Burleigh Grimes

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Burleigh Arland Grimes
(Ol' Stubblebeard)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 175 lb.

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1964

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

"Never mind . . . Grimes will dust me off this afternoon." - Gabby Hartnett to a Pullman porter at the train station who was about to brush him off, about facing Burleigh Grimes later that day (according to Grimes himself in Baseball Digest, May 1960)

Burleigh Grimes, with 270 major league victories, was the last legal spitball pitcher. When the pitch was banned in 1920, several players were allowed to continue throwing the pitch until their retirement. Of those, Grimes was the last to play in the major leagues.

His nickname comes from his habit of not shaving on days when he pitched. He chewed slippery elm when pitching to improve the lubricating properties of his saliva, and the stubble helped to protect his face from the irritating effects of the slippery elm.

Grimes was already a successful pitcher before the spitball was banned (for instance, he went 19-9 in 1918), but some of his best years came after 1920. He learned the spitball when watching Hank Gehring pitch for the St. Paul Apostles as a youth in 1906 and imitating him.

He was an excellent athlete when young, and actually made his first professional appearance at shortstop for the Eau Claire Commissioners of the Minnesota-Wisconsin League in 1912. He was also used many times as an outfielder that first season, in addition to pitching. The league was very precarious and folded on July 2, with Grimes finishing the season by pitching with an amateur team based in Austin, MN.

Grimes hit .316 in World Series play, including going 4-for-12 against Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw in the World Series games he pitched against them. He finished his major league career with a solid .248 batting average, showing that he never lost the skills as an all-around player.

"I know we dealt away a fine young pitcher, but that Grimes just fights with everyone, friend or foe." - Barney Dreyfuss, Pirates owner, 1918

Grimes and Frankie Frisch had a long feud while they were players, with Grimes sometimes knocking him down with pitches and Frisch once spiking Grimes seriously when Grimes covered first base. They later became friends and Frisch got him a job managing in Toronto, according to Grimes.

After his playing career ended, Grimes was manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937 and 1938 and a Kansas City Athletics coach in 1955.

Grimes also scouted for the New York Yankees, Kansas City A's, and Baltimore Orioles (until 1971). He was scouting for the Yankees in 1948 when he led the Independence Yankees on an interim basis.

In later life he had a farm in Missouri.

One source: May 1960 article in Baseball Digest about Grimes.

Famous Last[edit]

Last legal spitballer (1934)

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL Wins Leader (1921 & 1928)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (1920)
  • 2-time NL Games Pitched Leader (1918 & 1928)
  • 3-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (1923, 1924 & 1928)
  • NL Strikeouts Leader (1921)
  • 4-time NL Complete Games Leader (121, 1923, 1924 & 1928)
  • NL Shutouts Leader (1928)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 10 (1918, 1920-1924 & 1927-1931)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 5 (1920, 1921, 1923, 1924 & 1928)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1928)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 13 (1918 & 1920-1931)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 5 (1920, 1921, 1923, 1924 & 1928)
  • Won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1931
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1964

Preceded by
Casey Stengel
Brooklyn Dodgers Manager
Succeeded by
Leo Durocher

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1935 Bloomington Bloomers Three-I League 75-44 1st St. Louis Cardinals League Champs
1936 Louisville Colonels American Association 63-91 7th Pittsburgh Pirates
1937 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 62-91 6th Brooklyn Dodgers
1938 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 69-80 7th Brooklyn Dodgers
1939 Montreal Royals International League 64-88 7th Brooklyn Dodgers
1940 Grand Rapids Dodgers Michigan State League 50-56 4th Brooklyn Dodgers Lost in 1st round
1942 Toronto Maple Leafs International League 74-79 6th Pittsburgh Pirates
1943 Toronto Maple Leafs International League 95-57 1st Pittsburgh Pirates Lost League Finals
1944 Toronto Maple Leafs International League 79-74 3rd Pittsburgh Pirates Lost in 1st round
1945 Rochester Red Wings International League 64-90 8th St. Louis Cardinals
1946 Rochester Red Wings International League 19-27 -- St. Louis Cardinals -- replaced by Benny Borgmann (46-60) on June 15
Kansas City Blues American Association 19-37 7th New York Yankees replaced Goldie Holt (7-7) on July 16
1948 Independence Yankees Western Association 2-2 -- New York Yankees -- replaced Frankie "Goldie" Howard (1-7) on May 15
replaced by Bones Sanders (71-37) on May 20
1952 Toronto Maple Leafs International League 34-32 4th St. Louis Browns Lost in 1st round replaced Joe Becker (44-44) July 15
1953 Toronto Maple Leafs International League 78-76 5th none

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jason Christopherson: "Burleigh Grimes and the 1912 Eau Claire Commissioners", in The National Pastime, SABR, Volume 28 (2008), pp. 106-112.
  • Charles F. Faber: "Burleigh Grimes", in Charles F. Faber, ed.: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals: The World Champion Gas House Gang, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2014, pp. 118-130. ISBN 978-1-933599-731
  • Joe Niese: Burleigh Grimes: Baseball's Last Legal Spitballer, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7864-7328-1

Related Sites[edit]