Introducing… Red Ames

One of the top strikeout pitchers of the Deadball Era, Ames was in his prime during the days of Lajoie and Wagner, Mathewson and McGinnity.  Since Red pitched in the same rotation as the latter duo, Christy and Ironman McGinnity, he often went overlooked despite his stellar numbers.  From 1905 to 1907, Red led the National League in most strikeouts on average over nine innings of work.  He racked up his strikeout totals in an era when the boys didn’t swing and miss like they do nowadays.  If a guy struck out 170 times a year or more, like Ryan Howard or Mark Reynolds, they were promptly shot in the Deadball Era.

Ames had a long tenure with John McGraw’s Giants after the turn of the century.  Red joined the club in 1903 and tossed two complete game victories in his only Major League action that year.  His playing time increased in 1904 but since McGraw had Mathewson and McGinnity to give the ball to, Red didn’t work as often as he would on lesser teams.  The Giants captured the NL flag in 1904 but refused to play in the World Series against the hated American League.  McGraw relaxed his stance in 1905 because he realized he denied his players a sizable World Series purse.  Red had his breakout year in 1905 by going 22-8 and finishing second in the league with 198 strikeouts.  His 6.8 strikeouts over nine innings average was tops in the league but with McGraw’s bevy of arms, he only pitched one innings in a World Series romp over Connie Mack’s Athletics.

Red led the National League with a 6.9 strikeouts over nine inning average in 1906.  He trimmed his ERA down to 2.16 in 1907 and for the third straight year led the senior circuit in highest strikeout average.  But he was limited to just 18 games in 1908 before bouncing back in 1909.  Ames won 15 games and worked 244 innings that season.  He posted a 2.22 ERA in 1910 before leading the Giants back to the World Series in 1911.  During the regular season, Red worked 205 innings and didn’t surrender a homerun all year.  In the World Series, Red posted a terrific 0.875 WHIP but lost his only postseason decision.  The Giants repeated as NL champs in 1912 as Ames posted a .688 winning percentage.  But McGraw’s men dropped their second straight World Series.

In 1913 Red was involved in a steal of a trade for the Cincinnati Reds.  McGraw sent two aging pieces in Ames and Josh Devore to the Reds for pitcher Art Fromme.  That trade looks lackluster, but McGraw also threw in a prospect named Heinie Groh who would become one of the best hot corner men of all-time.  Ames was able to win 11 games for the Reds in 1913.  He proved the workhorse of the Reds staff in 1914 when he worked a career high 297 innings.  He completed 18 of his starts and also paced the league in saves–which wasn’t an acknowledged stat back then. 

After a rough start in 1915 the Reds sold his contract to the Cardinals and Ames righted his ship by going 9-3 the rest of the way for the Redbirds.  In 1916, Red again led the senior circuit in saves while taking his regular turn in the rotation.  In the Deadball Era, there wasn’t such a thing as firemen.  If a starter struggled, another starter was asked to relieve him and Red did this quite often.  Ames would win 15 games in 1917 and then trimmed his ERA down to 2.31 in 1918.  He split the 1919 season, his final in the Majors, with the Cardinals and Phillies.

THE NUMBERS

W 183/L 167/PCT .523/ERA 2.63/G 533/CG 209/SHO 27/IP 3,198/H 2,896/BB 1,034/SO 1,702

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