Top 100 Cleveland Indians: #11 Stan Coveleski

Stan Coveleski - myyesnetwork

From the coal mines of Pennsylvania to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Stan Coveleski had an interesting life to say the least.

Stanley Anthony Coveleski (Covey), born Stanislaus Kowalewski

Starting Pitcher, 1916-1924

Height: 5'11" Weight: 166 lbs

Throws: Right; Bats: Right

How Acquired: Purchase from Portland Beavers (November 27, 1915)

Left Via: Traded to the Washington Senators for Carr Smith and By Speece (December 12, 1924)

Stanislaus of Shamokin

Coveleski was born Stanislaus Kowalewski in the Polish mining community of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, about an hour north of Harrisburg. Like most kids of his day, he started his career in the mines when he was just 12 years old, working 12 hour shifts. He was the youngest of five boys in his family. His oldest brother Jacob lost his life during the Spanish-American War, otherwise he probably would have joined his brothers in their pursuit of a baseball career.

Brothers Frank and John played some minor league ball, and Harry made three different MLB rosters, winning 81 games in his career. Stan would prove to be the best ballplayer of the bunch. While hauling timber for the mines, he would take breaks to throw rocks at birds and cans. At one point, the local school teacher saw Coveleski throwing at tin cans set up at a distance of 50 feet and offered to let him pitch for the local semi-pro squad.

Stan and John were watching a movie shortly after his debut when the PA announcer asked for Mr. Kowalewski to come to the box office. As it wasn't specified, both went. Marty Hogan, the manager of the Lancaster Red Roses of the Class B Tri-State League was there to offer Stan a spot on his team. Stan was only 19 at the time and was reticent to move 2 hours south; he only agreed to go if John could also join the team.

As Stan had worked in the mines most of his young life, he hadn't played much organized baseball, but he took to it like a fish to water. That first season (1909), Stan went 23-11, pitched 272 innings and had a 1.95 ERA and 1.077 WHIP. Amazingly, no major league teams had taken notice, so he stuck around in Lancaster for two and a half more seasons. Midway through 1912, he moved over to the Atlantic City Lanks of the same league, tossing a combined 302 innings, with a 20-14 record, 2.53 ERA and 1.096 WHIP.

A Taste of MLB, Then to the West

It was after the midseason move to Atlantic City that Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics finally got wind of Coveleski (he and his brothers anglicized their name when they started playing baseball). Mack even got him into five games late in 1912. He pitched a complete game in each of his two starts, including a shutout. Feeling he needed a tad more seasoning, Mack shipped Covey across the country to the Spokane Indians of the Northwestern League, with whom the Athletics had a standing agreement about loaning players.

Covey pitched pretty well in his first year there (2.82 ERA in 316 innings), but had an unspectacular 17-20 record. In year two with Spokane, at the age of 24, Stan became more dominant. He went 20-15, with 2.41 ERA in 314 innings, and led the league in strikeouts. Now that he was a star out west, the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League traded five players to acquire him. When Mack reached out to Spokane to inquire about why they had dealt him, away, he was told that the Athletics' "rights" to Coveleski had expired, and sent Mack a box of red apples in gratitude.

In Portland, Coveleski picked up a nickname, "The Big Pole," on account of him being a skinny 5' 11". During that time he also decided he needed one more pitch to add to his fastball, curve and slow ball. He settled on the spitball, which was a legal pitch in those days. He first tried tobacco juice, but switched to a chemical compound called alum on the suggestion of teammate Harry Krause. Covey developed a strong feel for the pitch, and used it with great success.

To Cleveland

Like Spokane, Portland had a gentleman's agreement with a team back east, the Indians. Cleveland purchased Coveleski after the 1915 season. He was virtually assured a spot on the pitching staff for 1916, because the team's starters had been a pretty poor lot in 1915, with the exception of Guy Morton.

