Pat Malone is nearly forgotten in Cub and baseball history, yet he was a two-time 20-game winner, a key part of two Cub pennant winners, and he won 18 games in his rookie season, 1929 -- no Cub rookie pitcher has won as many games since.
Perce Leigh Malone (no wonder he wanted to call himself "Pat"!) was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on September 25, 1902. He attended Juniata College, and then signed his first professional contract with Knoxville in the Appalachian League in 1921, going 13-12. Moving up the ladder to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association (this was in the era where strong minor league teams were independent, rather than part of farm systems, and could compete with major league teams for young talent), Malone pitched for them in 1924, 1925 and 1927 and won 20 games for them in '27 while throwing 319 innings (yes, that sounds absurd today, but was fairly common in that era).
That got the attention of the Cubs, who acquired him for the 1928 season. He promptly lost his first seven decisions, but from then on went 18-6 to finish with a decent 18-13 record and a 2.84 ERA. The following season, Malone was the leading winner on the Cub pennant-winning team, going 22-10, and leading the National League in strikeouts with 166. He finished 19th in that year's MVP voting. He also was pretty good with the bat that year -- he hit .248/.295/.362 with four home runs in 105 at-bats, and had nine career home runs. Only two other Cub pitchers -- Fergie Jenkins in 1971 and Carlos Zambrano in 2006 -- have hit four or more HR in a single season.
In the 1929 World Series, Malone started Game Two and was blown out in the fourth inning. In the famous Game Four, where the Cubs blew an 8-0 seventh-inning lead, Malone was called on to get the last two outs of that inning after Charlie Root, Art Nehf and Sheriff Blake got pounded.
And then, in a scene that would be eerily repeated sixteen years later, Malone would be called on, on one day's rest, to start Game Five. Unlike his future counterpart Hank Borowy, Malone was brilliant -- through eight innings. He was working on a two-hit shutout, and the Cubs had fashioned a 2-0 lead, hoping to send the Series back to Chicago for Game Six. Alas, it was not to be. In the last of the ninth:
Malone won twenty games again in 1930, but by the following year, his drinking had begun to sully his reputation and his game. He and Hack Wilson, who also found solace in a bottle, had become drinking buddies. According to "Fouled Away", a biography of Wilson, he and Malone began drinking heavily after Wilson had been benched for poor play, and, after a particularly bad game at Cincinnati:
One account claims that Johnson taunted Malone by saying, "I've just had a chat with Mordecai Brown. Did you ever hear of him, Pat? He was a great pitcher in his time." Other accounts say that [Wilson] got into a quarrel with the writers before Malone happened along.
In any event, it seems well-established that Malone decked Johnson with a right fist to the head. At this point, Otto yelled, "You can't get away with that, Malone," and jumped in. Malone also pummeled him. Eyewitnesses, including Cubs, rushed to pull them apart. Hack did nothing to pull Malone off of the writers, and was suspected of encouraging the pitcher in the beating. Later, Malone said the writers deserved the thrashing because they'd been "on me" in their columns.
Malone lasted three more years with the Cubs, winning 15 games (but losing 17) for the 1932 pennant winners. He barely pitched in the '32 World Series -- his claim to fame being the man who was called in to relieve Charlie Root after Lou Gehrig followed Babe Ruth's famous "Called Shot" home run with another homer of his own in Game Three. He threw 2.2 scoreless innings (despite walking four), but the Cubs could not come back and win.
After the 1934 season, Cubs management finally got tired of Malone's drinking, along with his dwindling performance, and traded him to the Cardinals for Ken O'Dea. Malone never played a game with St. Louis -- he was sold to the Yankees in March 1935 for $15,000. He spent three mediocre seasons with the Yankees, pitching twice in the 1936 World Series against the Giants, then was released. He signed a contract with the Red Sox in February 1938, but never pitched for them.
After baseball Malone returned to Altoona. There's not much available about his life after baseball, but there wasn't much of it left, either -- he died at the age of 40 on May 13, 1943, having won 134 major league games in ten seasons (only seven of them truly full seasons), and leaving fans wondering if, had he not been enamored of the bottle, whether he could have done more.