Best known as the greatest pitcher for winning percentage in modern baseball history, Spurgeon Ferdinand “Spud” Chandler’s career .717 winning percentage is only topped by early star Albert Goodwill Spalding’s career mark. Spud pitched for the DiMaggio led Yankees around the time of World War II and thus was given plenty of support from a powerful lineup. But Chandler was good enough on his own. He posted a career 2.84 ERA in an age when runs came at a higher rate than other eras. He was a fine pitcher but his career numbers could have looked a lot better had he started out in baseball earlier and not missed some action to WWII.
A solidly built Georgian, Spud joined the Yankees in 1937 when he was one year shy of his thirtieth birthday. He won seven games on just ten starts as a rookie. Not as sharp the following year, the benefit of pitching for the Yankees showed that season. Chandler had rather poor peripheral stats (he gave up more hits than innings pitched and walked more batters than he struck out) but nevertheless fashioned an amazing .737 winning percentage for the powerful Bronx Bombers. Spud was used just sparingly in 1939 before he returned to the rotation for good in 1940 at the ripe age of 32.
Chandler suffered through his worst season in 1940 before getting on track in 1941. He logged 164 innings and only surrender 146 base hits. The Yankees gave Spud his usual enviable level of support as he finished that season with a .714 winning percentage. After Pearl Harbor was bombed some players, such as Bob Feller and Zeke Bonura, ventured off to the military in 1942 but for the most part the game was still populated with the same faces. Spud went 16-5 that year and was named to his first All-Star team. He had a trim ERA of 2.38 and logged in the excess of 200 innings. But then things got murky.
Many stars began leaving the game after the 1942 season and Major League baseball adopted a number of changes to accommodate the war effort. Teams began to train in northern cities, closer to their home ballpark, to save on gas and baseball cut back on other supplies for the war effort as well. Baseballs that were being manufactured at this time weren’t as lively as the balls had been before the war. With this little change in the game, the war years served as a pseudo Deadball Era of sorts. Pitchers excelled while power numbers across the leagues dwindled. Chandler, who was active in the Majors in 1943, was named the MVP of the American League. Spud went 20-4 and paced the junior circuit in wins, winning percentage, ERA (1.64), complete games, shutouts, WHIP (0.992) and strikeout-to-walk ratio.
But Spud wasn’t able to add to his stats as the 36-year-old joined the military after one start in the 1944 campaign. He returned late from the colors in 1945 and made four starts down the stretch for the Yankees. When baseball was back to business as usual in 1946, Spud had to prove that his amazing 1943 season wasn’t a war-caused fluke… and he did just that. For the ’46 Yankees, Spud went 20-8 with a microscopic 2.10 ERA (2nd in the AL). He set a personal high with six shutouts and logged 257 innings. The right-hander missed truckloads of bats that season. All he surrendered were 200 base hits–an average of just seven hits allowed over nine innings.
The Yankees captured the AL pennant again in 1947 after Boston ran away with the flag in ’46. The 39-year-old Chandler, in his final Major League season, posted a 2.46 ERA for the World Champion Yankees during the regular season. In his first World Series appearance since 1943, in which he went 2-0 on a 0.50 ERA against the Cardinals, Spud worked two innings against the Dodgers for his final Major League action.
W 109/L 43/PCT .717/ERA 2.84/G 211/CG 109/SHO 26/IP 1,485/H 1,327/BB 463/SO 614