Stan Coveleski was born on July 13, 1889, in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, a small coal mining town in the Appalachians. Growing up, he learned to pitch by throwing rocks at cans. One of four ball playing brothers, he got his shot for Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics in 1912. He appeared in 5 games for a 2-1 record, but was sent back down at the end of the season. Four years later, he'd reappear in baseball with a vicious spitball, this time for the Cleveland Indians.
The Cleveland Years
In 1916, Coveleski got his big break. At the age of 26 he appeared in 45 games for the Indians, starting 27 of them for a record of 15-13. Apparently, the club saw something they liked in the right handed spitballer, and kept him on for the next 8 years, during which he won more than 20 games four times and threw more than 20 complete games six times.
His best year was 1920, the year the Indians made it to the World Series, when he won 24 games in 38 starts with a 2.49 ERA. He went on to throw three complete World Series victories, giving up only 2 runs during the entire series to the Brooklyn Robins. With the help of Hall of Famer Tris Speaker, he led the Indians to their first World Series championship ever.
After the 1920 World Series, Coveleski continued to pitch well for the Indians, but only won 20 games for them once more, and had two losing seasons in his remaining four with the club. So, in 1925, he was traded to the Washington Senators.
Washington: The Beginning of the End
In Washington, Coveleski briefly found new life. In 1925, he was part of the World Series team and won 20 games, including 13 straight, to only 5 losses for his new club. He also got his ERA back under 3 for only the second time since 1920, and, playing with Walter Johnson, led the Senators back to their second consecutive World Series, against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Senators seemed headed for victory after taking a 3-1 series lead, but Pittsburgh came back, defeating Johnson in Game 7 to win the series. The goat was poor Roger Peckinpaugh, the league MVP that year, who made 8 errors and went 5-23 at the plate in the seven game series. Coveleski also lost both of his starts in the series, losing 3-2 on a home run in the bottom of the 8th in Game 2 and 6-3 in Game 5, although only 3 runs were his. It was still the beginning of the end for Coveleski, as he would never win 20 games again. He went 14-11 the next year for the Senators, 2-1 in 1927, and, in the last year of his career, 5-1 for the New York Yankees. At the age of 38, Coveleski was done.
Coveleski won 215 games in his 13 year career, including five 20 win seasons. He spent the bulk of his playing time with the Cleveland Indians and Washington Senators but was briefly a member of the Yankees and Atheletics, as well. His postseason accomplishments include being a member of the 1920 Indians World Series team with Tris Speaker and the 1925 Senators World Series team with Walter (The Big Train) Johnson. He had a career postseason record of 3-2 with a 1.74 ERA. He was a pitcher of the old school, throwing 224 complete games in his career, appearing in more than 30 games 11 times, and more than 40 five times on his way to more than 3000 innings pitched in 450 games. His career ERA was under 3, and he struck out 981 batters in his career. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1969.
Coveleski was, without a doubt, a spitballer. His spitball was legendary in the bigs, leading Joe Sewell to say trying to hit Coveleski's spitter was "like trying to hit a butterfly." He was also the best of the four Coveleski boys, although his brother Harry, the only other brother to make the majors, was also a three time 20 game winner for the Detroit Tigers. After retiring from baseball in 1928 Stan moved to South Bend, Indiana, where he died in 1984. The stadium of the South Bend Silver Hawks, a minor league (class A ball) affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, bears his name.
Hall Of Fame Index
Roger Connor | Sam Crawford
Research from www.baseball-reference.com, www.baseballhalloffame.org, and www.thebaseballpage.com