He moved from Slippery Rock State College to an independent league in 1911, then to the American League in 1912 as a pitcher for Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics. In 1915, Mack sold him to the New York Yankees where he remained (except for a brief service with the U.S. Navy during World War I when he served on the battleship Arkansas for eight months) until 1931. While facing his former team in 1919, he struck out 15 As batters in a game, setting the Yankees team record for most strikeouts in a game; this record lasted for fifty-nine years.
Shawkey also served as the Yankees' manager in the 1930 season—following the sudden death of Miller Huggins—and guided the Yankees to a third-place finish.
Cartoon of Shawkey from 1913.
Shawkey won 207 games in his career, and won 20 or more games in five different seasons (his high was 26). Shawkey is noted as the starting pitcher in the first game played in Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923, and set the franchise record for 15 strikeouts in a single game, which stood until Whitey Ford broke it in the early 1960s. Bob credited his success to a super fastball and an outstanding curve ball. He later served as the baseball coach for Dartmouth College.
In 1970, Shawkey was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in Brookville, Pennsylvania. During the 1976 opening day festivities for the renovated Yankee Stadium, Shawkey threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He died at age 90 in Syracuse, New York on New Year's Eve 1980.