One of the greatest pitchers of all-time, Will White pitched ten seasons in the Major Leagues during the 1800s, teaming with his brother Deacon as a battery on occasion, and posted three seasons with 40 or more wins. Baseball’s all-time winner Cy Young never had a 40-win season.
White made his debut with the Boston Red Caps in 1877. The following year he began his long association with the city of Cincinnati, pitching brilliantly for the Reds. His first full season, “Whoop-La” won 30 games on a 1.79 ERA. The most bizarre stat concerning White are his high wild pitch totals despite his low walk totals. Judging by the few walks he surrendered, it would seem that Will was the Greg Maddux of his time – issuing pitches with pinpoint control – but he led his league three straight seasons in wild pitches, often issuing close to as many errant tosses as free passes.
Will exploded in 1879 winning 43 games and leading the league in games started (75), complete games (75) and innings pitched (680). This was a season in which the Reds played in just 80 games, making Will an unrivaled workhorse. He was not a member of the typical five-man rotation that we have grown accustomed to today – he was the rotation.
The Reds, baseball’s first great team, was a laughingstock by 1880 and Will suffered at the hands of their anemic offense. The starting lineup had two players: Blondie Purcell (.292) and catcher John Clapp (.282) that hit over .240 and just three, with third baseman Hick Carpenter added to the aforementioned duo, that hit above .220. Despite a 2.14 ERA, Will lost 40 games.
Tired of the Reds poor play he jumped the team and joined the Detroit Wolverines, but it was simply a sojourn and he made his way back to Cincinnati, this time with the American Association, in 1882. 1882 was Will’s finest season. He paced the AA in wins (40), winning percentage (.769), complete games (52), shutouts (8) and innings pitched (480). The Red Stockings jumped on Will’s back and he carried them in an American Association title, fashioning a 1.54 ERA in the process.
Dominance was the name of the game in 1883 for White as well. Again, he led the league in wins with 43 and his 2.09 ERA was best in the circuit as well. He also led the league in shutouts but the Red Stockings poor offense kept them from repeating as champs.
Will began to slow down in 1884 – courtesy of five 450+ inning seasons under his belt – yet still led the league in shutouts for the third straight season while notching 34 victories. He won 18 games in 1885 and played sparingly in 1886 – his tenth and final season in the Major Leagues.
Despite Will’s relatively short career, he logged a great number of innings allowing him to win 227 career games. He is 68th all-time in career innings pitched despite there being well over 300 pitchers who tossed more seasons than he did. He is 17th all-time in career complete games and 14th all-time in career ERA. Also, his inability to walk batters was a great commodity. He issued just 0.14 walks per inning over his career. His Hall of Fame peers were much worse: John Clarkson (0.263), Tim Keefe (0.242), Old Hoss Radbourn (0.193) and Mickey Welch (0.271) all allowed batters to reach first via the base on balls at a much higher rate than Will.
W 227/L 167/PCT .576/G 403/CG 394/IP 3,542/H 3,440/BB 496/SO 1,041/ERA 2.06
* other sources list White as having 229 career wins and a much higher ERA at 2.28 – which is still remarkable.