Anatomy of 20 Wins Pitcher for 102-Loss Club

Book Order Information: Autographed Copy “Ned Garver: Catch 20…Too” for $25:

Book Order Information:
Autographed Copy “Ned Garver: Catch 20…Too” for $25:

As we noted in our column on former pitcher Ned Garver, he won 20 games for the last place St. Louis Browns over the course of a 154-game schedule in the eight-club 1951 American League. Garver’s final record for that remarkable season was a final record of 20 wins, 12 losses, an E.R.A. of 3.73, over 30 starts, 3 relief appearances, an AL leading 24 complete games, and a total of 246.0 innings pitched.

Garver’s club, the 1951 St. Louis Browns, finished the season in eighth and last place with a record of 52 wins, 102 losses, and a full 46 games behind the AL and eventual World Series Champion New York Yankees.

It was a season marked by the exploits of super promoter-owner Bill Veeck to boost the horrendous attendance at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis by the few remaining fans of the American League’s most chronic historical loser with all kinds of gimmicky evenings like “Fans Management Night” when Veeck set up a color card system behind the Browns’ third base home team dugout and allowed a group of fans there to vote on certain game-time decisions, like – should a runner at first attempt to steal second base or not – by flashing th designated stop or go cards. Nothing really helped. Even the surprise insertion of 3 feet, 7 inch little person Eddie Gaedel into their lineup as a batter in a home game played against the Detroit Tigers on August 19, 1951 failed to motivate larger future crowds to come out see the same old losing Browns. By season’s end, the Browns game attendance closed at 293,790.

Ironically, the great legitimate attraction that could have been better exploited for marketing purposes, right handed pitcher Ned Garver, sort of flew by under the radar on his compelling flight into baseball destiny as a man who end the season with 20 wins for a 102 game losing last place club.

To understand how that worked better, you must read Ned Garver’s second book, “Ned Garver: Catch 20…Too” (2013) that he wrote with baseball researcher-historians, Ronnie Joyner and Bill Bozman. Short of that far more dynamic presentation by Garver on how it happened, here is our linkage anatomy of each winning game box score from Baseball Almanac for Ned Garver in 1951 and, if you check each box score carefully, you will be able to see how many games that Garver lost in between victories – and please note too – that last win number 20 came in the last game of the 1951 season.

Of course, I’m pretty sure you’ve already heard what club owner Bill Veeck supposedly told Ned Garver hen the latter tried to parlay his very good season into a raise for 1952. Veeck turned him down. But why?

According to Bill Veeck’s often quoted words to Ned Garver, after acknowledging that Garver had pitched brilliantly  in 1951, Veeck supposedly added, but, “we could have finished last without you!”

Box Score Anatomy, Ned Garver: 20 Wins for the 102-Loss St. Louis Browns in 1951:

Win # 1: April 21, Browns 9 – Indians 1 (Garver Record 1-1) (Browns Record 1-3)

Win # 2: April 25, Browns 7 – White Sox 4 (Garver Record 2-1) (Browns Record 2-7)

Win # 3: April 29, Browns 6 – Indians 3 (Garver Record 3-1) (Browns Record 3-8)

Win # 4: May 13, Browns 13 – Tigers 10 (Garver Record 4-2) (Browns Record 6-18)

Win # 5: May 15, Browns 11 – Athletics 8 (Garver Record 5-2) (Browns Record 7-19)

Win # 6: May 27, Browns 8 – Tigers 3 (Garver Record 6-3) (Browns Record 11-25)

Win # 7: June 1, Browns 4 – Red Sox 0 (Garver Record 7-3) (Browns Record 12-29)

Win # 8: June 5, Browns 10 – Athletics 1 (Garver Record 8-3) (Browns Record 14-32)

Win # 9: June 10, Browns 10 – Senators 9 (Garver Record 9-3) (Browns Record 17-33)

Win # 10: July 1, Browns 3 – White Sox 1 (Garver Record 10-4) (Browns Record 21-47)

Win # 11: July 6, Browns 4 – White Sox 1 (Garver Record 11-4) (Browns Record 22-50)

Win # 12: July 15, Browns 3 – Red Sox 1 (Garver Record 12-4) (Browns Record 24-55)

Win # 13: July 25, Browns 5 – Athletics 4 (Garver Record 13-5) (Browns Record 28-52)

Win # 14: August 10, Browns 4 – Tigers 2 (Garver Record 14-6) (Browns Record 34-73)

Win # 15: August 24, Browns 5 – Athletics 3 (Garver Record 15-8) (Browns Record 38-81)

Win # 16: September 7, Browns 4 – Indians 2 (Garver Record 16-11) (Browns Record 41-90)

Win # 17: September 18, Browns 3 – Senators  2 (Garver Record 17-12) (Browns Record 46-97)

Win # 18: September 22, Browns 5 – White Sox 1  (Garver Record 18-12) (Browns Record 48-98)

Win # 19: September 26, Browns 7 – Tigers 1  (Garver Record 19-12) (Browns Record 50-99)

Win # 20: September 30, Browns 9 – White Sox 5  (Garver Record 20-12) (Browns Record 52-102)

That’s it. Ned Garver’s 20 victories in 1951 included 5 wins over the Chicago White Sox, 4 wins each over the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics, three wins over the Cleveland Indians, and 2 wins each over the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Senators. – The only team to escape Garver’s grasp in the winner’s circle in 1951, who else, were the New York Yankees.


2 Responses to “Anatomy of 20 Wins Pitcher for 102-Loss Club”

  1. Fred Soland Says:

    This was impressive, but there was a similar instance that may have been slightly more impressive. In 1972, Steve Carlton won 27 games for the last place Philadelphia Phillies who had a record of 59-97 for the season. Carlton’s percentage of the team’s win total was 45.7% while Garver’s 20 wins amounted to a 38.4% of his team’s total wins.

    Both accomplishments were amazing though.

  2. Tom Murrah Says:

    Bill, thanks for the details on those 20 wins. Garver’s totals for 1951 were confirmed by that “supreme” source—the back of his 1952 Bowman card. Garver had been prepared for such success back in his 1947 season with the San Antonio Missions when he went 17-14 for a 7th place team that finished 60-94…a mere 28% of the club’s victories. This record found them finish 36 games off the pace of the champion Houston Buffs. I believe Garver did his first book with the same two collaborators. Go Browns!

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