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August 1 – Happy Birthday Slim Love

His real name was Edward Haughton Love but folks called him “Slim” because he was 6’7″ tall but weighed just 195 pounds. When he joined the Washington Senators in 1913, he became the tallest player in the big leagues.  He was born in 1890 in a place called Love, Mississippi, making him the only Yankee to be born in a home town that shared his last name. A story that appeared in a 1913 Washington Post edition reported that Love had actually bragged his way into his first minor league tryout while tossing a few back, on a bar stool in Memphis.

Most likely under the influence of one too many cocktails, he started telling his fellow imbibers that he had come to the Tennessee city to pitch the town’s Memphis Turtles ball club to a Southern Association League championship. It just so happened that the owner of the bar was a friend  of the Turtles’ manager and he was able to arrange a tryout for Love. That tryout reportedly took place during an exhibition game between the Turtles and the Cleveland Indians, when Love was called in to face the legendary Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie with the bases loaded. Slim evidently and amazingly struck out the future Hall-of-Famer. I use the word amazingly, because it was soon thereafter apparent to the Turtles that the bold-tongued youngster could throw the ball hard but he had no idea where his pitches would end up. In other words, Love really didn’t know a thing about pitching.  But the impressive speed of his fastball and that strikeout of Lajoie finally got him a minor league contract and he spent the next three years trying to figure out how to get the ball to go where he wanted it to go, an objective he would never quite master.

He did however get good enough to win 21 games for New York between 1916 and 1918. Thirteen of those wins came in 1918, Miller Huggins first year as manager of the Yankees. New York’s starting pitching rotation at the time was very thin so Huggins kept starting Love that year even though he had a real tough time getting the ball over the plate.  The Yankee skipper wanted his lanky left-hander to learn how to throw a curveball but Love struggled to do so and continued to depend almost completely on his often-wild fastball. When the 1918 season was over, Slim led the league in walks and Huggins began a complete overhaul of his pitching staff. As part of that overhaul, Love and three of his teammates were traded to the Red Sox for two of Boston’s pitchers and an outfielder.

Slim never played a game in Beantown. Instead, the Red Sox quickly traded him to Detroit where he went 6-4 in 1919. But the bases on balls continued at an alarming pace for Love and he was out of the big leagues for good by 1921 and back in the minors, where he kept pitching for almost another decade.

His legend would tragically but almost poetically end where it began. On November 30, 1942, while taking a stroll in Memphis, TN, Love was hit by a car and died. It seems Slim never learned the lesson that also ended his big league career. Walks can kill you!

The above article was originally written in 2009. It was updated for today’s post using this excellent article about Slim Love as my primary reference.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WHIP
1916 NYY 2 0 1.000 4.91 20 1 11 0 0 0 47.2 46 29 26 2 23 21 0 1.448
1917 NYY 6 5 .545 2.35 33 9 18 2 0 1 130.1 115 50 34 0 57 82 1 1.320
1918 NYY 13 12 .520 3.07 38 29 5 13 1 1 228.2 207 92 78 3 116 95 10 1.413
6 Yrs 28 21 .571 3.04 119 48 49 19 1 4 517.1 480 220 175 8 246 251 17 1.403
NYY (3 yrs) 21 17 .553 3.05 91 39 34 15 1 2 406.2 368 171 138 5 196 198 11 1.387
DET (2 yrs) 6 4 .600 3.26 23 8 11 4 0 1 94.0 98 44 34 3 44 48 6 1.511
WSH (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 1.62 5 1 4 0 0 1 16.2 14 5 3 0 6 5 0 1.200
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/1/2013.