Introducing… Claude Passeau

A terrific innings-eater and five-time All-Star, Claude Passeau wasn’t considered a star until he was at the age of 30.  The moundsman from Moss Point, Mississippi didn’t make his first Midsummer Classic until he was 32 years old and made his final All-Star appearance at the advanced age of 37.  Best known for his work during the war years, Passeau once tossed a one-hit shutout during a World Series game.

Passeau made his Major League debut with the Pirates in 1935 and was tagged for seven hits in just three innings.  After the season he was traded to the lackluster Phillies for Al Todd.  Claude established himself as a 27-year-old rookie for the Phillies in 1936.  A basement dwelling team, Claude posted a decent 3.48 ERA that year–head and shoulders above his teammates who averaged an ERA of 4.64.  Since he was clearly their top pitcher, the Phillies worked Passeau like a pack mule in 1937 as he paced the NL with 292 innings.

In 1938, Claude’s ERA had climbed for the third straight season and he was, at an alarming degree, quite hittable.  He was tagged for 281 hits in ’38 with under 240 innings of work.  So early in the 1939 season, the Phillies decided to ship Claude off to the Windy City for pitcher Kirby Higbe and outfielder Joe Marty.  With the Cubs, Passeau would have his best years.

During the 1939 season–in which he wore the uniform of the Phillies and Cubs–Passeau led the National League in strikeouts.  At the top of his game in 1940, Claude won 20 games, finished second in ERA, strikeouts and shutouts and surrendered the fewest amount of homeruns on average in the senior circuit.  Despite all those accomplishments, Passeau didn’t make his first All-Star team until a year later.  He finished third in complete games in 1941 and second in that department in 1942.  During the latter campaign, Passeau won 19 games on a nifty 2.69 ERA.

Claude was in his mid 30s during the years of the Second World War and was thus able to remain on the ball diamond.  He was the Cubs ace throughout the war years (1942-1945) at which time he never posted a winning percentage below .550.  In 1943, he paced the Cubs in strikeouts and innings pitched and in 1944 he went 15-9 on a 2.89 ERA.  At the age of 36, Claude finally got his first taste of the World Series.  The right-hander led the National League in shutouts during the season and added another shutout in the Fall Classic.  In one of the greatest postseason games ever pitched, Passeau shutout the Tigers in his World Series debut.  He was called on to start Game 6 and when the Tigers got an early lead, Passeau was summoned from the bullpen in Game 7, but to no avail. 

When the war ended, baseball returned to normal in 1946 and the aging Passeau was passed on the depth chart.  Although he was named to his final All-Star team, the man from Moss Point  only made 21 starts and was at the end of his rope.  He appeared in 19 games for the 1947 Cubs–his last big league action.

THE NUMBERS

W 162/L 150/PCT .519/ERA 3.32/G 444/CG 188/SHO 26/IP 2,720/H 2,856/BB 728/SO 1,104

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