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Why Jack Quinn and Howard Ehmke Matter

by Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz

EXCLUSIVE to Start Spreading the News

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Authors Steve Steinberg and Lyle Spatz released their latest book Comeback Pitchers: The Remarkable Careers of Howard Ehmke and Jack Quinn in April 2021.

Here is an exclusive preview of their book explaining why these two pitchers are still relevant today.

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In our previous two books, 1921 and The Colonel and Hug, our focus was on some of the most memorable names in baseball history—immortals like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jacob Ruppert, Miller Huggins, John McGraw, and Frankie Frisch. But many of those who play for or manage Major League teams are men who contribute to their teams’ success and even flirt with stardom. The two men we have chosen to write about personify those qualities.

Jack Quinn and Howard Ehmke were pitchers whose careers began in the Deadball Era and continued well into the Lively Ball Era. They were teammates for many years, with both the cellar-dwelling Boston Red Sox of the mid-1920s and the world champion 1929 Philadelphia Athletics.

Athletes face many obstacles in their careers. Even those who have the talent to reach the highest level of play face two major challenges:

· The risk of injury, which is always present and has ended many promising careers.

· The aging of the body, accompanied by the inevitable erosion of physical skills.

Time and again, Quinn (aging) and Ehmke (injuries) faced and overcame these challenges. Had there been a Comeback Player of the Year award when Ehmke and Quinn played, each would have been in contention in several years.

Beginning as far back as 1912, when he was just 29 years old, Quinn was repeatedly told he was too old and on the downward side (if not at the end) of his career. Yet repeatedly he came back. Because of his determination, work ethic, outlook on life, and physical conditioning, he continued to excel. In his mid-thirties, then his late thirties, and then into his forties, he overcame the naysayers. When Quinn finally retired in 1933 at the age of fifty, this “Methuselah of the Mound” owned numerous longevity records, some of which remain his to this day.

Ehmke battled arm trouble and poor health through much of his career. Like Quinn, he was dismissed by the experts and from his teams, only to return and excel. He overcame his physical problems by developing new pitches and pitching motions and capped his career with a stunning performance in the 1929 World Series that still ranks among baseball’s most memorable games.

Both played in the Federal League when the Feds were challenging Organized Baseball, and both were spurned by the established Major Leagues when the Federal League disbanded after the 1915 season. Moreover, both were at the center of disputes over which major league team owned their rights.

Jack Quinn and Howard Ehmke played for some great managers. Yet one stood taller than the others, a man who is considered one of the greatest judges of talent ever, Connie Mack. In the mid-1920s, when these two pitchers were written off by most everyone, Mack saw the strength and potential of the aging Quinn and sore-armed Ehmke. They rewarded him with key contributions as Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics rose to the top of the baseball world.

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