Top 100 Cleveland Indians: #6 Addie Joss

Addie Joss - American Tobacco Company

Addie Joss last pitched in a major-league game on July 25, 1910, 104 years ago. It is very likely that no one still alive has seen him pitch.

Adrian Joss (Addie)

Starting Pitcher, 1902-1910

Height: 6'3" Weight: 185 lbs

Throws: Right; Bats: Right

How Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, March 16, 1902

There are some pictures of Joss available, though very few showing him in action on the field. That lack of visual and oral history consigns Joss into a semi-legendary status, especially when you look at his statistics. Joss is the all-time leader in Walks+Hits/Inning (WHIP), and is second only to rival Ed Walsh in career ERA. His career ERA+ of 142 is 12th all-time. Now if he had lived to pitch into his career decline phase those rate statistics would have diminished quite a bit (in his injury-shortened final season he "only" posted a 115 ERA+), so it would not be right to compare Joss with Walter Johnson or Cy Young or Christy Matthewson, all of whom maintained a high level of performance for much longer than Joss did. But during his peak, and especially during his magical 1908 season, Joss was as good as anyone in the game.

The Swiss Whiz from Wisconsin

But Joss's life story is as interesting as his pitching statistics. He was born in 1880 in Woodland, Wisconsin, a tiny town northwest of Milwaukee. His father, a native of Switzerland, had set up a cheese factory in Woodland, died when he was 10, so his mother set up a millinery shop in Juneau, Wisconsin to support the family. Addie grew up in an era where every small town had at least a semi-pro team, the tall and gangly Joss didn't have a problem finding a team after graduation (at 16 years old). He got a teaching job in Horicon, Wisconsin, and played for the town's baseball team in the summer. A second baseman in high school, Joss moved to the mound and developed a unique windup that would jumpstart his baseball career. He would receive an "academic" scholarship from Sacred Heart College in Watertown, Wisconsin, where he studied engineering and pitched both for the college team and the local semi-pro club.

His performance by this time had attracted the attention of the big clubs. He turned down an offer from Connie Mack to play for Milwaukee of the Western League (the forerunner of the American League), but in 1900 would accept an offer from the Toledo Mud Hens of the Inter-State League, then considered a "B" minor league. Joss would pitch two seasons with the Mud Hens, and would make Toledo his adopted home town, meeting his future wife Lillian Shinavar while playing there.

In 1901 the Mud Hens (who also called themselves the "Swamp Angels") joined the Western Association, which was cobbled together after Ban Johnson's Western League re-named itself the American League and decided to compete directly with the National League as a "major league". Some of the leftover clubs, such as Grand Rapids, joined with clubs from the Interstate League, forming one of the better minor leagues in the Midwest. Joss faced better competition in 1901, but continued to dominate, winning 25 games, and more importantly, attracting the attention of several major league teams, including the new Cleveland American League club.

The 1901 Cleveland Blues were one of the worst teams in the new American League, finishing seventh out of the eight clubs (the last-place Brewers would move to St. Louis after the season), so the club needed to get better quickly. To get Joss, who was then being courted by several clubs, they hired Toledo manager Bob Gilks as a scout, and then subsidized the club with a $500 investment. Thus the Mud Hens decided to sell Joss to Cleveland before the 1902 campaign.

The Human Corkscrew

Joss reported to New Orleans in 1902 for spring training and won a job in the starting rotation. The 22-year-old made his major league debut on April 26, 1902, and almost pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Browns. The only hit he allowed was on a disputed call (the umpire ruled that outfielder Zaza Harvey trapped the ball when dove to catch a blooper in short right field).

On his debut, Joss would later write:

They [St. Louis] didn't pay too much attention to me until along about the third inning, and as I was getting away with the game I had discovered that my confidence was not lost after all. But it began to warm up soon enough....

"So you are the guy that came up from Toledo to show us now to play ball, are you Jack?" [Jesse] Burkett sung out....

"Well, well, you long legged toothpick, if you don't stop working so hard you'll lose your bonnet" was another...

