Introducing… Bobo Newsom

A big, husky, genial Southern gentlemen, Bobo Newsom was one of baseball’s most colorful characters before mass media made every American more or less the same.  Big Bobo often referred to himself in the third person.  A good-natured fellow, Bobo may have had a footloose, keep-the-suitcases-packed career, but he always landed a job because he could chew up innings and keep his teammates loose. 

The native of South Carolina made his Major League debut in 1929 with the Dodgers.  Just 21 years old at the time, Newsom didn’t stick in the Majors at the outset.  It wasn’t until 1934, when the St. Louis Browns acquired him, that Bobo was up for good.  He won 16 games as a rookie but nevertheless lost 20 games which led the American League.  Overworked by the Browns, Bobo made 32 starts, completed fifteen of them and also saved five games.  No other pitcher in the AL faced more batter in ’34 than Bobo.  After an 0-6 start to the 1935 season, the Browns sold his contract to the Washington Senators.  Although Bobo was a rambler, he always seemed to return to Mr. Griffith and the DC area.

Newsom won 17 games for the Senators in ’36 and led the league in games started.  A power pitcher, Bobo was always among the league leaders in both strikeouts and walks.  He finished third in the AL in the strikeouts department that season.  Over the course of his career, Bobo had a whopping nine Top Three finishes in strikeouts while posting six such campaigns in bases on balls issued.  His lack of accuracy became a big problem in 1937, so Washington traded him to the Red Sox with Ben Chapman for the Ferrell Brothers.  Bobo led the league with 167 walks issued, but he also finished second in strikeouts and led the league in games started. 

Bobo went back to the Browns in 1938 and had his first 20-win season.  The stout right-hander led the league with 40 games started and 330 innings worked.  He set a personal single season high with 226 strikeouts (2nd in the AL), but with an ERA a hair above 5.00, the Browns shipped him to Detroit during the 1939 season.  Bobo became an instant sensation with the contending Tigers.  He won a combined 20 games between St. Louis and Detroit and again paced the league in games started and complete games.  The Tigers would capture the AL pennant in 1940 and it was Bobo’s grandest year.  He won 21 games (his third straight season with at least 20 victories), posted a 2.83 ERA and finished second to the amazing Bob Feller in strikeouts again.  The Tigers went to the World Series and Bobo won the opening game but the following day his father died.  He would toss a shutout in Game 5, which he dedicated to his old man, but he lost a tough Game 7.  Bobo worked 26 innings in the World Series on an otherworldly WHIP of 0.846.

After three 20-win seasons, Bobo dropped 20 games in 1941 but nevertheless finished as the runner-up in the strikeout department for the fifth straight season.  When Bob Feller enlisted in the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Bobo was able to capture the strikeout crown as a member of the Senators.  He began the ’43 season with the Dodgers, was shipped to the Browns and ended it back with the Senators.  He gained a little stability when Connie Mack signed him for his A’s club.  He spent the entire 1944 and ’45 seasons with the A’s and finished third in strikeouts each season.  After the war Connie Mack had a wealth of young pitchers recently returned from the military so he released Bobo and of course he caught on with his Senators. 

Newsom won 14 games on a 2.96 ERA in 1946 as a 38-year-old veteran.  He began the ’47 season with the Senators but the Yankees purchased his contract midseason for the postseason push.  Bobo posted a 2.80 ERA for the Yankees down the stretch and helped them win the World Series.  He was awarded his first and only Fall Classic championship at the age of 39.  But Newsom wasn’t done.  He joined the Giants in 1948 and pitched off and on during the early 1950s.  He tossed his last Major League pitch for the 1953 Athletics at the age of 45.

THE NUMBERS

W 211/L 222/PCT .487/ERA 3.98/G 600/CG 246/SHO 31/IP 3,759/H 3,769/BB 1,732/SO 2,082

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