Edward Stewart Plank 1875-1926
“Not the fastest. Not the trickiest, and not the possessor of the most stuff, but just the greatest,” -Eddie Collins
Eddie Plank was the kind of pitcher I would hate. If he played today, he would probably play for the Yankees or the Red Sox.
The lefty took his time on the mound before it was cool to take your time on the mound. He fidgeted. He fixed his cap. He fussed with his jersey. He adjusted his sleeves. He hiked up his pants. He asked the umpire for a new ball. He rubbed the new ball in his hands. He pulled his belt down closer to his hips. He adjusted his sleeves again. He asked for a new sign….
This routine, or something like it, happened every time Plank threw a pitch.
Not only did he fidget, but Plank talked to himself and the baseball. Long before “The Bird” there was “Gettysburg” Eddie.
P is for Plank,
the arm of the A’s;
When he tangled with Matty
Games lasted for days
-from “Lineup For Yesterday” by Ogden Nash
Fans would avoid Plank’s outings if they had a schedule to keep. Writers found him annoying, primarily because the length of the games he pitched made deadlines difficult to meet.
Despite all of this, Plank managed to be one of the best, if slightly overshadowed, pitchers of his era. Pitching for Connie Mack’s A’s of the early part of the 20th century meant Plank was rarely considered the “star” pitcher of his team. Even with his eccentricities on the mound, teammates such as Rube Waddell and Chief Bender tended to overshadow Plank in the popular imagination. Those who played with him tell a different story:
“Eddie Plank was one of the smartest left-hand pitchers it has been my pleasure to have on my club. He was short and light, as pitchers go, but he made up for the physical defects, if such they were, by his study of the game and his smartness when he was on the pitching peak,” – Connie Mack
Off the field, Plank was a quiet man, who rarely spoke. When he did open his mouth, however, teammates tended to listen. Plank and his teammate Bender were considered two great resources for young players. Both of them had reputations for listening and answering questions with great patience and care.
“I have always been thankful that I was thrown into such intimate contact with so inspiring a man in the days when the majority of ballplayers were of a much lower type than at the present time.” – Jack Coombs
Plank’s numbers, both the traditional counting stats and newer SABR stats, indicate that he is an inner circle Hall of Fame pitcher; probably among the top southpaws to ever take the mound. Perhaps his on the mound antics can be forgiven – after all, he never actually played for the Yankees or the Red Sox.