One of the last legal spitball pitchers after the offering was outlawed in 1920, Doak earned the nickname “Spittin’ Bill” because of his pet pitch. Although Doak was a solid pitcher during the Deadball Era and into the Lively Ball Era, he is best remembered for contributions to the game that weren’t found in box scores. While Doak played he was perturbed by the crude gloves players wore and did something about it. He invented a new glove which served as more of a net than the old pancake gloves that were essentially protection to the hand and not conducive to receiving thrown balls. Many boys throughout America owned Bill Doak baseball gloves from the 1920s through the 1950s.
Spittin’ Bill made his Major League debut in 1912 with the Cincinnati Reds. He only pitched one game for Cincy before he embarked on a lengthy career with the Cardinals. He joined the Redbirds in 1913 and had a rough rookie season but he put it all together in 1914 when he paced the senior circuit with a 1.72 ERA. Doak won 19 games in his breakout year and was very stingy with the hits–he surrendered just 193 hits in 256 innings of work. He finished second in the National League with seven shutouts and had a terrific .760 winning percentage.
The upstart Federal League operated as a third Major League in 1914 and 1915 and many players jumped to the new league but Doak stayed with the Cardinals. He won 16 games in 1915 and set his single season high in strikeouts that year. The Federal League collapsed after the 1915 season and the two league platform became the standard again. Doak posted a .600 winning percentage in 1916 and then set his single season high in innings pitched the year after. Although he trimmed his ERA to 2.43 in 1918, the spitball artist saw his record plummet to 9-15 that season. But when the Deadball Era came to a close in 1920 and Bill was still allowed to toss the spitball, he excelled while other pitchers struggled.
Doak posted his only 20-win season in 1920. The following year he captured his second ERA title when he led the National League with a 2.59 mark. A good year for Spittin’ Bill, he went 15-6 in 1921 and posted a great (for the time) strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.24-to-1. But his solid year wasn’t a beacon for a terrific follow-up season in 1922. That year Doak suffered through his worst season. He was able to get back on track in 1923 but early in the ’24 season he was sent to Wilbert Robinson’s Dodgers for Leo Dickerman. Spittin’ Bill won eleven games for Brooklyn after the deal and had another eleven-win season in 1927. He ended his career in 1929, back with the Cardinals.
W 169/L 157/PCT .518/ERA 2.98/G 453/CG 162/SHO 34/IP 2,783/H 2,676/BB 851/SO 1,014