Top 100 Indians: #46 George Uhle

Uhle in 1928 - oldcardboard.com

LGT's countdown of the greatest players in franchise history continues with George Uhle (you-lee), workhorse of the early 1920s and supposed inventor of the slider.

George Ernest Uhle (The Bull)

Starting Pitcher, 1919-1928, 1936

Height: 6'0" Weight: 190 lbs

Throws: Right; Bats: Right

How Acquired (1): Amateur Free Agent, 1919

Left Via (1): Trade, December 11, 1928: Traded to the Detroit Tigers for Ken Holloway and Jackie Tavener

How Acquired (2): Free Agent, 1936

Left Via (2): Retired, 1936

George Uhle is another Cleveland native to play for his hometown team. He was the oldest of two sons born to William and Carrie on September 18, 1898. His father was a switchman at the old railyard. Uhle attended Cleveland West High School. Throughout those years he played semi-pro and was good enough to play for the Standard Parts team, one of the top semi-pro teams in the area. This also meant he had a decent paying job as well.

Uhle claimed his team at Standard Parts was the equivalent as a AA or AAA team as it had five retired major leaguers on it, Jim and Frank Delahanty, Del Young, Glenn Liebhardt and Heinie Berger. And in the late 1910s this was probably true as all of them were in their mid to late thirties. Both Berger and Liebhardt had pitched for the Naps for four seasons each. Liebhardt had recommended Uhle for a tryout with Cleveland president Ernest Barnard. So Uhle made the trek down to New Orleans for spring training in 1919. As part of his contract he made them include a clause that wouldn't allow him to be put in the minor leagues as he thought his job at Standard Parts would pay better.

Uhle impressed manager Lee Fohl and Jim Bagby Sr also liked Uhle's sidearm curve. He struck out the side in an exhibition game against Tulane University and was given a spot on the Indians staff as a 20 year old. Fohle didn't waste much time, letting Uhle start the fourth game of the season. He was a bit wild, five walks and eight hits over 6.1 innings, but only two runs scored and Uhle got the victory. That 1919 squad had Bagby and Covelski as the top two guys, along with Guy Morton and Elemer Smith, so Uhle ended up being a spot starter and reliever for most of the season. He made 26 appearances, 12 starts, had a 2.91 (116 ERA+), seven complete games (including a shutout of the Philadelphia Athletics in late August).

But since his contract wouldn't allow the Indians to send him down, he didn't get as much work as he needed, in either his debut season or in the World Champion season of 1920. And he was hit pretty hard in 1920. It wasn't until St. Louis Browns pitcher Urban Shocker told him he was tipping his pitches. From August first through the end of the season, he had a 1.40 ERA in eight appearances covering 25.2 innings. But the most important outing was on September 26 when starter Ray Caldwell got chased early giving up five in just one third of an inning. Uhle relieved and threw seven shutout innings, allowing the Tribe to rally for a 7-5 win. That allowed the Indians to keep their slim AL lead and go onto their first World Series. Uhle would pitch three scoreless innings in that pennant winning Series.

In 1921, Uhle finally started to get some regular reps as a starting pitcher. He made 41 appearances, but 28 starts, second on the team. He was 16-13, 4.01 ERA and 13 complete games. By 1922, Uhle was a fixture in the rotation. He led the league in starts, 40, completed 23 starts, led the league with five shutouts. His ERA of 4.01 was league average (99 ERA+) but he finished 22-16 while pitching 287.1 innings. But as much as he was used in 1922, 1923 was even crazier. He again led the league in starts (44), complete games (29), wins (26) and innings (357.2). His ERA was 3.77 (106 ERA+) and netted a 5.5 WAR. But it just wasn't his arm that made him special that year. He slashed 361/391/472 (126 OPS+) and had 10 doubles in 158 plate appearances. He finished eighth in MVP voting that year.

