Les Backman

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Lester John Backman

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Biographical Information[edit]

Les Backman, who played in the majors in 1909 and 1910, is one of the few major leaguers out of engineering school Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, IN. As of 2001, his .445 batting average in 1909 for Rose-Hulman was still the second-highest of all time for the school (behind Art Nehf's .468, achieved in 1911). He is in the Rose-Hulman Athletic Hall of Fame, and the site states that he was a top pitcher for the college's team who later, in 1917, returned to school to complete his chemical engineering degree.

Backman was born in Cleves, OH, west of Cincinnati. He was at Rose-Hulman from 1907-10, and made his major league debut on July 3, 1909, as a pitcher with the 1909 Cardinals. The team ERA was 3.41, so his ERA of 4.14, while worse than average, was not terrible and he gave up far fewer unearned runs than one might have expected - Slim Sallee, whose 2.42 ERA was best on the team, gave up 59 earned runs and 52 unearned runs while Backman gave up 59 earned runs and only 10 unearned runs. At 21, he was one of the youngest pitchers on the team. In 1910, Les improved quite notably to a 3.03 ERA while the team ERA worsened to 3.78. Vic Willis, also on the team, had a 3.35 ERA. Backman did not pitch in the majors again, though. In 1911, he went 10-5 for Toronto and in 1912, he was 5-3 for Toronto and also pitched for Syracuse. According to The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, he was a "great big strapping fellow" who threw a speedy fastball.

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