This was kept up until they saw that I was not worried by their talk.

-Toledo News-Bee, March 10, 1907

Joss would finish the season with five shutouts (which led the league) and he would be named to the AL All-Americans, a winter barnstorming team that played the NL's best in various towns across the country.

Addie Joss had a strange delivery that was made even more effective by his physique. A tall, skinny man with very long arms, Joss slung the ball to the plate in a sidearm motion after a windup that saw him kick his leg high into the air while turning back towards second base. The batter would be hard-pressed the see the ball coming from that mass of arms and legs. But Joss's success was not due completely to his deception. He had a good fastball and a sharp-breaking curve, as well as a "slow ball," or a changeup. In addition, he finished his wild delivery in excellent fielding position so he wasn't vulnerable to the bunt. And he could throw strikes. In 1903, after the AL adopted the rule that a foul ball counted as a strike, Joss's walks per 9 inning dropped from 2.5 to 1.2, and that rate would remain around that mark for the remainder of his career.

Addie would later write that

After years of experience in pitching and umpiring my advice to a young pitcher would be to develop good control of a fast ball. ...You don't see these fast pitchers hammered very hard when they are showing good control of their steam. I've looked them all over and notice that the boys with the speedy delivery and the control are doing very well.

Toledo News-Bee, January 10, 1907

In other words, a well-placed fastball is the best pitch in the game. Although Joss was giving advice to youngsters, reading between the lines he was talking about his own success as a pitcher.

The Maestro of Twirlology

Now called the Naps (after Napoleon Lajoie), Cleveland began to climb to the first division of the American League. Along with Joss and Lajoie, Cleveland added Elmer Flick and Harry Bay to the club in 1902, and the following season the Naps finished third in the AL with a 77-63 record. Joss headed a pitching staff that also included Earl Moore (163 ERA+), and Bill Bernhard (135 ERA+). But the Naps wouldn't be in a pennant race until 1908, which would go down as one of the best races in major-league history.

On October 2, 1908, this is what the top of the standings looked like:

Club. Wins. Losses. Games Back.
Detroit 87 61 -
Cleveland 87 62 0.5
Chicago 85 62 1.5

With five games to play, the Naps and White Sox faced off in League Park that day, with Joss facing Chicago's Ed Walsh. What resulted was perhaps the best-pitched game in baseball history. Joss was on a roll, having dominated hitters in September, and Ed Walsh, who would throw an incredible 464 innings in 1908, was the best pitcher in the league that year. Walsh would strike out an amazing 15 batters (this coming in an era when the league average SO/9 ratio was 4.0) but the Naps would scratch out a run on a wild pitch. That was all Joss needed, for he would throw the second perfect game in American League history. However, the Naps would miss winning the pennant by a half-game to the Tigers, who would go on to lose to the Chicago Cubs in 1908 World Series.

1908 was Joss's last great season. In 1909 he struggled with "fatigue", and in 1910 tore a ligament in his elbow that limited his season to just 13 starts, though one of those starts was a no-hitter.

Other Interests

Joss kept busy during his offseasons. Thinking of his career after baseball, Joss landed a job as an editor and columnist for the Toledo News-Bee after the 1906 season, and would later write for the Cleveland Press. He also covered the 1907 and 1908 World Series. His writing job likely got him a raise for the 1907 season, as he used the column to state his case in a salary dispute:

Modesty forbids me to say much, but I can say that what has already been written in the main, covers the matter well...

Last season, besides a straight salary, I had an agreement with the club whereby if I won 20 games or more I was to get a certain amount in excess of the straight salary. I won 21 games and was paid the extra sum.

This season a contract was sent to calling for less than I earned last year, and therein lies the trouble, if trouble it be.

This alone constitutes the difference between the club and myself, and I trust, and have every reason to believe, that this will be amicably settled in the near future.

Toledo News-Bee, February 24, 1907

Joss also spent time designing a new scoreboard, called the Joss Indicator, which would display balls, strikes, the day's lineup. The scoreboard was installed at League Park in 1909.

