Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rube "Sousepaw" Waddell: Respected by Those Who Knew Him

The players who played ball in the early 1900s may have all had a little color added to them by writers whose intentions of selling newspapers was priority number one.

In looking up information on Rube Waddell I came across something Bill James said that may explain the eccentricities of George Edward Waddell. James suggested that Waddell may have suffered from a developmental disability, mental retardation, autism, or attention deficit disorder (ADD) which essentially were metal issues that were unheard of or improperly diagnosed at the time.

Rube was referred to as the "Sousepaw" a reference to his being a left-handed pitcher who participated in the sampling of alcoholic beverages.

(When Athletics' centerfield Danny Hoffman was knocked unconscious by a fastball to the temple. Wrote Connie Mack, "Then the man they had called the playboy and clown went into action. Pushing everybody to one side, he gently placed Danny over his shoulder and actually ran across the field." Rube flagged down a carriage, which carted the pair to the nearest hospital. Rube, still in uniform, sat at Hoffman's bedside for most of the night, and held ice to Hoffman's head.

His 349 strikeouts in a season was the standard set for major league pitchers until Sandy Koufax broke the record in 1965. In 1965 Koufax had 382 and in 1973 Nolan Ryan had 383 as a California Angel.

Here are some things said about George Edward "Rube" Waddell, a man who was born on a Friday the 13th (Oct 1876) and died on April Fools Day (1914), by people/players who knew him.

"He made my team. He was the greatest pitcher in the game and although widely known for his eccentricities, was more sinned against than sinning. He was the best-hearted man on our team and every man with whom he came in contact will verify my statement. When a comrade was sick the Rube was first on hand to see him and the last to leave and if he had money it went for some gift or offering to the sick man."

Rube's activity with Connie Mack's band virtually saved the American League from bankruptcy in the stormy season following the American's raid on the National rank and file. - Pittsburgh Press

Baseball was more joyous because of him. He was a fun-maker extraordinary. He drove away gloom like the sun dispersing the fog. He made everybody happy. Millions smiled at his antics. - Washington Post

The end of the spectacular life of George Edward Waddell calls the attention of the vast army of baseball fans to one of those characters, at once the most enviable and the saddest and most pitiful in the world, who are too giant-hearted for the civilization in which they live. They are affectionate, good-hearted giants, too big to see how little they serve their own interest, too impatient and too full of animal energy to stop and work out all the little tricks and artifices that would bring them gain/ giving always open-handedly and with both hands;relying absolutely in abounding energy, even finding pleasure and exhilaration in wasting and destroying that energy; angered only as a child is angered, by the sting of little annoyances, and sobered only in the presence of the genuine distress of others.- Literary digest

Rube was many kinds of man - angler, trap-shoot, football player, actor, fire fiend, amateur barkeeper, prize borrower, practical joker, comedian, a sworn enemy of gloom, a joyous wastrel, a boy that never grew up - as well as one of the greatest pitchers. As the leading comedian of baseball he was on the job, day and night, 365 days in the year. -Chicago Inter-Ocean

To our way of thinking the man who causes laughter and chases care is a philanthropist and a doer of most goodly deed, even though his antics may sometimes be exaggerated by over indulgence. Poor Rube at least made millions smile, his escapades rocked the nation with the richness of their humor, and his capers left no sting.
Rube Waddell left no enemies behind; he hurt no one save himself; and even there, who has a right to say damage was done? For the Rube lived his life and enjoyed it to the fullest. - The Sporting News

His brilliant achievements on the diamond and sensational escapades were advertising mediums which brought thousands of dollars. - Detroit Free Press

The kindest, most amiable, but most irresponsible figure that ever graced baseball's stage, a physical wonder and the greatest left-handed pitcher of all-time, a jester who toyed with life as a bauble and tossed it way at last as a useless thing- that man, the "haggard harlequin" of our national game, was George Edward Waddell.
Now that he has passed from the Known to the Unknown, let us forget the weakness of spirit, and remember only the kindly heart and splendid courage of the man who was the wonder of his profession. - Philadelphia Public Ledger

He was idolized and imitated in the barn-lots of lonely prairie farms, and in the crowded parks and back alleys of the great cities. He was a human, roistering adventurer with all the lovable frailties of Captain Kidd or John Silver. And the fans knew him as a pal. He endeared himself to the public with his Huckleberry Finn peregrinations. - Esquire.

Who would be the perfect actor to play the part of George Edward "Rube" Waddell? Could it be Richard "Rook" Reinholdt? Now wouldn't that be something.

Kevin J. Marquez