Old Hoss Radbourn Essentials
Positions: Pitcher and Rightfielder
Bats: Right • Throws: Right
5-9, 168lb (175cm, 76kg)
Born: December 11, 1854 in Rochester, NY
Died: February 5, 1897 (Aged 42-056d) in Bloomington, IL
Buried: Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, Bloomington, IL
Debut: May 5, 1880 (Age 25-146d, 463rd in MLB history)
Last Game: August 11, 1891 (Age 36-243d)
Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1939. (Voted by Old Timers Committee)
View Old Hoss Radbourn’s Page at the Baseball Hall of Fame (plaque, photos, videos).
Full Name: Charles Gardner Radbourn
Nicknames: Old Hoss
Old Hoss Radbourn Baseball Reference Page
View Player Bio from the SABR BioProject
“Radbourn became so good with constant practice that he could throw the ball through a good-sized knothole in the fence.” – Frank Bancroft, former Providence manager
If there is one record that will most certainly never be broken it is Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn’s 60 wins in 1884. This number is in dispute; it wavers, according to your source, from 59 to 61. But what is not under dispute is the fact that Radbourn had one of the most remarkable and gutsy seasons in baseball history.
Born in Rochester, NY, in 1854, Radbourn began his career with the Providence Grays in 1881, winning 25. He continued his winning ways, posting tallies of 33 and 48 wins in 1882 and 1883, posting the NL’s second best ERA in both seasons. Hoss threw underhand and had a great curve ball and “in-shoot” or screwball which he used to great effect, as evidenced by his high strikeout totals. He no hit the Cleveland Blues on July 25, 1883, beating Hugh “One Arm” Daily, 8-0.
The 1884 Grays employed two primary starters at the beginning of the season, Radbourn, and young Charlie Sweeney. Radbourn, despite being 24-8 at the time, was suspended for “loafing” and “insubordination” on July 16, leaving Sweeney as the team’s ace. Less than a week later, Sweeney (17-8) was cut for missing practice and refusing to leave the mound during a game. Radbourn was reinstated, with the condition that he be released from Providence after the season and he be allowed to pitch in every remaining game. The “Ol’ Hoss” just about managed to do this.
On July 23, the Hoss took the reins of the Grays pitching duties and pitched in nine straight ball games, going 7-1 with one tie. After playing one game in right field, he pitched in six consecutive contests. He returned to the field, experimenting at shortstop for one game, then hurled in an incredible 20 games in a row. During this period, Radbourn had an amazing 20-game winning streak. Radbourn finally decided to take a rest on September 5, with his Grays in the middle of a long winning streak.
In 1884, Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn won an all-time record 59 games and then won all 3 World Series games for the Providence Grays. After the season he was probably tired, his total innings pitched including the Series was a record 700.7. It was an expansion year, which may explain some of it, but the previous year he had also won 48. This total of 48 wins in 1883 is tied for fifth all-time. As a result of those two brilliant back-to-back seasons, he won 300 games in just 11 seasons. He ended with 309 career wins.
He won his first 20 decisions against Philadelphia: no other pitcher has ever done this, against any team. Four pitchers have started 19-1 against a team: Nig Cuppy against St Louis, Larry Jackson and Juan Marichal both against the Mets, and Roy Oswalt against the Reds.
After his playing career ended, Radbourn lost an eye in a gun accident. He later died of complications from syphilis at age 42.
Old Hoss Radbourn (back row, far left) flipping the bird in an 1886 Boston Beaneaters’ team photo. Supposedly, this is the earliest known photo of someone flipping the bird.
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