An untimely death

Still recovering from 1910's arm injury, Joss reported to spring training, but developed what was later diagnosed as tubercular meningitis. He returned home to Toledo, where he died on April 14th. The news shocked the baseball world. The Naps were in Detroit, and scheduled to play there on April 17th, the day of Joss's funeral. The Cleveland players insisted on traveling to Toledo to attend the ceremony, and AL president Ban Johnson ultimately acquiesced, averting a strike. Billy Sunday, who was a former ballplayer himself, delivered the eulogy at the funeral, which one of the largest in Toledo history.

Later in the 1911 season, the American League held an exhibition game at League Park to raise money for Joss's widow and two children. Most of the AL's stars appeared, including Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, "Home Run" Baker, Tris Speaker, and Sam Crawford. The game, which predated baseball's first official All-Star Game by more than two decades, raised $12,914, which was more than double Joss's highest salary.

After his death, Joss was largely forgotten, but sporadic calls for his induction into the Baseball Hall Fame started in the 1950s. It wasn't until 1977, when the ten-year qualification (Joss had only played in nine seasons) was waived, that Joss was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

Sources

Coffey, Michael. 27 Men Out: Baseball's Perfect Games

Joss, Addie. Addie Joss on Baseball: Collected Newspaper Columns and World Series Reports, 1907-1909, compiled and annotated by Rich Blevins

"Addie Joss." Deadball Stars of the American League, edited by David Jones

Baseball-Reference

Indians Career Stats
Year Age Tm ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
1902 22 CLE 2.77 29 28 5 269.1 225 120 83 2 75 106 124 1.114 7.5 0.1 2.5 3.5 1.41
1903 23 CLE 2.19 31 31 3 283.2 232 105 69 3 37 120 130 0.948 7.4 0.1 1.2 3.8 3.24
1904 24 CLE 1.59 24 20 5 192.1 160 51 34 0 30 83 160 0.988 7.5 0.0 1.4 3.9 2.77
1905 25 CLE 2.01 32 31 3 286.0 246 90 64 4 46 132 130 1.021 7.7 0.1 1.4 4.2 2.87
1906 26 CLE 1.72 31 28 9 282.0 220 81 54 3 43 106 152 0.933 7.0 0.1 1.4 3.4 2.47
1907 27 CLE 1.83 38 34 6 338.2 279 100 69 3 54 127 136 0.983 7.4 0.1 1.4 3.4 2.35
1908 28 CLE 1.16 35 29 9 325.0 232 77 42 2 30 130 204 0.806 6.4 0.1 0.8 3.6 4.33
1909 29 CLE 1.71 28 24 4 242.2 198 71 46 0 31 67 151 0.944 7.3 0.0 1.1 2.5 2.16
1910 30 CLE 2.26 12 9 1 107.1 96 35 27 2 18 49 115 1.062 8.0 0.2 1.5 4.1 2.72
9 Yrs 1.89 260 234 45 2327.0 1888 730 488 19 364 920 142 0.968 7.3 0.1 1.4 3.6 2.53
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

