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GROVE, Robert Moses "Lefty"

"One word described Lefty Grove's fast ball: 'Smoke'

By Maury Allen.

Modern baseball fans, those who got into the game after World War II think of only one name when they discuss blazing left-handed speed: Sandy Koufax.  For those who go a little further back, to the 1930s and late 1920s, there was a left-hander who was the Sandy Koufax of his time.  Lefty Grove-who lived in Norwalk from 1961 until his death in 1975-was the hardest thrower of his era and one of the most successful all-around pitchers with a fast ball that probably would have registered over 100 miles per hour if the currently used radar gun had been in existence then.  Grove was the pitcher all hitters tried to avoid and he had just enough control trouble to intimidate most batters. He was a fiery competitor who would think nothing of berating himself, or a teammate, an umpire, or a manager if he thought he was wronged.  One afternoon, shortly before his 70th birthday, he was sitting quietly in a lounge chair at an inn near the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I approached him and began asking about the great hitters he'd faced.  "Damn it," he suddenly exploded, "there isn't a man playing the game I can't strike out."  "But, Mr. Grove," I gently reminded him, "you are nearly 70 years old."  "That don't matter," he said. "The hitters know my reputation." Every hitter knew Grove's reputation. Even Ted Williams, who played with Grove in Boston as a young kid outfielder, was saying some 40 years later that Grove was the hardest thrower he had ever seen.  "I only caught him at the end," Williams said, "but nobody could throw a baseball any harder."  Grove used that fast ball, a crackling curve, and his later acquired control to win 300 games on the button, lose only 140, and strike out 2,266 hitters in 17 seasons. He had a legendary season of 31-4 with a league-leading 2.06 ERA in 1931. He had eight seasons with 20 or more wins and led the league in ERA nine years and was the leader his first seven seasons, a feat never matched in baseball.  Robert Moses "Lefty" Grove was born March 6, 1900, at Lonaconing, Md., outside of Baltimore. He left school early, worked in the coal mines and on the railroads and as a glass blower. His flaming personality caused many squabbles and he lost several jobs over it.  Playing baseball on weekends and late afternoons, he was soon signed by the local professional club in 1920.  From there he went to the Baltimore Orioles, the famed farm team near his home. He won 27 games twice and 25 games once for the Orioles.  The Philadelphia A's quickly purchased him from Baltimore for more (?unreadable).  He had a couple of slow seasons at the beginning with a 10-12 rookie year and a 13-13 sophomore season.  Then he hit his stride with Connie Mack's A's, winning 20 games in 1927 in a season dominated by Babe Ruth's 60 homers.  With his curve ball and control improving, Grove then recorded six straight and ultimately seven out of eight 20-game seasons. After his first season be would never again lose more games than he won, ending with a 7-7 mark in 1941 for Boston at the age of 41.  In 1933 Mack decided to break up his great Philadelphia teams, which had won pennants in 1929 1930, and 1931, by selling off the key stars for profit. Grove was shipped to Boston in a five-player deal. The Red Sox gave the A's two players and $125,000 for Grove and two others.  The four traded players were dealt even up with the money being obtained by the A's in exchange for Grove.  His fast ball no longer scared (?unreadable) but was effective in Fenway.  Grove won 20 games for the Red Sox in 1935 and then won 17, 17, 14 and 15 in the next four seasons. After his 1941 season he retired December 7th, as the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor. He lived a comfortable, quiet retirement and was named baseball's greatest living left-handed pitcher in 1969. He died in 1975. Long after he was gone, the legend of Lefty Grove remained. Smoke."
Chronicle Telegram, Elyria, Ohio, 10 Jul 1981
(Courtesy of Shawn McGreevy)
Posted November 19, 2011



J. Suter Kegg's
Tapping the Keg
"Lefty" Grove



If you were a major-league baseball team, how much of a salary would you expect to pay a pitcher who had won 31 games and lost only four? Two hundred grand might be a good guess. A moneymaking team like the Los Angeles Dodgers or Cincincinnati[sic] Reds would possibly pay more.
The late Lefty Grove had such a record for the Philadelphia Athletics 34 years ago, including a string of 1.6 victories in a row. This earned him a pay increase, of course, for the 1932 season —$20,000. That's a $20,000 salary, not a $20,000 increase.
Nine years later, Lefty's last season in baseball, when, he won his 300th game and a ticket of admission to the Hall of Fame, he pitched for the Boston Red Sox for half that amount.  Grove's 1932 and 1941 contracts are on display in the Barton Elementary School.  They are among the cherished items of Lefty Grove memorabilia belonging to Lonaconing's Pete Holshey whose wife Betty is a niece of the all-time great who died this past spring at the age of 75 of a heart attack.  The Holsheys' daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Thompson, a media specialist, displayed the Grove souvenirs,at the Barton school to dovetail with the American and National League championship series now in progress. "Since today's youngsters know very little about the baseball past, I thought they'd enjoy seeing some of the things that belonged to one of the greatest players of all time," said Mrs. Thompson.
For a number of years Holshey operated the bowling establishment in Lonaconing owned by Grove and practically all of Lefty's possessions from his baseball past were stored there. The American League's Most Valuable Player trophy of 1931, the year the award was first voted on by the Baseball Writers, was presented by Grove to Valley High some years ago. It rests in a trophy case in the foyer of the Detmold school.
Most of the other trophies were either given away by Lefty, or disappeared after he moved to Norwalk, 0hio, where he spent the last ten years of his life.  Lefty made presents of most of hisgame balls representing each of his 300 victories but several such souvenirs were recently uncovered by Holshey in an old Philadelphia A's ball bag.
They also are in the Barton School display. Two of them are from his 30th and 31st wins in 1931 and one from August 22, 1926 when he beat the White Sox.
There are also balls autographed by President Herbert Hoover and Tom Mix, the onetime cowboy star of the days of the silent movies,
Cumberland Times; Sunday, 5 October 1975
~Genie
Posted November 19, 2011

 

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