Based on that extreme workload in 1922 and 1923, Uhle's arm finally started to give out in 1924. He visited the local "Dr. Jobe" of that time, James "Bonesetter" Reese in Youngstown. Although Bonesetter was not a trained doctor, he diagnosed Uhle with a ligament strain. Uhle took it "easy" in 1924, only starting 25 games. But he pitched through it, completing 15, but his numbers were awful, 9-15, 4,77 ERA (90 ERA+). But based on his hitting prowess from 1923, Uhle was also used as a pinch hitter 31 times that year. He excelled in that role, batting .407 nd a .484 on base percentage.

Uhle improved in 1925, going 13-11, starting 26 games, completing 17 and a 4.10 ERA (108 ERA+). But it wasn't until 1926 that he shook off the ligament ailment. He had his best season as a pro, leading the league in wins (27), winning percentage (.711), starts (36), complete games (32!!!), innings pitched (318.1) and strikeouts (118). His ERA was a personal best 2.83 (144 ERA+) and a 8.4 WAR.

But alas, that heavy workload once again took a toll on his arm. In 1927 he made only 22 starts, went 8-9 and had a 4.34 ERA (96 ERA+). In 1928, he was 15-11, 4.08 ERA (101 ERA+), 30 starts, 18 complete games. 1928 was also Uhle's third manager in three seasons. He and Roger Peckinpaugh did not see eye to eye. Peckinpaugh did not believe in the ligament strain and felt Uhle was sandbagging it. That offseason he was dealt to the Tigers for shortstop Jackie Tavener and pitcher Ken Holloway.

Uhle was only 30 when he was dealt. He pitched four years in Detroit, with a resurgence in 1930 and 1931 (131, 130 ERA+). It was in Detroit when he began experimenting with a new pitch where it released off his middle finger. When he was asked about his new curveball, he corrected them by saying it was sliding, and voila the slider was born. After one appearance with the Tigers in 1933, he was sold to the Giants. He lasted only six appearances before being released. The Yankees picked him up and he finished 1933 with them. He had 10 awful appearances with them in 1934 before being cut on June 1. He finished the year in Toledo as a pitching coach and made a few appearances. In 1935 he was a full time coach for them. When Mud Hen manager Steve O'Neill replaced Walter Johnson late in 1935 he had Uhle join him in Cleveland as pitching coach for the 1936 season, where he also made seven forgettable appearances.

When O'Neill left for Buffalo in 1938, Uhle followed. He would later serve as pitching coach for the Cubs and Senators. After retiring from baseball, he was a manufacturer's representative for Arrow Aluminum. He entertained clients mainly by taking them to Indian games. He died in 1985 after a twenty year battle with emphysema. His son George Jr. was a minor league prospect for the Tigers and Boston Braves in the 1940s.

Uhle's career numbers with the Tribe is fairly impressive considering he only had two superb seasons. He started 267 games for the Indians and completed 166 of them, a ludicrous 62%. He was used as a pinch hitter 120 times. His career 289/336/384 86 OPS+ line has to be top 3 all-time for Indians hurlers. He had 45 doubles, 16 triples and 140 RBI in 1067 plate appearances.

Other notable achievements include being one of the last players to have a "courtesy runner" to run for him. During a two hitter against the Yankees in 1922, he needed a shoe repair after a single in the sixth. Les Nunamaker ran for him and was thrown at second. Uhle's shoe was repaired and he returned to complete the game. In another game against the Yankees, Uhle actually walked a batter to pitch to Babe Ruth in the ninth inning of a tight game. Ruth was so ticked off, he ended up striking out. Ruth ended up facing Uhle the most in his career, 11o at bats and while he hit .336 against him, Uhle held him to only four homers and struck him out 25 times. Ruth did credit Uhle as the toughest pitcher he faced in his career.

