The Top 100 Cubs Of All Time - #49 Clark Griffith

Profile by BCB reader MadHatterBlues

It would be true to say that Clark Griffith never played for the Cubs, as back in the 1890's the ballclub was known first as the Colts and then the Orphans. These kinds of things happen when you're looking at a player born 4 years after the end of the Civil War.

A short (5'6) square man, Griffith did not strike an intimidating presence while pitching. He relied on his ability to change speeds, and was renowned for his outstanding control of all his pitches. (His strikeout rate was 2.54 per nine innings) The Old Fox earned his nickname by utilizing a six-pitch arsenal, including the screwball (which he claimed to have invented), a silencing quick-pitch delivery, and the ruse of hiding the ball in the plane of his body before delivering. Griffith scuffed, scratched, cut, and spit upon nearly every pitch without hesitation. Of course, all these techniques were legal back then.

Griffith was one of the first players to jump to the American League, and later turned his attention to managing. As one of the very few players to eventually become an owner, Griffith led the way in outlawing doctored pitches in the 1920s. As a man who had practiced the art of the spitball, he clearly realised its dangers, and was happy to see all doctoring put to an end. Griffith and his family were team owners in the major leagues until 1982, when the Minnesota Twins -- successors to Griffith's original Washington Senators -- were sold to Carl Pohlad.

It has been alleged that one of Griffith's stranger qualities was his unwillingness to throw shutouts. He believed there was a curse that existed on shutouts and would beg his teammates to ease off to allow the opponents a run in a game. This seems to have some basis in fact, as Griffith, despite his dominance, had not thrown a shutout until 1897. Despite this fear, the Old Fox managed to compile an incredible streak of 6 consecutive seasons with 20+ victories.

Griffith was also a man of no small amount of wit:

"Fans like home runs and we have assembled a pitching staff to please our fans."

Sound like something we'd still enjoy today?
However, it took him a while to come around to changes in the game:
"There is no chance night baseball ever will become popular in the major leagues."

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1946, both for his years as a pitcher and his work as a manager/owner in the American League. He remains 7th in all time wins for a Cubs pitcher, 3rd in complete games and 10th in innings pitched. His 2188 innings leaves him around 100 innings ahead of Greg Maddux, and in truth the two seem to have a lot in common. Neither would dominate with speed, but each was known for out thinking the batters and being a step ahead of the game. Although separated by close to a hundred years, the Old-Fox and the Professor would surely approve of each other's approach to the game.
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