Covey made his Indians debut as a reliever in the second game of the season. Soon after, an injury hit starter Ed Klepfer. Manager Lee Fohl decided that Stan would make his debut as a starter against the Tigers. Detroit's scheduled starter that day was his older brother Harry, who was coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons. Harry declined the start, and the two brothers vowed never to duel one another. Stan started and took the loss, eventually ending up with a pretty average rookie season, 15-13, with a 3.41 ERA (87 ERA+) in 45 games, including 11 complete games. A season-long bout with tonsillitis may have hurt his performance, but the Indians won 20 more games than they had the year before.

In 1917 Coveleski broke out in a big way. He finished 19-14 with a minuscule 1.81 ERA (third in league), 24 complete games in 36 starts, with a league-leading 9 shutouts. He was also third in WHIP at 0.992 and second in ERA+ with 156. The Tribe improved to 88 wins and finished in third place. Stan's 1918 was even better. He won 22 games, had a 1.82 ERA (164 ERA+), and he pitched a whopping 311 innings in 33 starts and 5 relief appearances, with 25 complete games, including starts with 11.2, 12, 12.2, and 19 innings. Unfortunately, due to World War I, the season ended on September 1 with the Indians just 2.5 games back.

The 1919 season started late due to the end of the war, and although Covey wasn't spectacular, he was still very good. He finished 24-12 with a 2.61 ERA (128 ERA+) and another 24 complete games, but the Indians could not catch the Chicago White Sox, finishing second again.

A World Champion

In 1920, the spitball was banned, but Coveleski was among those grandfathered in, meaning he was still allowed to throw the pitch. He started off hot, 8-2 in his first ten starts with nine complete games, two shutouts, and a 1.55 ERA, but his wife died suddenly on May 28 and he missed two weeks. His wife had been ill for a while, but the death was not expected. He later married her sister, who would take over rearing of their children while he was playing ball.

Covey came back in mid June and was understandably hit and miss. But he finished the season at 24-14 with a 2.49 ERA (154 ERA+), 26 complete games in 38 starts and led the league with 133 strikeouts and a 1.108 WHIP. Tragedy struck again on August 16, this time at Yankee Stadium, where Ray Chapman was hit and killed by a Carl Mays pitch. Stan was the Indians starter that day; he pitched a complete game and sacrificed in the eventual winning run.

The Indians held off the White Sox and Yankees over the rest of the season to earn their first World Series berth. In the best-of-nine against the Robins (Dodgers), Covey got the nod in Games 1, 4 and 7, and he was fantastic in each of those contests. He threw 3 complete games, including a shutout in the Game 7 clincher. In 27 innings, he allowed just 15 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs. His 0.67 ERA for the Series is still a record.

In 1921, he led the league with 40 starts, and tied his career high with 315 innings, the third year that he topped 300. He was 23-13, his fourth straight season with 20 wins, and he finished with a 3.37 ERA (127 ERA+), but the Yankees overtook the Indians late in the season and took the pennant. In 1922, the Indians slipped back to fourth. Covey was still effective, 17-14, 3.32 ERA (122 ERA+), but he didn't make a start during the final month of the season. In 1923, Coveleski had the first losing record of his career (13-14), but he led the league with a 2.76 ERA (144 ERA+) and 5 shutouts. He again missed the end of the season, making his final start on August 15.

Moving On

In 1924, the Tribe slipped to sixth, and he had his worst season to date, 15-16, 4.04 ERA (106 ERA+) with his WHIP jumping to 1.494. In 1925, Covey would be 35, so the Indians dealt him to the Series champion Washington Senators for Carr Smith and By Speece.

Rejuvenated by the fresh start, Covey finished 20-5 with a lead leading 2.84 ERA (149 ERA+, first also) and 15 complete games in 32 starts, finishing twelfth in MVP voting. He lost both of his World Series starts that year as the Pirates knocked off the Senators. In 1926, he pitched decently again, including a 2-0 win against the Red Sox that was finished in just 78 minutes. But in 1927, at the age of 37, he developed a sore arm and his season was done in early May and the Senators releasing him in June.

