Bob Caruthers

Caruthers is among the all-time leaders in winning percentage at .692. He won 40 games twice, posting league-leading marks of 40-13 (1885) and 40-11 (1889) while pacing his teams to pennants. He pitched a four-hitter in his September 1884 major league debut with the St. Louis Browns of the American Association. Considered a heady pitcher who figured out batters’ weaknesses, he helped the team to three straight pennants. He earned his nickname when he traveled to France after the 1885 season and engaged in a trans-Atlantic salary battle, settling for the then-huge sum of $3,200.

Caruthers also became a good hitter, and in 1887 he had an amazing season. Playing 54 games in the outfield and 7 at first base in addition to his 39 pitching appearances, he overcame malaria to hit .357 (fifth in the AA) and slug .547 (second) with eight HR (tied for fourth) and 59 stolen bases. He also went 29-9 as a pitcher and won four of St. Louis’s five postseason victories in a traveling 15-game series. Despite all this, eccentric owner Chris von der Ahe sold him to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the AA after the season for $8,250. Von der Ahe blamed carousing and card playing for his team’s defeat in the series, and Caruthers, an expert billiards and poker player, was just one of several scapegoats sold off.

Signing for a $5,000 salary that made him the highest-paid player in the AA, Caruthers earned it by helping the theretofore pathetic Bridegrooms to second place. In 1889, playing only five games elsewhere than the pitching box, his 40-11 season gave Brooklyn its first pennant.

Caruthers was the fourth pitcher in ML history to homer twice in one game, on August 16, 1886; in the same game, he got a triple and a double, to become the third pitcher with four extra-base hits in a game. He lost 11-9 when he was tagged out in the ninth inning trying to stretch his triple into a third HR. In 1893, when the pitching distance was moved back to 60’6″ from the former 50′, he had a sore arm and only played outfield. It was his last major league season, although he played until 1898 in the minors.