Jul 2, 2015

Old Time New York Giants Hall of Fame Pitcher: Mickey Welch (1883-1892)

Michael Francis Walsh (Welch) was born on July 4th, 1859 in Brooklyn New York. The five foot eight inch, right handed Welch became known as Smiling Mickey.

He had a great disposition, always smiling no matter how many errors his team mates made behind him. In his own words he credited his success by drinking beer; “Pure elixir of malt and hops/Beats all the drugs and all the drops.”

He would be famous for throwing a drop ball, a type of screw ball at the time & would be a work horse pitcher, during an era of two man rotations with almost no limit for pitchers. He began his career in Troy, New York pitching with the Trojans for three seasons going 34-30 with a 2.54 ERA in his first season; in 1880. In Troy he would play with future Hall of Famers Buck Ewing & Roger Conner, both who he would move over with to the New York Gotham's in 1883 after Troy's team disbanded.

The Gotham's later became the Giants. He had the honor of pitching the first Giants home game in the first version of the Polo Grounds, located at Central Park North at 110th St. Those Giants shared the field with the New York Metropolitans. In New York, Welch would pitch with his nicknamed "Irish Twin"; Tim O'Keefe, known as Gentle Jim. He was more quiet, sustaining from alcohol, opposed to the happy drinking Welch, who also liked to recite his own poetry. The two would ride to the Polo Grounds in horse drawn carriages.

With Giants he would win 22 games or more for seven straight seasons, posting twenty win season nine times. Welch won thirty plus games each season from 1884-1886, including a career high 44 in 1885. That season he was 44-11 with the league's best winning % (.800%) while posting a 1.66 ERA. Welch would post ERA's under two three times in his career, he also struck out 200 plus batters three times, as well as leading the league in walks three times.

He would walk over 100 batters five times, while pitching 400 plus inning five times. These numbers are incredible by today's standards & were pretty good in his time as well. Welch was among the top pitchers in the league on a consistent basis.

In 1884 he started out a game striking out none straight batters, setting a record that still stands today & was never broken. In 1970 Tom Seaver finished a game with ten straight strike outs. Welch is also credited as being one of the games first pinch hitters, but since it occurred in 1889; three years before the pinch hit rule was instituted, it probably happened due to an injury to the original batter; Hank O'Day.

Welch retired from playing in 1892, becoming the third pitcher to win 300 games, with the second shortest career of any pitcher to do so. 307-210 in 565 games (525 complete games), posting a 2.71 ERA with 41 shut outs, striking out 1850 batters, while walking 1297 in 4802 innings of work.

Retirement: After baseball the father of many children, ran a hotel in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He passed away in New Hampshire at age 82, in 1941.

He is buried in Queens, New York at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside. Plot: Section 4, Range 17, Plot 2, Grave 6 Honors: In 1973 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the veterans committee.

1 comment:

Cliff Blau said...

There were at least 23 pinch-hitters used in 1889 (probably lots more, since I haven't researched most of the games). When Welch hit for O'Day, 8/10, there was nothing in the paper about O'Day being injured.

The substitution rule was changed prior to the 1889 season to allow for one substitute to enter at the beginning of an inning, as long as he was listed on the scorecard before the game.

The first pinch-hitter I know of for that year was Al Maul, who hit a single on 4/24.