By guest blogger Bruce Solomon
Smokey Joe Wood began his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1908. His best season was in 1912 when he led Boston to the American League pennant with 34 wins. He had a 1.91 ERA and topped the league with 10 shut outs. Incredibly, he was only fifth in the MVP voting and was the second-best pitcher behind Walter Johnson who had 33 wins, a 1.39 ERA and 303 strikeouts. Wood and Johnson both won 16 games in a row during the 1912 season. With a stellar performance in the World Series Wood added three more victories as the Sox claimed the championship.
Then in 1913, Smokey Joe Wood slipped and broke his thumb. When he tried to come back too soon, he hurt his shoulder—so badly, that by 1915, he couldn’t raise his right arm high enough to put it on the arm rest at the movie theater. By 1916, Wood retired and went back to the farm, washed up at 26 years old. But Smokey Joe said, “Doggone it, I am a ballplayer, not just a pitcher.” Wood fought his way back to the big leagues as an outfielder and played for the Cleveland Indians for five years, batting .366 in 1921.
Smokey Joe Wood—the best pitcher you never heard of and an inspiration for us all.
Four of the greatest hurlers from the early decades of the 20th Century: Smokey Joe Wood, Cy Young, Lefty Grove and The Big Train, Walter Johnson. Each of these pitchers won 30 games or more in a season at least once.