“And, Along Came Slim …”

There was a lot that was “slim” about the pitcher Slim Love.

slim love photo

His frame was slim – 6 foot, 7 inches, 195 pounds. And, his baseball career (a few big league seasons between 1913 and 1920) was rather slim, too.

When I wrote about him a couple days ago (click here), I focused on this slimness, his mediocre statistics, and his only pitch, an undisciplined fastball.

Slim’s pretty short list of overall pitching stats (highlighted by an awful lot of walks) made for, well, slim pickings when it came to summing up his career.

But, he was the tallest man in major league baseball at the time and had a very good nickname. So I settled for that.

It could be said that I, an Orioles fan, was unduly hard on Love because he was a Yankee. OK, point taken.

The more I thought about Love, however, the more I thought, “If he was that mediocre, how did he make it through so many major league seasons?”

(You may insert any number of current mediocre pitchers in response here. I’m not going to play that game, but I will say – you do have a point.)

So, I poked around some more. And, I stumbled on something. And, when I say “stumbled” I don’t mean literally, but I came upon it nearly by chance. As if Slim Love himself had steered this newspaper under my nose, controlling his legacy in a way that he couldn’t his fastball.

Slim, I think, wants you to know about this.

Slim vs Babe story

New York Tribune, 6/27/18. Library of Congress, Public Domain http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1918-06-27/ed-1/seq-12

Wednesday, June 26, 1918

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

“And along came Slim Love and Babe Ruth was shackled.” (New York Tribune)

Love was a Yankee, Ruth was still with the Red Sox.

Slim vs Babe

New York Tribune, 6/27/18. Library of Congress, Public Domain http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1918-06-27/ed-1/seq-12

Slim Love Pitching for the Yankees. June 26, 1918

Love gave up only three hits in his 3-1 victory that day, bringing the Yankees to within a game of the league-leading Sox.

Slim Love’s own two RBI double was the difference in the Yankees’ victory. “It was a lovely hit and the 6,000 howlers in the stands howled their OK,” wrote Charles Taylor of the Tribune.

As for Babe Ruth?

Babe_Ruth_Red_Sox_1918

Public Domain image.

Babe Ruth, Red Sox. 1918

Being “shackled” meant Ruth went just 1-for-4 that day; his one hit a double that drove in the sole Red Sox run. Which, isn’t really shackled by my accounts, unless, of course, you’re Babe Ruth and much more is expected of you than of ordinary batters.

But, this is Slim’s story.

And, Love, Taylor wrote, “had a lovely day. His old southpaw wing never fluttered so gracefully or with better results.”

(There’s no baseball writer – or baseball blogger – today who could write a line like that, and that’s a shame.)

Every ballplayer – at every level of the game – deserves at least one great moment.

Every batter deserves a 4-for-4 game, or a home run that cuts through the clouds and breaks someone’s windshield, setting off a line of car alarms in the parking lot.

Every batter deserves a Babe Ruth kind of day.

Every pitcher deserves one no-hitter (and Love did have one of those in the minor leagues).

And, every pitcher should be given a moment when their pitches are so spot-on perfect that they would shut down Babe Ruth himself.

Every pitcher deserves that Slim Love kind of day.

POSTSCRIPT: The Red Sox went on to win the World Series that season (defeating the Cubs). They would not win another World Series for 86 years. The Yankees, with a 60-63 record, sunk to fourth. In December 1920, the Red Sox would sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000, which kick started a Yankees’ revival that has led, over the years, to 27 World Series championships.

FUN FACT: Slim Love and Babe Ruth were – very briefly – teammates. In December 1918, the Yankees traded Love to Ruth’s Red Sox. But, before Spring Training or a single game with the Sox, Love was bundled up yet again and traded to the Tigers.

Slim Love ~ A Valentine’s Tale

Slim Love was a pitcher.

(I’m not clever enough to make this up. This story is true.)

slim love photo

public domain image.

This is Slim.

Slim wasn’t his given name, of course.

His birth name, given in 1890, was Edward.

But, baseball is the land of a thousand nicknames. And, while “Slim” isn’t the best of them, it certainly isn’t the worst, and it’s appropriate enough if you’re a lanky, stringbeany, beanpoley, 6 foot 7 kind of fella.

In 1913, as a member of the Senators, The Washington Post called Love the “elongated twirler” with a “bucolic disposition and odd appearance.”

Today, just calling him tall would do.

To be 6’7” is to be pretty tall, but not as tall as Jon Rauch (6’11”) or Randy Johnson (6’10”).

But, to be 6’7” in 1913 is to be the tallest man in the major leagues.

slim love

public domain image.

Slim Love. All 6’7″ of him.

(Fun Fact: The tallest players in major league baseball are all pitchers.)

Slim Love is the perfect-ish name for Valentine’s Day.

It’s sweet with the Love part, but Slim makes the love seem a bit stand-offish and tenuous. A slim love is fragile. It’s a complicated love. Tender, but a little bit sad. Still, it’s a good name.

(Unconditional love is what you get from a dog.  Slim love is what you get from a cat.)

Stevie Grumbles

Even Stevie’s love is slim at times.

Slim Love wasn’t a spectacular pitcher. He isn’t particularly memorable at all.

But, baseball historians are a fair-minded lot and they remember everyone.

Love, apparently, bragged his way onto a minor league team in Memphis, while having, apparently, no real baseball skills.

I thought this was fairly remarkable and quite a lucky break for Slim, and assumed perhaps that this was merely a sign of how baseball behaved in a far simpler time.

Then I realized that idiots in all walks of life brag themselves into jobs they are unsuited for all the time and I find them, as a group, highly annoying.

Slim Love must have figured something out, however, because he eventually played a few big league seasons with the Senators, Yankees, and Tigers.

1918 yankees team

public domain image

1918 New York Yankees. Slim Love is in the middle (kneeling) row, second from the right.

He had an undisciplined fastball and never learned – or just couldn’t – throw a curve or anything else for that matter, despite the futile efforts of Yankees manager Miller Huggins to teach him a new pitch or at least some control.

His major league career was finished by 1920 at age 29. He ended with a 3.04 ERA and a 28-21 record (most of that with the Yankees), which isn’t all that special, but could still land you a job today in many bullpens, if not in a starting rotation.

slim love zeenut

Slim Love even had his own baseball card.

He kicked around in the minor and independent leagues into the 1930s. He died in 1942 in Memphis, at age 52, after being struck by a car.

Love Gravestone

There’s no moral to Slim Love’s tale.

Only that there are plenty of players in baseball who may not have been very good, but were a little bit interesting, or just a touch quirky.

Maybe just their name will stand the test of time.

Or, maybe not. In reporting on his death in 1942, The Sporting News got his name and age wrong. They called him Elmer.

elmer

The Sporting News. Dec. 10, 1942

The Slim Love story doesn’t end quite yet. For Part 2, and the day Slim Love faced Babe Ruth, click here.

Happy Baseball. Pitchers & Catchers report this week. Finally.