Stanley Anthony Coveleski
born Stanislaus Kowalewski
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 166 lb.
- Debut September 10, 1912
- Final Game August 3, 1928
- Born July 13, 1889 in Shamokin, PA USA
- Died March 20, 1984 in South Bend, IN USA
"The pressure never lets up. Doesn't matter what you did yesterday. That's history. It's tomorrow that counts. So you worry all the time. It never ends. Lord, baseball is a worrying thing." - Stan Coveleski, The Glory of Their Times
Stan Coveleski won at least 20 games in five of his fourteen seasons in the American League. During a career in which he pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics, the Cleveland Indians, the Washington Senators, and the New York Yankees, Coveleski posted a record of 214-141. He led the AL in strikeouts in 1920, in games started in 1921, and in ERA and winning percentage in 1925. The prime of his career was spent with the Indians, for whom he was a major factor in a 1920 World Series championship. Coveleski was credited with three of the four victories over the Brooklyn Robins, yielding only two runs in the 27 innings he worked. One of his other major accomplishments was a 13-game winning streak for Washington in 1925, when he finished 20-5.
Born in the coal-mining town of Shamokin, PA, he was the younger brother of pitcher Harry Coveleski and one of four professional players in the family (John and Frank Coveleski were the others). By the age of 12, he was already working six days a week in the coal mines, putting in 12-hour days for a salary of $3.75 a week. Determined to escape that life, Stan signed his first pro contract with the Lancaster Red Roses, managed by former outfielder Marty Hogan. In 1909, he helped the team secure its first championship in the Tri-State League.
He did not find immediate success in the majors. He was given a five-game trial by Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1912 but failed to impress despite tossing a three-hit shutout in his first start against a loaded Detroit Tigers lineup. He returned to the minor leagues and turned his career around with the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League in 1915, where he learned to master the spitball. He pitched 293 innings in 64 games with a 2.67 ERA, prompting Cleveland to give him another look. This time, he was ready. In 1916, he walked only 58 batters in 232 innings with a 15-13, 3.41 record, an excellent display of control for someone who threw the notoriously difficult to control spitter. Within a couple of years, he was considered the master of the pitch; his version was thrown high and looked destined to be a ball until it dipped into the strike zone at the last moment.
In 1917 and 1918, Coveleski pitched for an Indians team that was depleted by World War I. Star players Ed Klepfer, Joe Harris and Elmer Smith were all mobilized, leaving the Indians short of good players. That placed an additional burden on those who remained, including Coveleski. In a game that embodied the era, he pitched a 19-inning complete game against the New York Yankees on May 24, 1918, winning, 3-2, thanks to two home runs by pitcher turned outfielder Smokey Joe Wood. He seemed to suffer no particular ill effect from that marathon performance, taking his next turn in the rotation five days later then going on to pitch over 300 innings that year. He notched his first 20-win season in 1918, finishing 22-13, 1.82, and won 24 back to back seasons, going 24-12, 2.61 in 1919 and 24-14, 2.49 with 133 strikeouts when the Indians won their first World Series title in 1920.
Stan won 20 a fourth straight year in 1921 for a 23-13, 3.37 season. Despite a 13-14 record, his 2.76 ERA led all AL pitchers in [1923 Indians|1923]]. He moved to the Washington Senators for his 20-5 season in 1925, leading in ERA again with a 2.84 mark, and retired after going 5-1, 5.74 in 12 games for the 1928 New York Yankees.
The Coveleski boys agreed never to play against each other, and their managers always arranged for them not to have to. The only games in which Harry and Stan both pitched was when one of the two came in to pitch in relief while his brother was on the mound. Stan was not a big man, standing 5'11" and weighing 166 lbs, but he was strong and durable. He also had good control, and never tried to be a strikeout pitcher, preferring to let the batter get himself out. That did not prevent him from leading the American League in strikeouts in 1920, but it was more a function of his pitching over 300 innings than of trying to overpower opponents.
Coveleski settled in South Bend, IN, in 1929, where the minor league ballpark of the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Midwest League is named Coveleski Stadium in his honor. Three years after talking to Lawrence Ritter for The Glory of Their Times, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the class of 1969. Stan was around for his day in the Cooperstown sun, living to the ripe old age of 94. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Hall of Famer.
- 2-time AL ERA Leader (1923 & 1925)
- AL Winning Percentage Leader (1925)
- AL Strikeouts Leader (1920)
- 2-time AL Shutouts Leader (1917 & 1923)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 9 (1916-1922, 1924 & 1925)
- 20 Wins Seasons: 5 (1919-1921 & 1925)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 11 (1916-1926)
- 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1918, 1920 & 1921)
- Won a World Series with the Cleveland Indians in 1920
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1969
- Dave Anderson: "Harry and Stanley: The Coveleski Brother Act", The National Pastime, SABR, Number 20 (2000), pp. 39-41.
- Lawrence Ritter: The Glory of Their Times, The Macmillan Company, New York, NY, 1966, pp. 109-115.
- Fred Schuld: "The Iron-Armed Pitcher: Stanley Coveleski's Nineteen-Inning Complete-Game Victory", in Brad Sullivan, ed.: Batting Four Thousand: Baseball in the Western Reserve, SABR, Cleveland, OH, 2008, pp. 84-90.
- Steve Steinberg: "Spitballing to the Hall of Fame" in Mark Armour, ed.: Rain Check: Baseball in the Pacific Northwest, Society for American Baseball Research, Cleveland, OH, 2006, pp. 34-43.