George Willis Hudlin (Ace)
Starting Pitcher, Relief Pitcher 1926-1940
Height: 6'0" Weight: 190 lbs
Throws: Right; Bats: Right
How Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, 1926
Left Via: Released, May 13, 1940
Although nicknamed Ace, Willis Hudlin was probably the de facto ace only for his first three seasons of his long Tribe career, usually being in the shadow of Wes Ferrell, Mel Harder, Johnny Allen or Bob Feller.
Hudlin was born in 1906 in the rural town of Wagoner, Oklahoma. At Wagoner High, he excelled at multiple sports, including track and field and football before attending the University of Oklahoma. His early prowess as a shortstop and pitcher led to his signing with the Waco Cubs of the Texas League (A) as a twenty year old. He was not exactly dominant, going 16-11 in 32 games for the Cubs, with a 4.29 ERA. But at some point he was signed by an Indians scout as he pitched in eight games in August and September for the Tribe that same year. Other than his debut against the St. Louis Browns (2 innings, six walks, five runs) he pitched well.
He led the team in wins in 1927, going 18-12 in 30 starts (the closest he would ever get to 20 wins). He led the team in innings and starts and his ERA was 4.01, good enough for a 104 ERA+. The highlight of his rookie season was beating the Yankees, 5-4 on May 21. He pitched 11.1 innings of relief, only allowed five hits, three walks and one run, fanning five, including Lou Gehrig. Before the game, it had been announced that Charles Lindbergh had successfully landed his solo flight in Paris. He finished 22nd in MVP voting that season.
In his younger years, Hudlin was known primarily as a hard thrower who resisted off-speed pitches such as curves to the dismay of catcher Luke Sewell. His stubbornness resulted in many seasons of .500 records (59-59 from 1928-1931 with 126 starts and 37 relief appearances. He had a 4.10 ERA, which was good enough for a 109 ERA+ in those four seasons.
In 1929, Hudlin had the best year of his career. He was only 17-15 in his 33 starts, but had a 3.34 ERA (132 ERA+), throwing 280.1 innings, 22 complete games and two shutouts. One of those shutouts came against the Yankees, who he was 5-1 against that season with a 3.89 ERA.
By 1932, Hudlin had moved down to fourth in the rotation, only making 21 starts, but was still league average (102 ERA+) despite a 4.71 ERA. He did complete 12 of those starts and was credited with 2 saves as well. In 1933, he was a victim of poor run support. His record of 5-13 was very deceiving. He had his best season of ERA in quite a while, 3.97 (113 ERA+) and split his time between the pen and starting, 17 games of each.
As equally deceiving would be Hudlin's 1934 campaign. He made 26 starts and finished 15-10 with a 4.75 ERA. That would equate to his first sub-100 ERA+ season at 95. He mounted a comeback in 1935. He had a similar 15-11 record but lowered his ERA by a full run, 3.69, having his second best ERA+ season of 122.
After nine years of being a mainstay in the rotation, 1936 looked to be the beginning of the end for Hudlin. He made only seven starts and 20 relief appearances, finishing with a 9.00 ERA (57 ERA+) while trying to pitch through bone spurs in his elbow. Before the 1937 season started in earnest, he worked with Harder and catcher Rollie Hemsley on perfecting a curveball, a pitch he used to scoff at. At 31, Hudlin pitched in 35 games, making 23 starts, completing 10 with two shutouts and two saves. He finished with a 4.10 ERA (110 ERA+) that year.
With Feller's emergence in 1938, Hudlin went back to a swingman status, making only 15 starts and 14 relief appearances. He was 8-8 and 43.89 ERA (94 ERA+), completing eight games. Al Milnar's emergence in 1939, moved him down one more rung to fifth starter status, but still made 20 starts. He was mildly effective, 9-10 in 20 starts, 4.91 ERA (90 ERA+).
In 1940, the Tribe had five bonafide starters in Feller, Milnar, Harder, Allen and Al Smith. Hudlin pitched complete games in his first two appearances, but was hit pretty hard in that second start. He didn't reach the fifth or fourth in his next two starts and was released on May 13. That started a whirlwind tour of the majors for Hudlin as he ended up making start six starts for the Washington Senators before getting cut again. The New York Giants picked him up for one start in July and finally the St. Louis Browns picked him up for the stretch run. This ties him with twelve other players who have played for four franchises in one season.
After settling in Arkansas early in his playing career, Hudlin joined the Little Rock Travelers of the Southern Association (A1) from 1941 to 1946. Not only was Hudlin a pitcher for the Travelers, but he was also a minority owner. Former teammate Luke Sewell had become the manager of the St. Louis Browns in 1944. He ended up trading his own contract to the Browns. He appeared in just one game on August 31, taking the loss in relief after pitching two innings and giving up one unearned run. But this was one of the few decent Browns teams, they won the pennant, he ended with a partial share and then bought his contract back from the Browns after the season.
In 1947, he moved onto the Jackson (MS) Senators of the Southeastern League (B) as player-manager. He retired from playing after the 1948 season, managing the Senators through 1950. He also managed the Greenville (MS) Tigers/Bucks of the Cotton States League (C) in 1954 and 1955 and the Augusta (GA) Tigers of the South Atlantic League (A) in 1956. Both Greenville and Augusta were Tigers affiliates at that time, so it was no surprise he ended up being the Tigers pitching coach from 1957 to 1959. The Yankees employed him as a scout from 1960 to 1974.