The Yankees took a flyer on him for 1928 and while he had a 5-1 record, his ERA was a gaudy 5.74 (63 ERA+). His second to last appearance happened to be a relief appearance in League Park in Cleveland where he gave up 11 hits and five earned runs in 5.1 innings. He was cut in August and retired after the season.

Covey moved to South Bend, Indiana after retiring, bought a house from one of the founding families, and ran the Coveleski Service Station on the west side of town. He later had to close the station during the Great Depression. He continued to provide free pitching lessons to the local kids behind the garage though. Eventually, the local minor league park in South Bend where the Silver Hawks of the Midwest League play was renamed in his honor.

Coveleski prided himself on being a control pitcher. He was not a huge fan of strikeouts as he preferred to retire a batter on a few pitches rather than five or six. He claimed to have routinely finished his complete games in 95 pitches or less. He also claimed that in one game he did not pitch a ball for seven straight innings, each pitch was either swung at or called a strike.

Covey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 by the Veterans Committee. He also was voted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1976. He was named to the Indians Top 100 Greatest Indians roster in 2001 as well as the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in 1966. He passed away at the age of 94 in 1984, having been the oldest living Hall of Famer at the time of his death.

Sources

SABR Biography by San Leavitt (via proxy of Deadball Stars of the American League by David Jones in 2006, Potomac Books), Wikipedia

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
1916 26 CLE 15 13 .536 3.41 45 27 12 11 1 3 232.0 247 100 88 6 58 76 1 1 3 946 87 1.315 9.6 0.2 2.3 2.9 1.31
1917 27 CLE 19 14 .576 1.81 45 36 8 24 9 4 298.1 202 78 60 3 94 133 1 0 3 1137 156 0.992 6.1 0.1 2.8 4.0 1.41
1918 28 CLE 22 13 .629 1.82 38 33 5 25 2 1 311.0 261 90 63 2 76 87 4 0 2 1254 164 1.084 7.6 0.1 2.2 2.5 1.14
1919 29 CLE 24 12 .667 2.61 43 34 9 24 4 4 286.0 286 99 83 2 60 118 5 0 5 1138 128 1.210 9.0 0.1 1.9 3.7 1.97
1920 30 CLE 24 14 .632 2.49 41 38 3 26 3 2 315.0 284 110 87 6 65 133 4 0 1 1237 154 1.108 8.1 0.2 1.9 3.8 2.05
1921 31 CLE 23 13 .639 3.37 43 40 3 28 2 2 315.0 341 137 118 6 84 99 4 0 5 1358 127 1.349 9.7 0.2 2.4 2.8 1.18
1922 32 CLE 17 14 .548 3.32 35 33 2 21 3 2 276.2 292 120 102 14 64 98 2 0 4 1163 122 1.287 9.5 0.5 2.1 3.2 1.53
1923 33 CLE 13 14 .481 2.76 33 31 2 17 5 2 228.0 251 98 70 8 42 54 2 0 1 957 144 1.285 9.9 0.3 1.7 2.1 1.29
1924 34 CLE 15 16 .484 4.04 37 33 3 18 2 0 240.1 286 140 108 6 73 58 4 0 5 1076 106 1.494 10.7 0.2 2.7 2.2 0.79
CLE (9 yrs) 172 123 .583 2.80 360 305 47 194 31 20 2502.1 2450 972 779 53 616 856 27 1 29 10266 129 1.225 8.8 0.2 2.2 3.1 1.39

