A star from the moment he made his major league debut at age 20 in 1890, Kid Nichols topped the 25-victory mark in each of his first nine seasons, leading Boston’s staff, and sparking his club to five National League championships. A durable overhand pitcher with a smooth delivery, he depended on control and a fastball reportedly equal to that of famed Giant righthander Amos Rusie. He went 27-19 his rookie season (leading the league with seven shutouts), then achieved seven consecutive seasons of 30 or more triumphs – a feat never matched. He recorded a career-high 35 victories in 1892 and paced the league in wins in 1896, ’97, and ’98. The workhorse threw at least 400 innings a season from 1890 through 1894. In six of the seven years that followed, he registered more than 300 innings.
By 1898, Nichols was earning $2,400, the top salary permitted by the league. Although he never pitched a no-hitter, he came close on several occasions. He threw 48 shutouts and had 11 complete-game, 1-0 victories. One of his most memorable games came in his rookie season, when he faced Rusie and the Giants at the Polo Grounds. The teams battled in a scoreless tie until, with two out in the 13th inning, Mike Tiernan drove a Nichols fastball for a home run.
Following the 1901 season, Nichols bought a part interest in the Western Association’s Kansas City team and served as the club’s manager for 1902 and 1903 while also recording 48 victories as a pitcher. Returning to the majors, he pitched for and managed the Cardinals in 1904 and part of 1905. He won 21 games in ’04, struck out 15 Brooklyn batters in a 17-inning game, and pitched two complete games in one day against the Reds. Released by St. Louis with the club in sixth place, he joined the Phillies for the remainder of the 1905 season. He retired after pitching only 11 innings in 1906.
Nichols subsequently formed a partnership with Joe Tinker, former Cub shortstop, and entered the motion-picture business. Later he coached the Missouri Valley College baseball team. While managing a bowling alley in Missouri, he was recognized as one of Kansas City’s finest bowlers, winning the Class A Championship at age 64.
Nichols stands seventh all-time in victories (360) and fourth in complete games (533). With John Clarkson, Charles Radbourne, Tim Keefe, and Cy Young, he was one of the five premier 19th-century pitchers. He had the most remarkable and consistent record of all pitchers in their twenties; nine months and 23 days past his 30th birthday, he became the youngest pitcher to win 300 ML games. That record stands to this day.