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League Park - Joe Wood - Smoky Joe

Joe Wood

*Joe "Smoky Joe" Wood was a Major League Baseball player for the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians during the early part of the 20th century.

Originally a pitcher, the native of Ness County, Kansas, had his breakthrough season in 1911 in which he won 23 games for the Red Sox, compiled an earned run average of 2.02, threw a no-hitter against the St. Louis Browns and struck out 15 batters in a single game. Wood once struck out 23 batters in an exhibition game. He earned the nickname "Smoky Joe" because of his blazing fastball. Legendary fastballer and pitching contemporary Walter Johnson once said, "Can I throw harder than Joe Wood? Listen, my friend, there's no man alive can throw harder than Smoky Joe Wood!" Satchel Paige concurred, saying, "Smoky Joe could throw harder than anyone." Reminded of Johnson's assessment sixty years later, Wood said, "Oh, I don't think there was ever anybody faster than Walter."

Wood's best season came in 1912, in which Wood won 34 games, tied Johnson's record for 16 consecutive victories (and beat Johnson 1-0 in a highly publicized game that September) and went 3-1 in the World Series, including Boston's deciding Game 8 in which he beat Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson. Wood was named the World Series' MVP.

The following year, Wood slipped on wet grass while fielding a bunt in a game against the Detroit Tigers. He fell and broke his thumb, and pitched in pain for the following three seasons. Although he maintained a winning record and a low ERA, his appearances were limited as he could no longer recover quickly from pitching a game. He sat out the 1916 season and most of the 1917 season, and for all intents and purposes ended his pitching career.

Late in the 1917 season, Wood was sold to the Cleveland Indians, where he rejoined former teammate Tris Speaker. Always proficient with the bat, Wood embarked on a second career and, like his former teammate Babe Ruth, ended his career as an outfielder. His hitting statistics, however, were far more pedestrian than those of Ruth. Wood pitched seven more times, all but one game in relief, winning none and losing one. He also appeared in four games in the 1920 World Series.

He left the majors after the 1922 season with a career pitching record of 116-57 and an ERA of 2.03. His lifetime batting average was .283. In his final season with the Indians, Smokey had his highest hit total for a season with 150 hits and also drove in his highest rbi total with 92.

Wood went on to become head baseball coach at Yale University, where he compiled a career managing record of 283-228-1 over 20 seasons. While at Yale, he coached his son Joe Jr., who pitched briefly for the 1944 Red Sox.

In 1984, Wood received a standing ovation on Old Timers Day at Fenway Park in Boston, some 72 years after his memorable season. Aged 94, he said he was happy that Boston remembered him as "Smokey."

Wood died in West Haven, Connecticut on July 27, 1985. He was buried in Shohola Township, Pennsylvania. In 1995, he was selected to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.

In 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. They explained what they called "the Smoky Joe Wood Syndrome," where a player of truly exceptional talent but a career curtailed by injury should still, in spite of not having had career statistics that would quantitatively rank him with the all-time greats, be included on their list of the 100 greatest players.

*Bio and Stats from Wikipedia .

Born: October 25, 1889
Died: July 27, 1985 (aged 95)
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
October 24, 1908
for the Boston Red Sox
Final game
September 24, 1922
for the Cleveland Indians
Career statistics
Pitching Record     117-57
Earned run average     2.03
Batting average     .283
Teams
  • Boston Red Sox (1908-1915)
  • Cleveland Indians (1917-1922)
Career highlights and awards
  • World Series champion: 1912, 1915, 1920
  • American League ERA champion: 1915
  • American League wins champion: 1912
  • 2 20-win seasons
  • 1 30-win season
  • 3 sub-2.00 ERA seasons

Joe Wood Obituary