Selected Awards/Leaders
  • Hall of Fame: 1978 (by the Veteran's Committee)
  • AL Pitching Title: 1904, 1908
  • AL WAR: 3rd, 1908-8.4; 8th, 1905-5.9; 8th, 1907-5.7
  • AL WAR Pitchers: 3rd, 1908-8.1; 4th, 1907-6.3; 5th, 1909-5.4; 7th, 1905-5.8; 9th, 1904-4.9; 9th, 1906-4.5; 10th, 1903-4.4
  • AL ERA: 1st, 1904-1.59; 1st, 1908-1.16; 3rd, 1906-1.72; 3rd, 1907-1.83; 4th, 1909-1.71; 5th, 1903-2.19; 7th, 1902-2.77; 7th, 1905-2.01; 2nd, Career-1.89
  • AL Wins: 1st, 1907-27; 2nd, 1908-24; 5th, 1906-21; 8th, 1905-20; 10th, 1903-18
  • AL W/L Percentage: 2nd, 1908-.686; 3rd, 1906-.700; 3rd, 1907-.711; 7th, 1905-.625; 8th, 1904-.583; 10th, 1902-.567
  • AL WHIP: 1st, 1903-0.948; 1st, 1908-0.806; 2nd, 1906-0.933; 2nd, 1907-0.983; 3rd, 1909-0.944; 4th, 1904-0.988; 5th, 1902-1.114; 5th, 1905-1.021; 1st, Career-0.968
  • AL Hits/9 IP: 1st, 1908-6.425; 3rd, 1902-7.519; 3rd, 1903-7.361; 4th, 1906-7.021; 9th, 1904-7.487; 9th, 1907-7.414; 24th, Career-7.302
  • AL Bases on Balls/9 IP: 1st, 1908-0.831; 1st, 1909-1.150; 2nd, 1905-1.448; 3rd, 1906-1.372; 4th, 1903-1.174; 4th, 1904-1.404; 5th, 1907-1.435; 21st, Career-1.408
  • AL Strikeouts/9 IP: 4th, 1902-3.542
  • AL Games Played: 6th, 1908-42; 7th, 1907-42
  • AL Saves: 4th, 1908-2; 9th, 1907-2
  • AL Innings: 2nd, 1908-325.0; 5th, 1907-338.2
  • AL Strikeouts: 6th, 1902-106; 9th, 1907-127
  • AL Games Started: 4th, 1907-38; 4th, 1908-35
  • AL Complete Games: 3rd, 1907-34; 3rd, 1908-29; 6th, 1905-31; 7th, 1906-28; 7th, 1909-24; 9th, 1903-31; 96th, Career-234
  • AL Shutouts: 1st, 1902-5; 2nd, 1906-9; 2nd, 1908-9; 3rd, 1907-6; 9th, 1909-4; 10th, 1903-3; 10th, 1904-5; 29th, Career-45
  • AL Home Runs: 6th, 1907-3
  • AL Hits: 7th, 1907-279; 9th, 1908-232
  • AL Strikeouts/Bases on Balls: 2nd, 1908-4.333; 3rd, 1903-3.243; 3rd, 1905-2.870; 4th, 1904-2.767; 5th, 1906-2.465; 6th, 1907-2.352; 8th, 1902-1.413; 8th, 1909-2.161; 96th, Career-2.528
  • AL Home Runs/9 IP: 1st, 1904-0.000; 1st, 1909-0.000; 2nd, 1902-0.067; 7th, 1903-0.095; 12th, Career-0.074
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 3rd, 1902-13; 9th, 1903-9; 10th, 1905-11
  • AL Adjusted Era+: 1st, 1908-204; 2nd, 1904-160; 3rd, 1906-152; 3rd, 1907-136; 3rd, 1909-151; 6th, 1903-130; 7th, 1902-124; 7th, 1905-130; 12th, Career-142
  • AL Strikeouts as Batter: 5th, 1902-49
  • AL Putouts as P: 3rd, 1906-26; 3rd, 1908-23; 5th, 1905-22
  • AL Assists as P: 2nd, 1902-106; 2nd, 1903-107; 2nd, 1907-143; 3rd, 1908-109; 5th, 1905-107; 48th, Career-846
  • AL Range Factor/Game as P: 1st, 1903-3.75; 3rd, 1905-3.91; 3rd, 1907-3.90; 4th, 1902-3.59; 4th, 1906-3.50; 2nd, Career-3.46
  • AL Fielding %as P: 5th, 195-.970; 5th, 1909-.978

