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Elmer Stricklett

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Elmer Stricklett
Born: (1876-08-29)August 29, 1876
Glasco, Kansas
Died: June 7, 1964(1964-06-07) (aged 87)
Santa Cruz, California
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 22, 1904, for the Chicago White Sox
Last MLB appearance
September 24, 1907, for the Brooklyn Superbas
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 35–51
Earned run average 2.84
Strikeouts 237

Elmer Griffin Stricklett (August 29, 1876 – June 7, 1964) was an American professional baseball pitcher. He pitched in Major League Baseball for the Chicago White Sox and Brooklyn Superbas from 1904 through 1907. Including his time in minor league baseball, Stricklett pitched professionally from 1897 through 1912.

Stricklett is considered one of the pioneers of the spitball. He learned the pitch while playing in the minor leagues. He later taught the spitball to Ed Walsh and Jack Chesbro, both of whom were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


Stricklett attended Santa Clara University, where he played college baseball for the Santa Clara Broncos baseball team.[1] He began his professional career in minor league baseball with the Topeka Colts of the Kansas State League in 1897. In 1898, he pitched for the Salina Blues and Atchison Huskers of the Kansas State League, before joining the Dallas Colts of the Class-C Texas League later that year. He pitched for the Rock IslandMoline Islanders of the Class-B Western Association and Kansas City Blues of the Class-A Western League in 1899. Despite pitching to a 14–1 win–loss record in 1899,[2] Kansas City released Stricklett to the Wheeling Stogies of the Class-B Interstate League in 1900.[3]

Stricklett split the 1900 season with Wheeling and the Toledo Mud Hens, also of the Interstate League, pitching to a 13-8 record.[2] In 1901, Stricklett pitched for the Toledo Swamp Angels of the Western Association and Sacramento Senators of the California League, compiling a 27-22 record.[2] In 1902, he pitched for the Newark Sailors of the Class-A Eastern League and the Sacramento Gilt Edges of the California League, finishing the season with a 23-22 record.[2] While pitching for Sacramento, Stricklett mastered the spitball.[4] In 1903, Stricklett pitched for Los Angeles and the Seattle Chinooks of the Pacific National League, going 24-8.[2]

Stricklett with the Superbas in 1905

The Chicago White Sox of the American League (AL) invited Stricklett to spring training in 1904, where he roomed with Ed Walsh. Stricklett taught Walsh the spitball.[5] After pitching in one game for the White Sox, allowing eight earned runs in seven IP,[1] he received his release, and pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers of the Class-A American Association for the remainder of the season,[6] where he pitched to a 24-11 record in 267 innings pitched (IP).[2] The Boston Americans of the AL purchased the rights to Stricklett in August 1904, but allowed him to remain in Milwaukee.[7]

The Brooklyn Superbas of the National League (NL) chose Stricklett from Milwaukee after the 1904 season in the Rule 5 draft.[1][8] He debuted with the Superbas in the 1905 season, pitching to a 9–18 record and a 3.34 earned run average (ERA) in 237 13 IP.[1] His 18 losses were ninth most in the league. Among NL pitchers, only Stricklett and Deacon Phillippe allowed no home runs that season.[9] In 1906, Stricklett went 14–18 with a 2.72 ERA in 291 23 IP, the ninth most losses and IP in the NL that season.[1][10] He appeared in 41 games, tied for fifth in the NL with Vic Willis and Jake Weimer, and his 28 complete games and five shutouts were both tied for tenth most in the NL. However, he also allowed 88 earned runs, sixth most in the league.[10]

Stricklett pitched on Opening Day for the Superbas in 1907, a game the Superbas lost.[11][12] That year, Stricklett had a 12–14 record and a 2.27 ERA in 229 23 IP.[1] His 25 complete games were eighth best in the NL, while his four shutouts tied for tenth.[13] In four MLB seasons, Stricklett went 35–51 with a 2.84 ERA and 10 shutouts.[1]

After the 1907 season, Stricklett returned to the California League to pitch for the San Jose Prune Prickers and Sacramento Sacts, and refused to report to Brooklyn in 1908 as his wife wanted him to remain closer to their California home.[14] As the California League was not recognized in organized baseball at this time, Stricklett was banned by MLB for four years.[15][16][17] Though he applied for reinstatement,[18] his banishment was upheld.[19] Stricklett continued to pitch for San Jose through 1910,[20] pitching to a 23-12 record in 1909 and a 19-14 record in 1910.[2]

After the 1910 season, Stricklett he retired from baseball.[21] However, he applied for reinstatement in 1912, which was granted by the National Commission. Stricklett was fined $100 ($2,482 in current dollar terms) for playing outside organized baseball for the previous three years.[14] The Superbas sold his rights to the Binghamton Bingoes of the New York State League,[22] and he pitched for the team.[23] In minor league baseball, Stricklett won 20 games in a season at least five times, compiling a 169-99 record across nine seasons.[2]


Stricklett denied inventing the spitball, though he claimed to be the first pitcher to master the spitball and to feature it exclusively.[4] To achieve the pitch, he would moisten the ball with a spot the size of two of his fingers.[24] The pitch would act "exactly the same way as reverse English does on a billiard ball".[4]

