Rube Marquard

Most players nicknamed Rube got the name because they came from farms or small country towns. But Marquard grew up in Cleveland, where his father was the city engineer. After making a name for himself as a sandlot pitcher, Marquard signed for $200 a month with Indianapolis in 1907. They optioned him to Canton in the Central League, where he won 23 and lost 13. After he won his first Indianapolis start, 2 to 1, against Kansas City in 1908, a newspaper account said, “He is so tall and skinny (6’3” 180-lbs) he looks like a big number one when he stands on the mound, but he pitches like Rube Waddell.” They called him Rube ever after.

After he won 20 for Indianapolis and pitched a perfect game, the New York Giants paid a then-record $11,000 for his contract. At 18 he reported to the Giants in mid-September, just in time to see the game with the Cubs in which Fred Merkle failed to touch second base. New York was still in an uproar over the incident a few days later when Marquard made his big league debut against Cincinnati. Somewhat panicked by the size of the crowd, Marquard hit lead-off batter Miller Huggins in the ribs, then walked the next two batters. After a visit from catcher Chief Myers, the nervous rookie decided to “let up a little.” “I let up, all right,” Marquard later admitted. Hans Lobert hit the next pitch right out of the park.” As he departed for the clubhouse, the bleacher fans labeled him the “$11,000 Lemon.

After two mediocre seasons, Marquard blossomed in 1911, going 25-7. In the World Series against the Athletics, he was instrumental in the coining of another immortal’s nickname. In Game Two he was locked in a 1-1 tie with Eddie Plank in the sixth inning when he threw a high, inside fastball to Frank Baker with a man on. Baker hit a game-winning homer, and was known thereafter as Home Run Baker.

Marquard and Christy Mathewson were writing daily commentaries on the games for rival newspapers. The next morning Mathewson’s column criticized Marquard for the pitch he threw to Baker. That afternoon Baker hit a game-tying homer in the top of the ninth off Matty; the A’s won in the 11th. Marquard had the last word in his column.

Marquard won 19 straight from Opening Day to July 3 in 1912, tying a mark set by Tim Keefe. Under present rules it would have been 20; he was not credited with a 4-3 win over Brooklyn when he relieved in the eighth inning with the score tied. That historic streak plus two 1912 World Series victories brought him a flock of show-business offers. He had made his vaudeville debut the previous winter, and after the 1912 season made a movie with Alice Joyce called “19 Straight.” He teamed up with Blossom Seeley, a headliner, in a skit, “Breaking the Record,” and later married her. They did a dance called the Marquard Glide. Rube was at home on stage. He’d say to the audience, “You wished it on yourselves, and I got nerve enough to sing it,” and did. In 1913 they did an act, “The Suffragette Pitcher,” in which Rube put on a dress and pitched for Blossom’s all-girl team. Later Rube did singing and talking acts with other headline performers.

Marquard relied more on control and a forkball changeup than his fastball. “Any hitter can hit a fast one,” he said. “But not many can hit slow ones.” In 1914 Marquard and Babe Adams pitched 21 innings, Rube getting the win. Three days later Marquard shut out the Reds. He claimed he never had a sore arm. In 1915 he pitched a no-hitter against Brooklyn in one hour, 16 minutes. But he missed his old coach, Wilbert Robinson, now manager of the Dodgers, and was getting tired of McGraw’s riding. With McGraw’s permission, he arranged his own sale to Brooklyn for $7,500. He got into two more World Series with the Dodgers but never won a Series ring.

Marquard led the NL with 18 losses in 1918 despite a 2.64 ERA. Then, on June 9, 1919, he broke his left leg sliding into third base and was out the rest of the year. He returned in 1920 to go 10-7 for Brooklyn’s NL champions, then spent a season with the Reds before finishing his career in Boston with the Braves. He missed most of 1924 with various illnesses and pitched mostly in relief in 1925.

Marquard managed Providence in the Eastern League in 1926, spent part of 1927 with Baltimore, managed Jacksonville in the Southeastern League, did a little umpiring, and was a scout and coach for Atlanta in the Southern Association. He worked for many years at mutual windows at racetracks in Florida and Maryland.