Ask baseball fans to name the best pitchers of all time and the responses will likely include Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, and Roger Clemens. Don’t expect to hear the name Spud Chandler.
Yet Chandler holds the highest lifetime winning percentage of any pitcher since 1900 with at least 100 victories. A righthander for the New York Yankees from 1937 through 1947, he won 109 and lost only 43 for a percentage of .717. No other major leaguer with at least 1,000 innings has achieved a percentage of .700 or better. Yankee lefthander Whitey Ford came the closest at .690 with 236 victories.
A Very Unusual Career
Chandler’s baseball career was unusual in many ways. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he was one of the rare college men to take up the game as a livehihood in the 30s. And since he spent his first five years in the minor leagues, he was almost 30 when he made the big leagues in 1937. Even then, he was plagued by injuries and had only one standout season before 1941. That year, he added a slider to his repertoire, went 10-4, and pitched well in a World Series start. Spud enjoyed two brilliant seasons before going off to World War II service in 1944. In fact, his 20-4, 1.64 earned run average combination in 1943, topped off by two Series victories, constitutes one of the finest one-year pitching performances ever.
After military service, Chandler was back for his second and last 20-win season in 1946. Off to a fine start in 1947 with nine early victories, he developed arm trouble again and retired at age 40 after the World Series.
Evaluating Chandler’s Career
Joe McCarthy, co-holder of the record for most world championships at seven, was Chandler’s manager for all but one year. He ranked Spud as one of the three best pitchers on any of his teams. Ted Williams, considered by many the best batsman of his era and perhaps of all time, called him one of the three toughest pitchers he had faced. And Chandler’s regular battery mate, Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, rated him the best he had caught.
There are several probable reasons that the righthander from Georgia was quickly forgotten and has never been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His late start and injuries limited his big league time to six full seasons. He had only two 20-victory seasons, one of them when many of the best players had already gone off to war, never pitched a no-hitter, and was not a spectacular strikeout artist, averaging fewer than four a game. Fairly soon after his departure, he was overshadowed by Yankee successors Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi and then by the durable and colorful Ford.
But for his few years at the top, his statistics suggest he was among the best.
Major League Pitching Records
Career Pitching Records
Most Wins: (511) by Cy Young (Cleveland and Boston, 1890-1911)
Most Losses: (313) by Cy Young
Most Strikeouts: (5,714) by Nolan Ryan (Mets, Angels, Astros, Rangers, 1966-1993)
Most Complete Games: (749) by Cy Young
Most Shutouts: (110) by Walter Johnson (Washington Senators, 1907-1928)
Most No-Hitters: (7) by Nolan Ryan
Most Cy Young Awards: (7) by Roger Clemens (Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros, 1984-Present)
Lowest ERA: (2.06) by Mordecai ‘Three Finger’ Brown (Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, 1903-1916)
Winning Percentage: (.717) by Spud Chandler (New York Yankees, 1937-1947)
Lowest WHIP: 0.968 by Addie Joss (Indians, 1902-1910)
Most Games: 1,252 by Jesse Orosco (Almost Everyone, 1979-2003)
Most Saves: (493) by Trevor Hoffman (Padres, 1993-Present)
Most Home Runs Allowed: (505) by Robin Roberts (Phillies, Orioles, 1948-1966)
Most Wild Pitches: (277) by Nolan Ryan
Most Hit Batsmen: (203) by Walter Johnson
Single Season Records
Most Wins: 41 by Jack Chesbro (New York Yankees, 1901)
Most Losses: 29 by Vic Willis (Boston Braves, 1905)
Most Strikeouts: (383) by Nolan Ryan (Angels, 1973)
Lowest ERA: (0.96) by Dutch Leonard (Boston Red Sox, 1914)
Lowest WHIP: (0.737) by Pedro Martinez (Boston Red Sox, 2000)
Most Games: (106) by Mike Marshall (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1974)
Most Saves: (57) by Bobby Thigpen (Chicago White Sox, 1990)
Most Shutouts: (16) by Grover Cleveland Alexander (Philadelphia Phillies, 1916)
Most HR allowed: (50) by Bert Blyleven (Minnesota Twins, 1986)
Single Game Pitching Records
Most Strikeouts: (20) done three times by two pitchers: (1) Roger Clemens of Boston vs. Seattle Mariners on 4/29/86 and vs. Detroit Tigers on 9/18/96); and (2) Kerry Wood of Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros on 4/20/98).
Most Consecutive Strikeouts: (10) by Tom Seaver on April 22, 1970 vs. San Diego Padres).
Most HR allowed: (6) by four pitchers: R.A. Dickey (Texas Rangers, 4/6/2006); Tim Wakefield (8/18/2004), George Caster (Philadelphia A’s, 9/24/1940), Tommy Thomas (St. Louis Browns, 6/27/1936).
Most Walks Allowed: (16) by Bruno Haas (Philadelphia Athletics, 6/23/1915)
Most Wild Pitches: (5) by Jack Morris (Detroit Tigers, 8/3/1987)
Most Hits Allowed: (26) by Aloysius Travers (Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia A’s on May 18, 1912)
Most Runs Allowed: (24) by Aloysius Travers (Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia A’s on May 18, 1912)
Most Hit Batsmen: (6) by John Grimes (St. Louis Perfectos, 7/31/1897)
Miscellaneous Pitching Records
Most Consecutive Victories: (24) by Carl Hubbell (New York Giants, 1936-1937)
Most Consecutive Losses: (27) by Anthony Young (New York Mets, 1992 to 1993)
Consecutive No-Hitters: (2) by Cincinnati Reds starter Johnny Van Dermeer. The first came against the Boston Braves on June 11, 1938, and the second against the Brooklyn Dodgers on June 15th.
Consecutive Shutout Innings: (59) by Orel Hershiser (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1988).
Most Times Hat Fell Off, Game: (21) by Jim Bouton in Game 3 of the 1963 World Series.
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