When Chesbro’s spitball sailed over the catcher’s head and the winning run scored from third on the last day of the 1904 season, the Highlanders (later the Yankees) lost the pennant. At the time, it overshadowed Chesbro’s outstanding season of 41 wins, in which he completed his first 30 starts. He pitched 454 innings in 55 games.
Chesbro’s career began slowly, with a minor league career plagued by the misfortune of being with shaky franchises that folded in mid-season. Finally, he joined the Atlantic League, organized by Ed Barrow, and worked his way to the majors. He joined Pittsburgh mid-season of 1899.
Chesbro’s fame as a pitcher began when he pitched the Pirates to their first pennants in 1901 and 1902. In 1902 he picked up the spitball, at a time when its peculiar properties were first being discovered by a number of pitchers. He strung together enough starring seasons to offset his relatively short career. He had only 12 seasons in the major leagues, 9 as a regular starter. Still, with his extraordinary 1904 season, he gained election to the Hall of Fame in 1948.
After Chesbro’s pitching skills had dried up and he left the major leagues, he began a prosperous career as a merchant in New England, running a sawmill and lumber yard in North Adams, MA. He continued to pitch, appearing with semi-pro teams, traveling to take on mill town teams who found the pitching of the former major league superstar easy to hit.
He was the baseball coach at Amherst College in 1911, and in 1924 Clark Griffith, his manager in 1904, brought him back to the major leagues for a brief role as a coach for the Washington Senators. Although the team was to win the pennant, fans were slow to respond and Chesbro was dropped for payroll reasons.