April 24, 1894|
Silver Creek, New York
|Died: March 17, 1959
|April 12, 1915 for the Buffalo Blues|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 22, 1930 for the Philadelphia Athletics|
|Earned run average||3.75|
|Career highlights and awards|
Howard Jonathan Ehmke (April 24, 1894 – March 17, 1959) was a Major League Baseball pitcher. He is best known for being the surprise starter who won Game 1 of the 1929 World Series for the Philadelphia Athletics at the age of 35. After retirement from baseball, he started his own company that began making the first tarpaulins to cover baseball diamonds during rain.
Born in Silver Creek, New York, Ehmke was a pitcher for fifteen seasons in the Major Leagues with the Buffalo Blues (1915), Detroit Tigers (1916–1917, 1919–1922); Boston Red Sox (1923–1926), and Philadelphia Athletics (1926–1930). Ehmke won at least 10 games in 9 seasons and had a career record of 166-166 with an ERA of 3.75. His greatest success was with the Boston Red Sox, including a no-hitter and his only 20-win season in 1923. Ehmke still holds the American League record for fewest hits (one) in two consecutive starts. Ehmke also ranks No. 16 on the all time Major League list for hitting batsmen with a pitch. Ehmke hit 137 batters in his career and led the American League in the category seven times, including a career-high 23 in 1922.
Buffalo Blues and Detroit Tigers: 1915-1922
Ehmke began his Major League career in 1915, pitching 18 games (mostly in relief) for the Buffalo Blues of the Federal League. The Detroit Tigers purchased Ehmke from the Blues on February 10, 1916. After seeing limited action in 1916, Ehmke appeared in at least 30 games a year for the Tigers in 1917 and from 1919-1922. Ehmke's best season for the Tigers was 1919 when he finished with a 17-10 record. Ehmke did not have a winning season in Detroit after 1919 and was twice among the American League leaders in losses for the Tigers (18 in 1920 and 17 in 1922). In 1921, Ehmke had a record of 13-14 and an ERA of 4.54 pitching for a team that had the highest team batting average (.316) in American League history.
On August 8, 1920, Ehmke shut out the Yankees 1-0 in just 1 hour‚ 13 minutes‚ one of the shortest games in American League history. With no outs and 2 on in the 5th inning‚ Yankee Ping Bodie fell for the hidden ball trick applied by Tigers' second baseman Ralph Young. Ehmke did have problems with his control during his tenure with the Tigers, leading the American League in 1920-1923, 1925 and 1927 for hitting batters.
Boston Red Sox: 1923-1926
On October 30, 1922, the Tigers traded Ehmke with Danny Clark, Babe Herman, Carl Holling, and $25,000 to the Boston Red Sox for Del Pratt and Rip Collins. Ehmke flourished in Boston, winning 20 games in 1923. On September 7 of that year, he no-hit his future team, the Philadelphia Athletics, 4-0 at Shibe Park; not until Mel Parnell in 1956 would another Red Sox pitch a no-hitter. In that game, Slim Harriss hit a ball to the wall for a double, but was called out for missing first base, preserving the no-hitter. He followed the performance up with a one-hitter against the Yankees four days later, with the only hit in that game a ground ball that bounced off the third baseman's chest. He still holds the American League record for fewest hits allowed (1) in two consecutive games (Johnny Vander Meer's consecutive no-hitters in 1938 is the Major League record). His 1923 season was the best of his career. That year, he was No. 11 in the American League Most Valuable Player voting, and among the league leaders in most categories, including wins (20), losses (17), strikeouts (121), innings (316-2/3), games started (39), complete games (28), and shutouts (2), earned runs allowed (133), and batters faced (1,331).
Ehmke followed with another strong performance in 1924, finishing among the league leaders in wins (5th best with 19), ERA (4th best with 3.46), strikeouts (2nd best with 119), and innings pitched (1st with 315). Ehmke finished 15th in the American League Most Valuable Player voting for 1924.
In 1925, Ehmke had a record of 9-20. Ehmke lost 20 games despite pitching a league high 22 complete games, ranking 3rd in the league in strikeouts, and having a 3.73 ERA, best among Boston's starters. The Red Sox were a poor team in 1925, losing 101 games. Ehmke still finished 24th in the AL MVP voting despite losing 20 games.
Philadelphia Athletics: 1926-1930
On June 15, 1926, the Red Sox traded Ehmke and Tom Jenkins to the Philadelphia Athletics for Fred Heimach, Slim Harriss, and Baby Doll Jacobson. The change of scene did wonders for Ehmke. After going 3-10 in the first half of 1926 with the last place Red Sox, Ehmke went 12-4 in the second half of the season with Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane catching and A's slugger, Al Simmons, hitting .341 behind him. Though the frequency of his starts diminished after 1927, Ehmke had a winning record for the Athletics in four consecutive seasons from 1926-1929.
By 1929, however, Ehmke was nearing the end of his career. He would pitch for a few games, but would be out for three weeks due to a sore arm. As a result, he only appeared in 11 games that season--but finished with a record of 7-2 and an ERA 3.29, below the league average. In August, manager Connie Mack called Ehmke into his office and told him that he would be released after the season. Ehmke accepted the decision, but told Mack that he believed he had one more game left in him. After 15 years in the majors, he badly wanted to pitch in a World Series. By this time, it was clear that the A's would win the pennant. They had been in first since May 13, and had opened up a 12-game lead in the standings. After giving it some thought, Mack told Ehmke that after his next start, he wouldn't pitch again for the last month of the season. He also told Ehmke to scout the Cubs, who were running away with the National League, on their last East Coast trip of the season--and be ready to pitch Game 1 of the World Series.
Although it was widely thought to be a sentimental move, Mack believed that Ehmke's sidearm style and his mix of control and slow pitches would keep the predominantly right-handed Cubs off balance. he also believed that with a month's rest, Ehmke's arm would hold up well. In Game 1, Ehmke pitched a complete game and struck out a then-World Series record 13 batters in a 3-1 win over Chicago. For this reason, Bill James called Mack's decision to start Ehmke "the most brilliant managerial stratagem in the history of baseball." At the time, Ehmke also set a record for lowest win total during the regular season by a World Series game 1 starter. This record would stand until 2006 when St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Anthony Reyes started game 1 of the 2006 World Series after having gone 5-8 during the regular season. Ehmke also started the final game of the 1929 World Series, holding the Cubs scoreless in the first two innings, but giving up 2 runs with 2 outs in the 3rd. The A's came from behind to win the game and the World Series.
Ehmke was brought back for the 1930 season, but was released after making a few cameo appearances.
The Howard Ehmke Company
In Winter 1931, Ehmke formed his own company, issuing 1000 shares of common stock. Ehmke's product was "a large canvas tarpaulin that could be spread over the infield when it rained to keep water off the baseball diamond." Ehmke Manufacturing Company is still in business today.
Ehmke died in Philadelphia in 1959.
- "Howard Ehmke chronology", Baseball Library.
- "Single Season Hit by Pitch Records". baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
- The Star Ledger. section 5. pg. 16. September 7, 2014
- James, Bill (1997). The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers. Diversion Books.
- "Howard Ehmke", Baseball Library.
- "New Incorporations," New York Times, February 12, 1931.
- "Howard Ehmke", Ehmke Manufacturing Company. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- John Shiffert, "Howard Ehmke", 19 to 21 (9)13, June 6, 2011. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011.
Sad Sam Jones
September 7, 1923