Boston Red Sox top 25-man roster in franchise history
By Sean Penney
Career Stats: 117 W, 11 SV, 2.03 ERA, 6.20 K/9, 2.64 BB/9, 26.2 WAR
With Red Sox: 117 W, 9 SV, 1.99 ERA, 6.26 K/9, 2.61 BB/9, 26.2 WAR
“Can I throw harder than Joe Wood? Listen mister, no man alive can throw any harder than Smoky Joe Wood.” – Walter Johnson.
The dominance of Wood lasted only two brief seasons before the pitching flame was diminished and eventually extinguished, but what a two seasons it was. In an “if” moment, it comes down to medical advances that impacted Wood’s career – a broken thumb, appendicitis and a shredded arm. If Doctor Frank Jobe had been in practice the arm may have been repaired.
Howard Ellsworth Wood was born in Kansas City, Missouri and started his trek to Boston in the Three-I League. In that era there was no farm system so if a player sparked an interest his contract could be purchased by another team and, if fortunate, by a major league club. First was being purchased by the Kansas City Blue, who were attracted by his speed. Wood’s next move was to Boston when the Red Sox purchased his contract.
“Joe Wood was one of the best pitchers I ever faced throughout my entire career.” – Ty Cobb
Wood’s first appearance was on August 24th, 1908 at the Huntington Street Grounds where the 18-year-old Wood lost 6-4. That was the beginning of three seasons of relative mediocrity and some personal turbulence with ownership. Then came 1911 and 1912.
The Red Sox of 1911 barely finished above .500 (78-75), but Wood gave a taste of what was to come the following season finishing with a 23-17 record 2.02 ERA. Now on to the memorable 1912 season and the opening of Fenway Park.
Wood finished 1912 with an astounding 34-5 record that included 10 shutouts, 16 wins in a row and finished off the season with a 3-1 record in a Boston World Series Championship that is known as “The Snodgrass Muff” over a fielding error by the Giants Fred Snodgrass that gave the Red Sox an extra inning win to close out the final game.
For the next three seasons Wood saw limited service time as a starter going 36-13 in that span, but did lead the American League in ERA (1.49) in 1915. Wood’s pitching career was essentially over in 1915, but not his baseball career as he returned as a position player with the Cleveland Indians and finished with a .283 career average. Wood then started his next baseball life as coach of Yale University and Saint John’s University.
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