Today in Tribe History: March 16, 1871

Bill Bernhard, a successful right-handed pitcher in the early days of Cleveland’s American League franchise, is born in Clarence, New York.

“Strawberry Bill” got into the Major League circuit in 1899 at the age of 28 with the Philadelphia Phillies. After two seasons with the club, he jumped with teammate Napoleon Lajoie to the AL’s Philadelphia Athletics. In one season with the club, he had a 17-10 record. When a court injunction banned the league jumpers from playing for any other club in the city of Philadelphia, both men were sidelined until they were able to move to the Cleveland club. While Lajoie was set to be paid $7,000 a year, Bernhard was to be paid $3,000. In both cases, the contracts were to be paid whether the courts allowed them to play for Cleveland or not.

Bernhard became a consistent starter for the Blues (later the Naps), posting a 17-5 record and 2.20 ERA in 27 games in his first season in town. He followed it with a 14-5 record and 2.12 ERA in 1903 in 20 games. He had his best professional season in 1904 as he won 23 games versus 13 losses, started 37 games with one additional relief appearance, and had a 2.13 ERA over 320 2/3 innings.

He was limited to just seven wins over 22 games in 1905 before going 16-15 in 1906. He appeared in just eight games in 1907 with the Naps and later surfaced in the minor leagues, with stats appearing for him through 1917 at the age of 46. He died in 1949 in San Diego, California, at the age of 78.

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