Sources

SABR Biography Project: Joseph Wancho

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
1919 20 CLE 10 5 .667 2.91 26 12 11 7 1 0 127.0 129 52 41 1 43 50 7 0 0 544 116 1.354 9.1 0.1 3.0 3.5 1.16
1920 21 CLE 4 5 .444 5.21 27 6 11 2 0 1 84.2 98 52 49 3 29 27 8 0 2 368 74 1.500 10.4 0.3 3.1 2.9 0.93
1921 22 CLE 16 13 .552 4.01 41 28 9 13 2 2 238.0 288 132 106 9 63 63 4 1 3 1040 107 1.475 10.9 0.3 2.4 2.4 1.00
1922 23 CLE 22 16 .579 4.07 50 40 8 23 5 3 287.1 328 147 130 6 89 82 13 1 6 1263 99 1.451 10.3 0.2 2.8 2.6 0.92
1923 24 CLE 26 16 .619 3.77 54 44 8 29 1 5 357.2 378 167 150 8 102 109 12 0 3 1548 106 1.342 9.5 0.2 2.6 2.7 1.07 MVP-8
1924 25 CLE 9 15 .375 4.77 28 25 3 15 0 1 196.1 238 134 104 6 75 57 13 0 5 894 90 1.594 10.9 0.3 3.4 2.6 0.76
1925 26 CLE 13 11 .542 4.10 29 26 2 17 1 0 210.2 218 118 96 5 78 68 8 0 5 925 108 1.405 9.3 0.2 3.3 2.9 0.87
1926 27 CLE 27 11 .711 2.83 39 36 2 32 3 1 318.1 300 114 100 7 118 159 13 0 8 1367 144 1.313 8.5 0.2 3.3 4.5 1.35
1927 28 CLE 8 9 .471 4.34 25 22 3 10 1 1 153.1 187 88 74 3 59 69 9 0 2 703 96 1.604 11.0 0.2 3.5 4.1 1.17
1928 29 CLE 12 17 .414 4.07 31 28 3 18 2 1 214.1 252 121 97 8 48 74 8 1 3 933 101 1.400 10.6 0.3 2.0 3.1 1.54
1936 37 CLE 0 1 .000 8.53 7 0 5 0 0 0 12.2 26 12 12 2 5 5 0 0 0 67 62 2.447 18.5 1.4 3.6 3.6 1.00
CLE (11 yrs) 147 119 .553 3.92 357 267 65 166 16 15 2200.1 2442 1137 959 58 709 763 95 3 37 9652 105 1.432 10.0 0.2 2.9 3.1 1.08
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2013.

