Rube Marquard is Hailed as Best Southpaw of All Time

Damon Runyon

Atlanta Georgian/May 18, 1912

To the throne of the left-handers, that most curious race of all the curious races that dwell within the borders of baseball, has come a new king: King Rube—the Second, or Third, or Fourth, as the case may be; anyway, a Rube, and anyway a King of Left-hand Land. The alabaster bean of Richard de Marquis, alias Rube Marquard, tilts itself above the level of the rabble to receive the metaphorical crown.

There has been no regular king of left-handers since the passing of King Ruhr Waddell, as we understand the matter. He went and left a throbbing vacuum. Supporters of Nap Rucker, and Doc White, and Eddie Plank and other candidates tried to capture enough delegates to elect their favorite to the job, but a tie, or something, resulted in the convention, and there was no choice. 

Things were at this pass when along came Richard de Marquis, alias Rube Marquard, and copped the crown. So to speak. The King was dead: very good: veevy lay wah! Which French will be understood by King Rube, as he is of the purest Ohio French himself.

On his labors of last season, and what he has accomplished this year, the long, lean, wry-necked Ohio Frenchman is hailed as the greatest side-wheeler of the time, and a worthy successor to King Waddell—although be it understood right now that the resemblance between the two begins, and ends, with left-handed ability. There are no near contenders for the throne so far this year. The sensational Vean Gregg, of Cleveland, is not within rifle shot, to date. Rube Benton, the Cincinnati $7,000 marvel, does not yet class with Gotham’s Rube, in the judgment of baseball players. Marquard stands alone.

Falls Down in Big Series

The glory of Rube’s last year record was dimmed to some extent by the fact that he could do nothing in the world’s series. He appeared in 45 games—a lot of work for a follow of his physical construction. Rube is tall, and muscular, but he is not a powerful man. He started, and completed, 23 games and wound up with a record of 24 won and 7 lost, for a percentage of .774. This was a higher percentage than was attained by any man in either league, right or left-hander. Bender, the American league leader, won 17 and lost 5, for a percentage of .773.

Marquard struck out 237 men — the highest number of any pitcher in the National League. Grover Cleveland Alexander was the only man who came close to him, although Ed Walsh, of the American League, exceeded him by 18.

It was Marquard’s wonderful pitching which did more than anything else toward the winning of the National League pennant by the Giants—although McGraw’s consummate use of that ability helped.

Was Failure at Start.

Last year was Marquard’s first real year in the big league. The story of the Rube is a familiar one, but it will be told for years to come. His purchase from the Indianapolis club, of the American Association, for $11,000, and his subsequent total failure as a big league pitcher is known to every follower of the game.

McGraw has always believed that acting against his own managerial judgment for the first and only time in his life did more to hinder Marquard than anything else. The purchase of the left-hander had created wild excitement among the New York baseball fans, and they were anxious to see him work. It is McGraw’s policy never to use a young pitcher in important games. He would rather keep him on the bench and let him absorb knowledge from that angle than work him even if he felt certain he might win.

However, the clamor for Marquard was so keen that the manager finally gave in and Marquard got a sound beating. He got others after that, but McGraw has always believed that if he had followed his own judgment the left-hander would have come along much more rapidly. In any event, McGraw is not likely to repeat that mistake with any other pitcher who comes into his fold.

It was a long, weary struggle for Marquard. He was severely “roasted” on all sides; he was called the “$11,000 lemon” and his faith in human nature was sorely tried.

In the spring he was a veritable demon against the minor league clubs, but once in a big league game he appeared to go to pieces. McGraw could not understand it. He knew that the fellow had the “stuff” and he declined to let go of him. His faith was eventually rewarded with a pennant.

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