Barney Pelty

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Barney Pelty
(The Yiddish Curver)

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Barney Pelty, The Yiddish Curver, has the lowest career ERA of any Jewish pitcher, 2.63, which is 0.12 lower than Sandy Koufax. His ERA+ was 100 as he pitched at the heart of the Deadball Era. Pelty was proud of his Jewish heritage as indicated by his nickname and did not change his name or hide his identity like some other Jewish players of the era. He pitched 22 career shutouts but was shut out 32 times, including nine 1-0 defeats due to poor offensive support.

Amateur career[edit]

Pelty got a free education at Carleton College on the condition he pitched for their team. He met his wife, Eva Warsing, while there, and then transferred to Blees Military Academy for his last two years of school.

1902-03: Minor league career[edit]

Pelty began his professional career with the 1902 Nashville Volunteers but an arm injury cut his season short. He tried to catch but it didn't pan out and he returned to his hometown to rest. Oddly, catcher would be the only position he did not play in his major league career. After playing semipro ball, he was signed by Belden Hill of the Cedar Rapids Rabbits for 1903. He performed well and the St. Louis Browns and Boston Red Sox bid for the right-hander, the former winning out with an offer of $850.

1903: Big league debut[edit]

Barney saved his first big-league game on August 20, 1903, replacing an ailing Wee Willie Sudhoff. It was a busy month - two days later, he beat Bill Dinneen of the champion Red Sox and then was married on August 31st. He was 3-3 with a 2.40 ERA for the Brownies that year. He became a coach when not pitching.

1904-05: A reliable starter[edit]


Pelty fired a one-hitter on July 4, 1904 against the Chicago White Sox, working with batterymate Branch Rickey. That season, his pitching line read 15-18 with a 2.84 ERA in 301 innings. He was among the league's 10 worst in homers allowed, earned runs allowed, losses and hit batters (a league-leading 20). In 1905, Barney was 14-14 with a 2.75 ERA when the team's other pitchers were a combined 40-85 with three 20-game losers.

1906: Best ERA in franchise history[edit]

Pelty had a career year for the Browns in 1906, going 17-12 with a 1.59 ERA. Only Doc White (1.52) had a lower mark in the 1906 AL. Barney was also third in WHIP (.951) and allowed the lowest batting average, .206. He especially was dominant against the World Series champion White Sox, allowing one run in 32 innings. In one three-game series against Chicago, Pelty pitched every game, including a 0-0 tie in 10 innings. The 1.59 ERA is the lowest in the history of the Browns/Baltimore Orioles franchise.

That year, he also served as a fill-in umpire for a couple of American League games.

1907-1912: Rest of his major league career[edit]

Barney hit the skids in 1907, fading to 12-21 despite a 98 ERA+ (2.57 ERA) as the Browns remained weak. He led the 1907 AL in both losses and hit batsmen (19). In 1908, the right-hander improved to 7-4, 1.99 in a reduced role and St. Louis actually reached the first division. In 1909, Pelty was 11-11 with a 2.30 ERA though the Browns dropped 89 that year. Pelty threw a shutout in the first game at Comiskey Park on May 1, 1910; overall, he went 5-11 with a 3.48 ERA as he was on the decline.

In 1911, Pelty bounced back with a 114 ERA+ (2.97 ERA) though his record was just 7-15. The Browns lost 107 games that year and Pelty was still the top hurler on the staff. He was sixth in the league in losses as his record again suffered from the team he played for. After a 1-5, 5.59 mark after 6 games for the Browns in 1912, he was placed on waivers and picked up by the Washington Senators. He finished his big-league career with a decent 1-4, 3.30 ledger in 11 outings for Washington. He was sold to the Baltimore Orioles but did not see much action and retired at year's end.

Career rankings[edit]

Through 2006, Pelty ranked 60th all-time in MLB in ERA, 62nd in WHIP, 71st in Hits per 9 innings and 48th in batters plunked. His career record in the majors was 92-117.

Life outside and after baseball[edit]

During his career, Pelty ran a bookstore in his Farmington hometown in the off-seasons. He was a semipro manager for a couple of teams. He worked as an inspector for the Missouri State Food and Drug Department and was an alderman for several terms in Farmington. His only son became a city engineer in Farmington.

Pelty pitched one last game in 1937 in an exhibition against Grover Cleveland Alexander, dropping the decision.

Sources include The Big Book of Jewish Baseball by Peter Horvitz and Joachim Horvitz and Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 15 Wins Seasons: 2 (1904 & 1906)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 4 (1904-1907)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1904)

Related Sites[edit]