated to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.[5]

Baseball careerEdit

File:Coveleskie.jpg

Coveleski signed his first professional contract in 1909 with the minor league Lancaster Red Roses, a club affiliated with the Tri-State League.[6] He later recalled that his trip to Lancaster was "the first time I ever rode on a train," and he added that he "was too shy to eat in the hotel with the rest of the team".[7] Despite his soft-spoken demeanor and relative lack of experience, Coveleski excelled during his three seasons in Lancaster, earning a record of 53 wins and 38 losses in 109 appearances.[7] He eventually moved on to the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League, where he pitched a remarkable 64 games in one season.[7]

Coveleski made his major league debut in 1912, with the Philadelphia Athletics, pitching in five games that season. He didn't remain with the team long, however. At the time of his debut, the Philadelphia club retained several talented pitchers, including Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, and Jack Coombs.[1] "Don't know if I could have beat them out for a spot in the rotation", Coveleski later admitted. "[Connie] Mack didn't think so and let me go". The pitcher added, "I know he was sorry afterwards".[1] In 1916, Coveleski returned to the major leagues as a member of the Cleveland Indians and enjoyed a string of very successful seasons. He won over 20 games each season from 1918 until 1921 and was the star of the 1920 World Series, in which he pitched three complete game victories.[1] In 2002, baseball historian William C. Kashatus wrote that Coveleski's "incredible ERA of .67 still stands as a World Series record".[1] Kashatus observed that, despite Coveleski's enormous success in Cleveland, he "really didn't like playing there".[1] Asked about his experiences there, Coveleski refused to get into details and merely stated: "The best thing that happened to me there was pitching to Steve O'Neill. He caught me for nine years in Cleveland and knew me so well he didn't even need to give me a sign".[1]

In 1925, after nine years pitching for Cleveland, Coveleski was traded to the Washington Senators.[1] This followed a lackluster 1924 season in which he posted a 4.04 ERA.[citation needed] During his first season in Washington, Coveleski rebounded, working up a 20–5 record and ending with "a league-leading 2.84 ERA".[1] That same year, he made his second World Series appearance, though he performed less impressively, losing two games to Pittsburgh.[1] Coveleski pitched for Washington during the 1926 season and part of the 1927 season, but his performance declined due to "a chronically sore arm".[8] He retired after the 1928 season with the New York Yankees. In his final season, he posted a 5–record in 12 appearances and helped the Yankees to another pennant.[8]

In a 14-year career, Coveleski was 216–142, with a 2.89 ERA in 450 games, 385 of them starts.[8] Two-hundred-and twenty-four of those he completed, and 38 for shutouts. He struck out 981 in 3082 innings pitched. He was 3–2 in World Series games started (1920 and 1925). Both Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb called Coveleski one of the toughest pitchers either faced. [citation needed] His control was legendary, and it was not unusual for him to pitch a complete game having thrown 95 pitches or less. Baseball statistician Bill James ranked Coveleski 24th among the greatest right-handed pitchers of all time in career value.[citation needed]

RetirementEdit

In 1929, after leaving major league baseball, Coveleski relocated to South Bend, Indiana, where he opened a service station.[9] There, he became a popular member of the community, providing free pitching lessons to local youth in a field behind his garage.[9] His health declined in later years, and he was eventually admitted to a local nursing home, where he died in March 1984.[10]

LegacyEdit

In addition to Coveleski's 1969 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame,[8] in 1976 he was also inducted into the National Polish-American Hall of Fame. He is one of the Top 100 winning pitchers of all time. In 1984, the minor league baseball stadium in South Bend, Indiana, was named in his honor.[9] A New York Times obituary noted that Coveleski won 20 games in five out of 14 seasons.[10]

NotesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Kashatus (2002), p. 86.
  2. "Three Coveleski Boys Sign", The Ogden (Utah) Standard, February 8, 1909, p. 5.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Kashatus (2002), pp. 9–10.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kashatus (2002), p. 9.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Kashatus (2002), p. 10.
  6. Lammers, Craig. Roy Castleton. Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved on 2007-03-04.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Kashatus (2002), p. 44.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Kashatus (2002), p. 88.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Kashatus (2002), p. 126.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Stan Coveleski, 94: Pitcher Was Elected to Hall of Fame", The New York Times, March 21, 1984, p. 11.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Kashatus, William C. (2002). Diamonds in the Coalfields: 21 Remarkable Baseball Players, Managers, and Umpires from Northeast Pennsylvania. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-1176-4.

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