(OLD HOSS) (1854–1897)
Old Hoss Radboum is the quintessential old-time player, what many think of when they let their imaginations return to yesteryear: An almost superhuman player who never sat out a game; who played through injuries, sore arms, and inclement weather; whose only goal was to beat the opponent.
The figure that most stands out is 60— the number of games that Charley Radboum was credited with winning in 1884, in the era when the batter could call for a high or low pitch. Actually, Total Baseball has lowered that total to 59, but the reduction does not alter the fact that Old Hoss in 1884 had one of the greatest seasons ever for a pitcher. He won 59 while losing just 12, pitched 678 innings, struck out 441 batters, appeared in 75 games, starting 73, and completed every start. He also compiled a microscopic 1.38 ERA. As the season progressed, Radbourn found himself the only pitcher remaining on his Providence Grays and did not hesitate to start every game for much of the season. When his right arm started to hurt, as it must have under those conditions, he simply applied wet towels and went out to pitch again.
It took Radbourn only 11 seasons to win 309 games. After retirement in 1891, he ran a combination saloon–pool hall. Always a man’s man, he loved hunting, but one day in 1894 he accidentally shot himself, losing an eye and a portion of his face. Not wanting people to see him that way, he spent much of his time during his few remaining years in the pool hall’s back room.
See also: Heroes; Records Set; Statistics.
Frommer, Harvey. Primitive Baseball: The First
Quarter-Century of the National Pastime.
New York: Atheneum, 1988.
Hoist, David L. “Charles G. Radbourne [sic]:
The Greatest Pitcher of the Nineteenth Cen-
tury.” Illinois Historical Journal 81(4) (1988):
Ivor-Campbell, Frederick. “1884: Old Hoss Rad-
bourne [sic] and the Providence Grays.” In
The National Pastime. Ed. John Thorn. New
York: Warner, 1987, pp. 156–169.
Kull, Andrew. “Baseball’s Greatest Pitcher.”
American Heritage (April-May 1985): 102–
Nemec, David. The Great Encyclopedia of 19th-
century Major League Baseball. New York:
Donald I. Fine, 1997.