Jesse Haines

Haines pitched more years (18) in a Cardinals uniform than anyone in history, and only Bob Gibson won more games for the club. Although originally signed by the Tigers, he played his entire ML career, except one game, with St. Louis. In 1920, with the Cardinals desperately short of starting pitching, field manager and president Branch Rickey coaxed the team directors into borrowing $10,000 to buy the 26-year-old Haines from Kansas City (American Association), where he’d gone 21-5 in 1919. He immediately became the St. Louis workhorse, throwing more than 300 innings in his first year.

Haines had a blazing fastball and acquired a knuckleball that extended his career. He learned it from Eddie Rommell, who had been very successful with the pitch for the Athletics. Haines actually gripped the ball with his knuckles, rather than the fingertips, as do most knuckleball pitchers. This allowed him to fire his knuckler with more speed than most.

A pleasant and kind fellow off the field, Haines couldn’t stand defeat and was known to lose his temper at teammates when poor defense cost him a game. He won 20 games for the first time in 1923 but stumbled to an 8-19 record the next year. One of his eight wins was a 5-0 no-hitter against Boston on July 17, making him the first Cardinal pitcher to throw a no-hitter since 1876.

The Cardinals won the 1926 pennant as Haines went 13-4. In the WS, he shut out the Yankees 4-0 in Game Three, hitting a two-run homer to help his own cause. He started the seventh game and allowed only two runs through six innings. But he’d developed a blister from throwing his knuckler and in the seventh inning he loaded the bases with two out. In came Grover Alexander to strike out New York’s Tony Lazzeri for one of the great moments in Series history. Haines received credit for the win that made the Cardinals World Champions, but Alexander was the hero. In the movie The Winning Team, with Ronald Reagan as Alexander, Haines was played by Bob Lemon.

The 1927 season was Haines’s finest, as he rolled up 24 victories and led the NL with six shutouts and 25 complete games. He followed with a 20-8 season in 1928, as the Cardinals won their second pennant. He pitched for three more pennant-winners: 1930, 1931, and 1934. In WS play he was 3-1, with a 1.67 ERA.

As he put on years and saw his hair thin, Haines picked up the nickname “Pop.” The label accurately described his fatherly treatment of younger players. His knuckleball remained intimidating, and he continued as an effective reliever and spot starter past his forty-fourth birthday. He served as the Dodgers’ pitching coach in 1938. In 1970 the Veterans Committee named him to the Hall of Fame.