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

Selected Awards/Leaders
  • Hall of Fame: 1969 (by the Veteran's Committee)
  • AL Pitching Title: 1923
  • AL WAR: 2nd, 1918-9.4; 4th, 1919-6.9; 4th, 1920-8.7; 8th, 1917-7.7; 10th, 1921-6.3
  • AL WAR Pitchers: 1st, 1920-8.5; 2nd, 1917-8.3; 2nd, 1918-9.7; 3rd, 1919-6.5; 3rd, 1921-7.0; 5th, 1922-6.4
  • AL ERA: 1st, 1923-2.76; 2nd, 1918-1.82; 2nd, 1920-2.49; 3rd, 1917-1.81; 6th, 1921-3.37; 7th, 1919-2.61; 10th, 1922-3.32
  • AL Wins: 2nd, 1919-22; 2nd, 1919-24; 3rd, 1920-24; 4th, 1921-23; 6th, 1917-19
  • AL W/L Percentage: 5th, 1919-.667; 6th, 1918-.629; 6th, 1921-.639
  • AL WHIP: 1st, 1920-1.108; 3rd, 1917-0.992; 5th, 1918-1.084; 6th, 1923-1.285; 7th, 1921-1.349
  • AL Hits/9 IP: 1st, 1917-6.094; 1st, 1920-8.114; 8th, 1918-7.553
  • AL Bases on Balls/9 IP: 2nd, 1920-1.857; 2nd, 1923-1.658; 5th, 1919-1.888; 7th, 1918-2.199; 8th, 1922-0.082; 9th, 1916-2.250
  • AL Strikeouts/9 IP: 6th, 1917-4.012; 6th, 1920-3.800
  • AL Games Played: 3rd, 1919-43; 7th, 1921-43; 8th, 1917-45; 8th, 1918-38; 8th, 1920-41; 10th, 1916-45
  • AL Saves: 4th, 1919-4; 5th, 1917-4; 7th, 1920-2; 8th, 1916-3
  • AL Innings: 3rd, 1918-311.0; 3rd, 1920-315.0; 4th, 1921-315.0; 5th, 1917-298.1; 5th, 1919-286.0; 8th, 1922-276.2
  • AL Strikeouts: 1st, 1920-133; 4th, 1917-133; 5th, 1919-118; 8th, 1918-87; 8th, 1922-98; 9th, 1921-99
  • AL Games Started: 1st, 1921-40; 2nd, 1918-33; 2nd, 1920-38; 4th, 1917-36; 4th, 1919-34; 7th, 1922-33; 7th, 1924-33; 10th, 1923-31
  • AL Complete Games: 4th, 1920-26; 4th, 1921-28; 5th, 1918-25; 5th, 1919-24; 7th, 1917-24; 7th, 1922-21; 9th, 1924-18
  • AL Shutouts: 1st, 1917-9; 1st, 1923-5; 7th, 1919-4; 7th, 1920-3; 7th, 1922-3; 9th, 1921-2; 10th, 1924-2
  • AL Home Runs: 3rd, 1916-6; 9th, 1917-3; 9th, 1922-14
  • AL Bases on Balls: 10th, 1917-94; 10th, 1918-76
  • AL Hits: 1st, 1919-286; 3rd, 1921-341; 4th, 1918-261; 7th, 1916-247; 7th, 1924-286; 8th, 1922-292
  • AL Strikeouts/Bases on Balls: 2nd, 1920-2.046; 3rd, 1922-1.531; 4th, 1919-1.967; 6th, 1917-1.415; 9th, 1923-1.286
  • AL Home Runs/9: 2nd, 1919-0.063; 3rd, 1920-0.171; 4th, 1921-0.171; 7th, 1924-0.225
  • AL Losses: 4th, 1924-16; 8th, 1918-13
  • AL Earned Runs: 3rd, 1916-88; 5th, 1921-118; 8th, 1919-83; 9th, 1924-108
  • AL Wild Pitches: 3rd, 1924-5; 6th, 1919-5; 9th, 1921-5
  • AL Adjusted Era+: 1st, 1923-144; 2nd, 1917-156; 2nd, 1918-164; 2nd, 1920-154; 6th, 1919-128; 6th, 1921-127; 10th, 1922-122
  • AL Putouts as P: 1st, 1921-23; 1st, 1923-18; 2nd, 1924-21; 3rd, 1916-19; 4th, 1920-17; 5th, 1922-14
  • AL Assists as P: 1st, 1921-108; 2nd, 1919-88; 3rd, 1918-83; 4th, 1920-90
