Chicago Cubs: Rube Waddell was anything but ordinary

PHILADELPHIA - 1905. Ace left handed pitcher Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics works out before a game in Philly in 1905. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - 1905. Ace left handed pitcher Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics works out before a game in Philly in 1905. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs: Waddell’s activities outside of baseball would put most other players to shame

This offseason, we learned that Madison Bumgarner is an avid rodeo competitor under the name of Mason Saunders. I doubt, however, he has ever wrestled a live alligator just because it was fun. This is the story of Rube Waddell. Don’t expect things to make sense.

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The former Chicago Cubs pitcher also, apparently, had a penchant for heroics. His love for firefighting led him to volunteer with local fire departments and even join in the occasional bucket brigade. On the field, he saved his teammate Danny Hoffman’s life after he was struck in the head with a fastball. He picked up the center fielder, rushed him out to the street, and flagged down a carriage to get him to the nearest hospital.

One of the weirder stories about Waddell is regarding the 1905 World Series and an altercation regarding a straw hat. The story goes that Waddell was trying to destroy teammate Andy Coakley’s hat, and, in their friendly scuffle, Waddell injured his shoulder. It’s not sure if this story is true or if he was paid off, but his season ended after that day, and he never made an appearance in the World Series.

A more unfortunate fact about Waddell was his battle with alcoholism. Much of the money he made while playing went to alcohol, perhaps leading to the decision for teams to hold on to his money for him until he wanted to pay for something. His battery mate and friend, Ossee Schrecongost, also went out drinking with Waddell on many occasions, but Waddell’s behavior eventually drove them apart.

It’s possible that had Waddell’s eccentric nature and alcoholism been more under control, his career could have been longer and more fruitful. His last season came at age 33, and, sadly, he would pass away at the young age of 37 due to Tuberculosis. Despite everything, legendary manager Connie Mack still regarded Waddell as one of the best pitchers he had seen, and, according to Dan O’Brien of SABR, the Rube was one of Mack’s favorite players.

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Though he was only with the Chicago Cubs for a short period, Waddell may have been one of the most exciting players in the team’s history. While his legend came to an unfortunate end, his is one of my personal favorite baseball stories considering how much he did and how accomplished he was. His story is one worthy of Hollywood.