Stricklett learned the spitball from minor league teammate George Hildebrand in 1902,[4][25] who learned about it from Frank Corridon.[26] Stricklett played an important role in popularizing the spitball. Stricklett taught the spitball to Jack Chesbro, who saw him use the pitch while pitching in minor league baseball.[27][28] Though Chesbro had experimented with the pitch in the minor leagues, Stricklett showed him how to master it in 1904.[29] Stricklett taught it to Ed Walsh while they roomed together with the White Sox.[5][30][31]

Later life[edit]

Stricklett retired to Mountain View, California, where he grew apricots on a ranch.[4] He died in Santa Cruz, California, at the age of 87.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Elmer Stricklett Statistics and History". Retrieved November 26, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Elmer Stricklett Minor League Statistics & History". Retrieved November 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Diamond Dust". The Milwaukee Journal. April 3, 1900. p. 8. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Grandfather of Spitball: Elmer Stricklett Tells Story in Own Way". San Jose News. December 23, 1931. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Explains Secret of the Spitball: Ed Walsh, White Sox Wonder, Learned it From Elmer Stricklett. Can Be Perfectly Controlled: Reverse Twist Causes the Sudden Pitch Downward—Some Use Too Much Saliva". The Telegraph-Herald. March 30, 1914. p. 9. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Elmer Stricklett Has Made Good". Spokane Daily Chronicle. May 27, 1904. p. 3. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Gossip of the Baseball Field" (PDF). The New York Times. August 25, 1904. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Will Play With Nationals; Strong Contingent of Minor League Men secured for Next Year". The New York Times. December 29, 1904. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  9. ^ "1905 National League Pitching Leaders". Retrieved June 26, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "1906 National League Pitching Leaders". Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Boston Wins in a Pitchers' Battle: Opening Game with Brooklyn was Close. Great Work by Both Young and Stricklett: Shortstops Also Play a Star Game-- Rain or Cold Weather Cause Postponement of All the Other League Games Games Postponed Dartmouth 4, Georgetown 3 Game at Andover Postponed Other Games". The Hartford Courant. April 13, 1907. p. 9. Retrieved April 12, 2012.  (subscription required)
  12. ^ "Only One Big League Contest Yesterday". The Pittsburgh Press. April 13, 1907. p. 20. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  13. ^ "1907 National League Pitching Leaders". Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b "Elmer Stricklett Back With Brooklyn; Originator of "Moist Ball" Delivery Reinstated by National Commission". The New York Times. January 12, 1912. Retrieved November 26, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Will Hold Joint Meet at Chicago: Three-I and Central Ass'n to Decide Redistricting Plan Nov. 23. No Action at Memphis Meet: Dick Kinsella Appears on the Scene and Lands a Couple Players". The Telegraph-Herald. November 13, 1909. p. 10. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Stricklett an Outlaw". Chicago Tribune. February 21, 1908. p. 6. Retrieved December 4, 2011.  (subscription required)
  17. ^ "Bar Gates Against Stricklett". The Milwaukee Sentinel. January 8, 1910. p. 5. Retrieved November 26, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Comment on Sport: Rumor About Stricklett". The Evening News. October 20, 1908. p. 7. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Bar Gates Against Elmer Stricklett". The Milwaukee Sentinel. January 8, 1910. p. 8. Retrieved April 16, 2012. 
  20. ^ "San Jose Will Meet Watsonville Pippins: Another Hot Battle Will Be Fought At Luna Park, Elmer Stricklett Will Oppose Elmer Emerson". The Evening News. August 18, 1910. Retrieved April 16, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Little Bits of Baseball". The Pittsburgh Press. August 3, 1910. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  22. ^ "National League News in Short Metre" (pdf). 59 (3). The Sporting Life. March 23, 1912. Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  23. ^ "New York Nuggets" (pdf). 59 (3). The Sporting Life. May 18, 1912. Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  24. ^ Collins, Eddie (January 17, 1927). "Twenty One Years Of Base Ball: XIII Freak Pitching". Los Angeles Times. p. 13. Retrieved April 16, 2012.  (subscription required)
  25. ^ "Sayings of the Spectator". The Meriden Daily Journal. January 9, 1934. p. 3. Retrieved November 26, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Spitball Stricklett is Tired of Being a Superba". The Pittsburgh Press. December 29, 1905. p. 19. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Spitball's Inventor Dies at 87". The Hartford Courant. June 9, 1964. p. 25. Retrieved November 25, 2011.  (subscription required)
  28. ^ McCarthy, Ray (January 21, 1920). "Stricklett Credits Corridon With Originating Spitball". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  29. ^ Fleitz, David L. (2004). Ghosts in the gallery at Cooperstown: Sixteen little-known members of the Hall of Fame. McFarland & Company. p. 53. ISBN 0-7864-1749-8. Retrieved November 25, 2011. 
  30. ^ "Walsh Defends The Spitball". The Toronto Sunday World. March 29, 1914. p. 18. Retrieved November 26, 2011. 
  31. ^ Moshier, Jeff (March 22, 1934). "Playing Square: The Vanishing Tribe of Baseball". The Evening Independent. p. 5A. Retrieved April 16, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Harry McIntire
Brooklyn Superbas Opening Day Starting pitcher
Succeeded by
Nap Rucker