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • AL MVP: 8th, 1923
  • AL WAR : 2nd, 1926-8.7; 6th, 1923-7.5
  • AL WAR Pitchers: 1st, 1926-8.4; 5th, 1923-5.5; 9th, 1922-4.4
  • AL ERA: 2nd, 1926-2.83
  • AL Wins: 1st, 1923-26; 1st, 1926-27; 4th, 1922-22
  • AL W/L Percentage: 1st, 1926-.711; 5th, 1919-.667; 8th, 1923-.619
  • AL WHIP: 6th, 1926-1.313; 9th, 1925-1.405
  • AL Hits/9 IP: 3rd, 1926-8.482; 7th, 1925-9.313
  • AL Bases on Balls/9 IP: 2nd, 1928-2.016; 10th, 1921-2.382
  • AL Strikeouts/9 IP: 3rd, 1926-4.495
  • AL Games Played: 2nd, 1922-50; 2nd, 1923-54; 10th, 1921-41
  • AL Saves: 4th, 1923-5; 7th, 1922-3
  • AL Innings: 1st, 1923-357.2; 1st, 1926-318.1; 5th, 1922-287.1
  • AL Strikeouts: 2nd, 1926-159; 5th, 1923-109
  • AL Games Started: 1st, 1922-40; 1st, 1923-44; 1st, 1926-36
  • AL Complete Games: 1st, 1923-29; 1st, 1926-32; 3rd, 1922-23; 6th, 1925-17
  • AL Shutouts: 1st, 1922-5; 2nd, 1926-3; 9th, 1921-2
  • AL Bases on Balls: 1st, 1926-118; 7th, 1922-89; 7th, 1923-102
  • AL Hits: 1st, 1923-378; 1st, 1926-300; 3rd, 1922-328; 10th, 1928-252
  • AL Strikeouts/Bases on Balls: 6th, 1926-1.348; 7th, 1928-1.542
  • AL Home Runs/9 IP: 2nd, 1922-0.188; 2nd, 1923-0.201; 2nd, 1925-0.214; 8th, 1926-0.198
  • AL Losses: 2nd, 1928-17; 6th, 1924-15; 7th, 1922-16; 5th, 1924-16
  • AL Earned Runs: 1st, 1923-150; 2nd, 1922-130; 9th, 1926-100; 10th, 1924-104
  • AL Wild Pitches: 1st, 1926-8; 3rd, 1924-5; 4th, 1925-5; 5th, 1922-6
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 1st, 1924-13; 1st, 1926-13; 3rd, 1927-9; 4th, 1922-13; 4th, 1925-8; 4th, 1928-8; 5th, 1923-12; 7th, 1920-8
  • AL Games Finished: 8th, 1919-11
  • AL Adjusted ERA+: 2nd, 1926-144
  • AL Assists as P: 4th, 1923-89; 5th, 1926-67
  • AL Errors as P: 1st, 1926-7; 3rd, 1922-5
  • AL Range Factor/Game P: 4th, 1924-2.18; 4th, 1926-2.49; 5th, 1928-2.23

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 11th WAR Pitchers (29.6)
  • 8th Wins (147)
  • 32nd W/L Percentage (.553)
  • 31st Bases on Balls/9 IP (2.900)
  • 11th Games Played (357)
  • t-43rd Saves (15)
  • 8th Innings Pitched (2200.1)
  • 21st Strikeouts (763)
  • 10th Games Started (267)
  • 6th Complete Games (166)
  • t-13th Shutouts (16)
  • 44th Home Runs (58)
  • 7th Bases on Balls (709)
  • 6th Hits (2442)
  • 21st HR/9 IP (0.237)
  • 6th Losses (119)
  • 6th Earned Runs (959)
  • 15th Wild Pitches (37)
  • 1st Hit By Pitch (95)
  • t-39th Games Finished (65)
  • t-44th ERA+ (105)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-9th Pitching WAR (8.4, 1926)
  • t-2nd Wins (27, 1926)
  • t-5th Wins (26, 1923)
  • t-24th Wins (22, 1922)
  • t-41st W/L Percentage (.711, 1926)
  • 2nd Innings Pitched (357.2, 1923)
  • 14th Innings Pitched (318.1, 1926)
  • t-31st Innings Pitched (287.1, 1922)
  • 1st Games Started (44, 1923)
  • t-4th Games Started (40, 1922)
  • t-28th Games Started (36, 1926)
  • 5th Complete Games (32, 1926)
  • t-13th Complete Games (29, 1923)
  • t-41st Complete Games (23, 1922)
  • t-22nd Shutouts (5, 1922)
  • t-25th Bases on Balls (118, 1926)
  • 1st Hits (378, 1923)
  • 4th Hits (328, 1922)
  • 11th Hits (300, 1926)
  • 22nd Hits (288, 1921)
  • 29th HR/9 IP (0.071, 1919)
  • t-10th Losses (17, 1928)
  • t-23rd Losses (16, 1922, 1923)
  • t-34th Losses (15, 1924)
  • 1st Earned Runs (150, 1923)
  • t-3rd Earned Runs (130, 1922)
  • t-7th Hit By Pitch (13, 1922, 1924, 1926)
  • t-16th Hit By Pitch (12, 1923)
  • t-49th Hit By Pitch (9, 1927)
  • t-50th ERA+ (144, 1926)

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