When I’ve been doing these short comments on Deadball Era players, I’ve almost always chosen position players. Today I want to change that and look at a pitcher. I’ve chosen Dick Rudolph.
Rudolph came out of New York City via Fordham University to a minor league career in New England and Canada. He got a cup of coffee with the Giants in 1910 and 11, did poorly, and went back to the minors. The Braves brought him to Boston in 1913. He was a “junk ball” pitcher with a good curve, but not much of a fastball. As is usual for these kinds of pitchers, he got by on location and the curve. He was 14-13 in 1913, then became the ace of the Braves staff in 1914, going 26-10. That was the year of the “Miracle Braves.” In last place in July, they came to life and rolled to a pennant, then crushed the world champion Philadelphia Athletics in four straight games in the World Series. Rudolph being the winning pitcher in both games one and four.
After that, he had two more good years going 22-19 in 1915 and 19-12 in 1916. It was his last year with a winning record. In 1918 he developed soreness in his arm. His ERA’s remained good through 1919 and part of his record is a reflection of the declining quality of the team. By 1921 he became a coach who pitched occasionally (8 games over 7 years). He did some work in the minors as an owner, then became the supervisor for the concessionaire at both the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium. He died in 1949.
For his career, Rudolph was 121-109 (.526 winning percentage) over 279 games (almost all starts). He had more innings pitched than hits and struck out about twice as many men as he walked. His career ERA was 2.66. Then there are the two World Series wins. His postseason ERA was 0.50 wth 15 strikeouts in 18 innings. He also went 2 for 6 as a hitter and scored a run in the Series.
Rudolph is a good example of a fairly common type of pitcher. They go back all the way to the beginning of the Major Leagues and continue today. It’s the pitcher who has a short, but productive, few years then sees his career collapse for whatever reason, usually an injury. This type still flourishes today, note Mark Prior as an example. Rudolph is one of those that managed to parlay his short period of excellence into a championship.