John McGraw’s go-to pitcher during the early days of the Lively Ball era, Artie Nehf was one of the few pitchers who didn’t seem to mind when the Deadball Era came to a close. Never a 20-game winner before the Lively Ball, Nehf was a 20-game winner the first two years of the Lively Ball Era. The little southpaw’s claim to fame is recording wins in deciding games in back-to-back World Championships.
Nehf was a luminary with the Boston Braves of the Deadball Era. The mite pitcher made just ten starts for the Braves as a rookie in 1915 and won four of those starts via shutout. Just as sharp in 1916, Art led Boston moundsmen with a tidy 2.01 ERA. But his breakout year came in 1917 when he won 17 games–five courtesy the shutout. During the war-torn year of 1918,Nehf paced the senior circuit with 28 complete games.
In 1919, John McGraw had become quite gluttonous for Artie’s services and he gave up plenty to acquire the slim southpaw during the season. In order to pry Nehf away from Boston, McGraw gave up four players and $55,000. The exchange worked well for Little Napoleon, as Nehf flourished in the Big Apple. After the deal, Art went 9-2 with a 1.50 ERA.
It was around this time that McGraw had built another dynasty and his Giants went on a run during the advent of the Lively Ball Era. The Giants captured the NL flag every year from 1921 to 1924. Nehf was a 20-game winner for the first time in 1920 as he, Fred Toney and Jesse Barnes all gave McGraw 20 wins apiece. But all things came together in 1921 when the Giants captured the first of four straight NL titles. Art went 20-10 during the 1921 season and proved his value in the World Series. In the deciding game, Nehf outdueled Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt 1-0 to bring the title to the Giants. Untouchable in the Fall Classic, Nehf stymied the Yankees with just 13 hits allowed over 26 innings.
The 1922 World Series had the same cast and the same outcome. Nehf, who won 19 games during the regular season, won the deciding game of that season’s Fall Classic as well. For the third year in a row, the World Series had the same cast–Giants and Yankees–in 1923, but the outcome favored the boys in pinstripes. Although Art did his part with a Game III win, the Giants fell to the Yankees of Ruth.
Art’s workload was trimmed down in 1924 as the slim southpaw had six 200+ innings pitched seasons under his belt. During the ’24 campaign, Nehf posted a great .778 winning percentage. When his peripheral numbers went south in 1925 (he coughed up 193 hits in 155 innings) McGraw sold him to the Cincinnati Reds during the ’26 season. He caught on with the Cubs in 1927 and had his last good year at the Major League level in 1928 when he won 13 games on a 2.64 ERA. He ended his career after the 1929 campaign.
W 184/L 120/PCT .605/ERA 3.20/GS 320/CG 181/SHO 27/IP 2,708/H 2,715/BB 640/SO 844