  • AL Range Factor/Game as P: 1st, 1921-3.05; 2nd, 1923-2.67; 3rd, 1921-2.37; 4th, 1920-2.61; 5th, 1918-2.55
  • AL Fielding %as P: 3rd, 1916-.989; 3rd, 1921-.992; 5th, 1923-.989
Cleveland Indians Career Leader
  • 2nd WAR Pitchers (55.3)
  • 14th ERA (2.80)
  • 4th Wins (172)
  • t-22nd W/L Percentage (.583)
  • 15th WHIP (1.225)
  • 44th Hits/9 IP (8.812)
  • t-11th Bases On Balls/9 IP (2.216)
  • 10th Games Played (360)
  • 35th Saves (20)
  • 5th Innings Pitched (2502.1)
  • 13th Strikeouts (856)
  • 5th Games Started (305)
  • 3rd Complete Games (194)
  • t-3rd Shutouts (31)
  • 10th Bases on Balls (616)
  • 5th Hits (2450)
  • 48th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (1.390)
  • 18th HR/9 IP (0.191)
  • 5th Losses (123)
  • 8th Earned Runs (779)
  • t-28th Wild Pitches (29)
  • t-27th Hit By Pitch (27)
  • 4th ERA+ (129)
Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • 4th Pitching WAR (9.7, 1918)
  • 8th Pitching WAR (8.5, 1920)
  • t-12th Pitching WAR (8.3, 1917)
  • t-29th Pitching WAR (7.0, 1921)
  • 35th Pitching WAR (6.5, 1919)
  • t-37th Pitching WAR (6.3, 1922)
  • t-12th ERA (1.81, 1917)
  • t-14th ERA (1.82, 1918)
  • t-9th Wins (22, 1919, 1920)
  • t-14th Wins (23, 1921)
  • t-24th Wins (22, 1918)
  • 11th WHIP (0.992, 1917)
  • t-30th WHIP (1.084, 1918)
  • t-40th WHIP (1.108, 1920)
  • 7th Hits/9 IP (6.094, 1917)
  • 31st Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.658, 1923)
  • 44th Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.857, 1920)
  • 46th Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.888, 1919)
  • t-15th Innings Pitched (315.0, 1920, 1921)
  • 18th Innings Pitched (311.0, 1918)
  • 22nd Innings Pitched (298.1, 1917)
  • t-34th Innings Pitched (286.0, 1919)
  • 50th Innings Pitched (276.2, 1922)
  • t-4th Games Started (40, 1921)
  • t-10th Games Started (38, 1920)
  • t-28th Games Started (36, 1917)
  • t-18th Complete Games (28, 1921)
  • t-30th Complete Games (26, 1920)
  • t-34th Complete Games (28, 1918)
  • t-36th Complete Games (24, 1917, 1919)
  • t-3rd Shutouts (9, 1917)
  • t-22nd Shutouts (5, 1923)
  • t-38th Shutouts (4, 1919)
  • 2nd Hits (341, 1921)
  • 19th Hits (292, 1922)
  • t-23rd Hits (286, 1919, 1924)
  • t-26th Hits (284, 1920)
  • 49th Hits (261, 1918)
  • t-15th HR/9 IP (0.058, 1918)
  • t-18th HR/9 IP (0.063, 1919)
  • t-42nd HR/9 IP (0.091, 1917)
  • t-23rd Losses (16, 1924)
  • t-16th Earned Runs (118, 1921)
  • t-47th Earned Runs (108, 1924)
  • 20th ERA+ (164, 1918)
  • t-26th ERA+ (156, 1917)
  • t-29th ERA+ (154, 1920)
  • t-50th ERA+ (144, 1923)

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