What do 1,345 wins look like in baseball? They’re all in this picture from an old-timers game at Fenway Park. That’s (l-r) “Smoky Joe” Wood, Denton “Cy” Young, Lefty Grove, and Walter Johnson. It’s any manager’s dream starting rotation.
In this group, Smoky Joe Wood had the fewest wins at 117. He rang up 34 wins in a single season for the Red Sox in 1912, but had a much shorter career than the others, just 11 years. He injured his thumb and had to remake his career as a position player for Cleveland. Later he went on to manage the baseball team at Yale.
Lefty Grove earned 300 wins over 17 years with Philadelphia and Boston. He might have had 100 more if he hadn’t been trapped in the minor leagues for four years, a victim of the rules of baseball at the time. He probably is best known for his time in Philadelphia when the team won two World Series in 1929 and 1930. Grove nevertheless was a fearsome pitcher in Boston after the team acquired him via trade before the start of the 1934 season. Beginning on May 3, 1938 he went for 20 straight home starts at Fenway without a loss.
Walter Johnson, sadly, never pitched for Boston. He played his entire 21-year career for the Senators. Johnson, known as “Big Train,” collected 417 wins, second most in baseball. He also managed to earn the reputation as a gentleman and a true sportsman, not always an easy feat in a sport filled with some true characters and cranks.
Cy Young had 511 wins playing in Boston, Cleveland and Saint Louis. The secret to his longevity? He told sportswriters he threw as few pitches as possible, both in the game and in training.
This story was updated in 2022.
Photo Courtesy of the Boston Public Library Leslie Jones collection.