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 4th WAR Pitchers (45.9)
  • 1st ERA (1.89)
  • 6th Wins (160)
  • 8th W/L Percentage (.623)
  • 1st WHIP (0.968)
  • 5th Hits/9 IP (7.302)
  • 2nd Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.408)
  • 25th Games Played (286)
  • 6th Innings Pitched (2327.0)
  • 11th Strikeouts (920)
  • 11th Games Started (260)
  • 2nd Complete Games (234)
  • 1st Shutouts (45)
  • 35th Bases on Balls (364)
  • 10th Hits (1888)
  • 5th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (2.528)
  • 6th HR/9 IP (0.073)
  • 10th Losses (97)
  • 23rd Earned Runs (488)
  • t-30th Wild Pitches (28)
  • 5th Hit By Pitch (58)
  • 1st ERA+ (142)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-15th Pitching WAR (8.1, 1908)
  • t-37th Pitching WAR (6.3, 1907)
  • t-48th Pitching WAR (5.8, 1905)
  • 1st ERA (1.16, 1908)
  • 2nd ERA (1.59, 1904)
  • 5th ERA (1.71, 1909)
  • 6th ERA (1.72, 1906)
  • t-15th ERA (1.83, 1907)
  • t-21st ERA (2.01, 1905)
  • t-32nd ERA (2.19, 1903)
  • t-39th ERA (2.26, 1910)
  • t-2nd Wins (27, 1907)
  • t-9th Wins (24, 1908)
  • t-34th Wins (21, 1906)
  • t-39th Wins (220 1905)
  • t-40th W/L Percentage (.711, 1907)
  • t-48th W/L Percentage (.700, 1906)
  • 1st WHIP (0.806, 1908)
  • 3rd WHIP (0.933, 1906)
  • 5th WHIP (0.944, 1909)
  • 6th WHIP (0.948, 1903)
  • 9th WHIP (0.983, 1907)
  • t-12th WHIP (1.021, 1905)
  • 21st WHIP (1.062, 1910)
  • t-45th WHIP (1.114, 1902)
  • 15th Hits/9 IP (6.425, 1908)
  • 38th Hits/9 IP (7.021, 1906)
  • 2nd Bases On Balls/9 IP (0.831, 1908)
  • 5th Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.150, 1909)
  • 7th Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.174, 1903)
  • 12th Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.372, 1906)
  • 14th Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.404, 1904)
  • 16th Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.435, 1907)
  • 17th Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.448, 1905)
  • 20th Bases On Balls/9 IP (1.509, 1910)
  • 7th Innings Pitched (338.2, 1907)
  • 9th Innings Pitched (325.0, 1908)
  • t-34th Innings Pitched (286.0, 1905)
  • 39th Innings Pitched (283.2, 1903)
  • 42nd Innings Pitched (282.0, 1906)
  • t-10th Games Started (38, 1907)
  • t-40th Games Started (35, 1908)
  • 3rd Complete Games (34, 1907)
  • t-6th Complete Games (31, 1903, 1905)
  • t-13th Complete Games (29, 1908)
  • t-18th Complete Games (28, 1902, 1906)
  • t-36th Complete Games (24, 1909)
  • t-3rd Shutouts (9, 1906, 1908)
  • t-11th Shutouts (6, 1907)
  • t-22nd Shutouts (5, 1902, 1904)
  • t-38th Shutouts (4, 1909)
  • 34th Hits (279, 1907)
  • 4th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (4.333, 1908)
  • 20th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (3.243, 1903)
  • 32nd Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (2.870, 1905)
  • 40th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (2.767, 1904)
  • 46th Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (2.722, 1910)
  • 14th HR/9 IP (0.055, 1908)
  • t-23rd HR/9 IP (0.067, 1902)
  • t-36th HR/9 IP (0.080, 1907)
  • 43rd HR/9 IP (0.095, 1903)
  • 44th HR/9 IP (0.096, 1906)
  • t-8th Hit By Pitch (13, 1902)
  • t-26th Hit By Pitch (11, 1905)
  • t-50th Hit By Pitch (9, 1903)
  • 1st ERA+ (204, 1908)
  • 24th ERA+ (160, 1904)
  • t-34th ERA+ (152, 1906)
  • t-37th ERA+ (151, 1909)

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