Joss Fills Second Rotation Spot In Tribe’s All-Time Team
By Ronnie Tellalian
Addie Joss’ candle burned bright in Cleveland. Unfortunately his flame was extinguished too soon. Two days after his 31st birthday Joss succumbed to tuberculous meningitis. He spent his entire career in Cleveland, but his admiration did not stop there. He was beloved by his peers and all fans across the country. Upon his death, one newspaper wrote, “every train brings flowers and floral tributes by the wagonload are hourly arriving at the Joss home from all sections of the country.”
Starting Pitcher: Addie Joss
Joss began his career with the minor league Toledo Swamp Angels in 1900. He won 44 games in two seasons with an ERA of 1.61. In 1902, the Cleveland Bronchos (Now the Indians) signed a contract making the Toledo team an official affiliate of the Cleveland club. In 1902, the Bronchos purchased Joss’ contract and he became a big league pitcher at the age of 22.
His first year with the Indians (then the Bronchos) was a fine season. He started 29 games and led the American League with five shutouts. He won 17 games with a 2.77 ERA. The 1902 season thrust Joss into the national radar.
In 1903, his sophomore season, Joss won 18 games and completed all 31 of his 31 starts. He pitched 283 innings and allowed a measly 2.19 ERA. He led the American league that year with a 0.95 WHIP.
Daniel Okrent, one of the inventors of rotisserie baseball, first developed WHIP in 1979. WHIP stands for Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched. It attempts to quantify the frequency at which a pitcher allows base runners. For a point of reference, Justin Verlander posted a WHIP of 1.06 in 2012.
The following year brought both ups and downs to Joss and the organization. Illness kept Joss from making more than 24 starts. The Indians (now known as the Naps) won 86 games, nine more than they had in 1903, but still finished in a disappointing 3rd place. Joss led the American League in ERA at 1.59, beating out Rube Waddell, Jack Chesbro, and Cy Young. He also pitched the entire season, 192.1 innings without allowing a home run.
The next three years would spell dominance for Joss. He won 20 or more games in each season from 1905-1907, reaching a career high when he led the league with 27 wins in 1907. He also finished high in the standings in ERA each season with totals of 2.01, 1.72, and 1.83. The best was yet to come for Joss.
The best season of Joss career came in 1908. Joss made 35 starts, winning 24 games. His fourth consecutive 20 win season. He led the league in least walks allowed per nine innings will a miniscule 30 walks in 325 innings pitched. He also led the league with the seventh lowest ERA recorded in the twentieth century at 1.16.
His defining moment that year came on October 2nd. With three games remaining and the Indians trailing the Detroit Tigers by a half game, Joss took the mound in League Park to face off against White Sox Hall of Famer Ed Walsh. Walsh had a monster year in 1908, leading the league in wins with 40, and leading in complete games, shutouts, and strikeouts. The Indians managed only one run on four hits that night against Walsh. Joss, however, would not be beat on this day. He pitched a complete game, throwing only 74 pitches in route to just the second perfect game in Major League’s Modern Era.
The 1909 season was another strong one for Joss. He allowed a 1.71 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP, both good enough for fourth in the American League. He won 14 games that season in only 28 starts. In 1910, Joss threw a second no-hitter, again against the White Sox, making him the only pitcher in baseball history to no-hit the same team twice.
Joss reported to spring training in 1911 with hopes for another strong season, but things didn’t go well. He collapsed on the field on April 3rd from heat exhaustion. The newspapers reported it as a possible nervous indigestion. Joss went home to Toledo while the Indians continued playing exhibition games. On April 13, Joss met with the team doctor and his meningitis was discovered. The disease had spread to his brain and with his speech slurred and his motor skills waning, there was nothing to be done. On April 14th at the age of 31, Addie Joss passed away in his home in Toledo Ohio.
For his career Addie Joss finished with a record of 160-97. His 1.89 lifetime ERA is the lowest in Indians history and the second lowest in Major League history. It took Joss 68 years to finally reach the Hall of Fame. Why did it take so long? According to the rule book, a player is not eligible for the Hall of Fame unless he has played in at least 10 championship seasons; Joss played in only nine. In 1978, the veterans committee made a great show of respect by making an exception and electing Addie Joss to the Hall of Fame.