JANUARY 2, 1918 | BROOKLYN, NEW YORK • The Brooklyn Robins (today’s Los Angeles Dodgers) got a pitcher in a trade on this day in baseball history who became known for openly throwing an outlawed pitch. Burleigh Grimes came to the Robins by way of a 5-player deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Grimes made good use of the spitter, winning more than 20 games five times. Twice he won 19.
Grimes’ best pitch was the spitball, which was legal when he broke in, but banned by major league baseball in 1920 when he was just 26-years old. “Old Stubblebeard,” as he was called, became one of 17 pitchers already in the majors who were exempt from the ban. They could continue throwing the spitter as long as they played. Grimes ended up throwing it the longest, becoming the last pitcher to “legally” throw a spitball.
Grimes made good use of the spitter, winning more than 20 games five times. He was 25-14 in 1928. Twice he won 19. Grimes won 270 games in his career, appeared in four World Series, and ended up in the Hall of Fame. Though he wore 7 different uniforms in a 19-year career, Grimes spent most of his career with Brooklyn.
When his playing days were over, he managed the Dodgers for two unremarkable years. He stayed in baseball for many years, but mostly as a scout and minor league coach.
Burleigh Grimes was born August 18, 1983 in small farming community of Emerald, Wisconsin. He died in nearby Clear Lake in 1985 at the age of 92.
17 pitchers allowed to throw the spitter after 1920:
Bill Grimes, the author, is no relation to Burleigh Grimes, the pitcher.