Ruffing’s career was made by a change of scenery. He joined the Red Sox at age 19, and from 1924 through May 1930, toiled for consistently last-place Boston clubs, compiling an unimpressive 39-96 record. The righthander led the AL in losses in both 1928 (25) and 1929 (22), as his team was always last in batting and averaged a meager 35 HR annually.
Yankee manager Miller Huggins was interested in him, seeing his strength, foreseeing durability and effectiveness, and knowing that Yankee power could give Ruffing the support he deserved. In 1930, Boston ownership, badly in need of money, sold Ruffing to New York for backup outfielder Cedric Durst and $50,000.
Ruffing went 15-5 for the Yankees that first year, though his ERA remained high. In the 15 seasons that followed, the Yankees won seven pennants and six World Series, averaging .276 with 146 homers a year. Ruffing contributed a 231-124 record and had four straight 20-win seasons, coinciding with four Yankee championships, from 1936-39. He threw 42 of his 48 career shutouts’Zh)”for New York. In 1938 his 21 wins topped the AL, as did his .750 (21-7) winning percentage and four shutouts.
In World Series competition, he was 7-2, tying him for second place in wins behind Whitey Ford.
Ruffing was also one of the best-hitting pitchers of all time, with lifetime marks of .269 (10th among pitchers with 500 at-bats), 36 HR (3rd), 273 RBI, and 58 hits in 228 pinch-hitting appearances. He batted over .300 eight times, his .364 (40-for-110) in 1930 standing as the second-best single-season average for a pitcher (Walter Johnson hit .433 in 1925).
The determined Ruffing accomplished what he did despite having lost four toes on his left foot in a mine accident as a youngster. The injury cut down on his speed, and the pain, he said, never ceased.
He spent three years in the army in WWII, but lasted for only three injury-plagued seasons upon his return. After retiring at age 43, he managed in the minors, scouted, and in 1962 became the Mets’ first pitching coach. He was admitted to the Hall of Fame in 1967 by the BBWAA in his last year of eligibility.