He served as a flight instructor in the Air Force during World War II, was an avid golfer and HAM operator while living in Little Rock in the off-seasons and post career. He was an avid fan of using the mineral baths in Arkansas, which might explain his longevity. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 96.
Wikipedia, Biographical Dictionary of American Sports, Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia, The Babe Signed My Shoe.
Indians Career Stats
|CLE (15 yrs)||157||151||.510||4.34||475||320||100||154||11||31||2557.2||2930||1436||1233||108||832||662||42||9||40||11259||104||1.471||10.3||0.4||2.9||2.3||0.80|
- AL MVP: 22nd, 1927
- AL WAR: 6th, 1929-7.4
- AL WAR Pitchers: 1st, 1929-7.5; 5th, 1935-5.1; 7th, 1927-5.0
- AL ERA: 5th, 1929-3.34
- AL Wins: 7th, 1927-18; 8th, 1929-17; 8th, 1934-15; 10th, 1931-15; 10th, 1935-15
- AL W/L Percentage: 9th, 1934-.600
- AL WHIP: 6th, 1929-1.327; 9th, 1934-1.410; 9th, 1935-1.351
- AL Bases on Balls/9 IP: 5th, 1935-2.370; 6th, 1929-2.344; 10th, 1932-2.923; 10th, 1934-3.000
- AL Games: 5th, 1928-42; 7th, 1931-44; 8th, 1929-40; 9th, 1927-43
- AL Saves: 2nd, 1935-5; 2nd, 1928-7; 4th, 1934-4; 7th, 1931-4; 10th, 1939-3
- AL Innings: 2nd, 1929-280.1; 3rd, 1927-264.2; 9th, 1931-254.1
- AL Games Started: 4th, 1929-33; 5th, 1931-34; 7th, 1930-33; 8th, 1927-30; 10th, 1935-29
- AL Complete Games: 4th, 1929-22; 5th, 1927-18
- AL Shutouts: 4th, 1935-3; 9th, 1937-2; 10th, 1929-2; 10th, 1930-1
- AL Home Runs: 9th, 1931-14
- AL Bases on Balls: 7th, 1928-90; 10th, 1931-88
- AL Hits: 1st, 1927-291; 2nd, 1929-299; 2nd, 1931-313
- AL Home Runs/9: 2nd, 1927-0.102; 2nd, 1929-0.225; 5th, 1935-0.311; 6th, 1934-0.369; 6th, 1937-0.410
- AL Losses: 6th, 1930-16; 9th, 1929-15; 10th, 1931-14
- AL Earned Runs: 4th, 1927-118; 4th, 1931-130
- AL Wild Pitches: 3rd, 1934-7; 5th, 1927-6; 5th, 1931-4; 7th, 1928-4
- AL Hit By Pitch: 2nd, 1927-11; 4th, 1934-5; 6th, 1923-7
- AL Adjusted Era+: 4th, 1929-132; 9th, 1935-122
- AL Putouts as P: 1st, 1929-24; 2nd, 1939-21; 5th, 1928-16
- AL Assists as P: 1st, 1929-88; 1st, 1934-62; 2nd, 1927-80; 2nd, 1930-67; 3rd, 1928-60; 4th, 1931-65; 4th, 1937-51; 4th, 1939-42
- AL Errors as P: 1st, 1928-7; 2nd, 1929-5; 2nd, 1937-4; 4th, 1930-5
- AL Range Factor/Game as P: 1st, 1929-2.80; 3rd, 1930-2.03; 3rd, 1934-2.00; 5th, 1927-2.14
Cleveland Indians Career Leader
- 8th WAR Pitchers (32.8)
- 7th Wins (157)
- 32nd Bases on Balls/9 IP (2.928)
- 3rd Games Played (475)
- t-17th Saves (31)
- 4th Innings Pitched (2557.2)
- 26th Strikeouts (662)
- 4th Games Started (320)
- 7th Complete Games (154)
- t-20th Shutouts (11)
- 16th Home Runs (108)
- 6th Bases on Balls (832)
- 3rd Hits (2930)
- 29th Home Runs/9 IP (0.380)
- 3rd Losses (151)
- 3rd Earned Runs (1233)
- 13th Wild Pitches (40)
- 16th Hit By Pitch (42)
- t-18th Games Finished (100)
- t-48th ERA+ (104)
Cleveland Indians Season Leader
- 21st Pitching WAR (7.5, 1929)
- t-43rd Innings Pitched (280.1, 1929)
- t-49th Complete Games (22, 1929)
- t-8th Hits (313, 1931)
- t-12th Hits (299, 1929)
- 20th Hits (291, 1927)
- 46th Home Runs/9 IP (0.102, 1927)
- t-23rd Losses (16, 1930)
- t-34th Losses (15, 1929)
- t-3rd Earned Runs (130, 1931)
- t-16th Earned Runs (118, 1927)
- t-40th Earned Runs (110, 1930)
- t-26th Hit By Pitch (11, 1927)