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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

Yankees Had 20-Game Losers Too

by Paul Semendinger

May 25, 2024

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Note - This article appeared in the IBWAA's newsletter, Here's The Pitch on May 11, 2024

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Yankees 20-Game ... Losers!

By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.

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It has happened rarely, and only once since 1925, but there were six times in the illustrious history of the New York Yankees that a pitcher lost 20-games in a season.


It has been said that one needs to be a very good pitcher in order to lose 20-games.  And that's true.  A bad pitcher isn't going to get that opportunity.  And, as it relates to the Yankees, most of the six pitchers who lost 20-games were very good and were ones who accrued impressive numbers for the franchise in other seasons.  One of the players, though, was a pitcher who, until I did this exercise, I had never heard of.  (This is where so much of the fun from doing baseball research comes from.)


Let's take a chronological look at the six losingest single season pitchers in Yankees history.


Al Orth (1907):  Al Orth enjoyed a 15-year big league career pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Senators, and the New York Highlanders (who would become the Yankees) from 1895 to 1909.  In 1901, he won 20-games for the Phillies.  In ten different seasons, he pitched more than 200 innings.  In 1906, he had his best season.  He led the league in innings with 338.2.  He also won 27 games that year for the Highlanders.  But that season, was his last good one.  In 1907, Orth had his 20-loss season going 14-21.  The next year, 1908, he went 2-13.  In 1909 his career ended - he pitched in just one game that year.  


Jack Chesbro (1908) - Jack Chesbro is a Hall of Fame pitcher.  He entered the Hall of Fame in 1947.  No pitcher in big-league history ever won more games in a season than Chesbro's 41 in 1904.  He pitched from 1899 to 1909 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Highlanders, and the Boston Red Sox (Chesbro pitched just one game for the Red Sox).  He won 20 or more games in a season five times as he amassed a career record of 198-132.  Like Al Orth, Chesbro's 20-loss season signaled the end for him.  In 1908, Chesbro went 14-20.  The next season was his last as he went 0-5.


Joe Lake (1908) - Somehow, in all my baseball research, I had never come across Joe Lake, who pitched from 1908 to 1913, twirling for the Highlanders in 1908 and 1909.  In his career, he also pitched for the St. Louis Browns and the Detroit Tigers.  Lake pitched in 199 games in his career compiling a lifetime record of 62-90.  It was 1908, his rookie season, when he went 9-22.  He bounced back in 1909 and had a winning season for New York, going 14-11, before moving on to St. Louis.  Those 14 wins were the most he would ever win in one season.


Russ Ford (1912) - No relation to Whitey Ford, Russ Ford burst on the scene in New York in 1910 going 26-6 in his rookie season.  The next season, 1911, he went 22-11.  It seemed the Yankees had a star on their hands, but it wasn't to last.  In 1912, he went 13-21.  In 1913, he almost lost 20 again, going 13-18 to end his career with the Yankees (they were the Yankees by 1913).  Ford then pitched for Buffalo in the Federal League having a great season in 1914 going 21-6, but it didn't last.  By 1915, his career as a big leaguer was over.


Sad Sam Jones (1925) - On September 4, 1925, Sad Sam Jones pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees defeating the Philadelphia A's 2-0.  He struck out no batters in the game and walked only one.  Jones had a long big league career pitching from 1914 to 1935.  In 1921, he won 23 games for the Boston Red Sox.  In 1923, he won 21 games for the Yankees.  In his career, Sam Jones won 229 games (against 217 losses).  Of the pitchers on this list, he's the only one who ever pitched for a winning team in a World Series.  He pitched in the World Series in 1916 and 1918 with the Red Sox and in 1922, 1923, and 1926 with the Yankees.  In his career, he also pitched for the Cleveland Nats, the St. Louis Browns, the Washington Senators, and the Chicago White Sox.  Jones' 20-loss season came in 1925 when he went 15-21.  


Mel Stottlemyre (1966) - Mel Stottlemyre is the only lifetime Yankee on this list.  He pitched for the Yankees from 1964 (he pitched in the '64 World Series) through 1974.  Stottlemyre won 20 games three times amassing a lifetime record of 164-139.  In 1966, a year the Yankees finished in last place, Stottlemyre went 12-20.  He bounced back to have two of his two best seasons in 1968 (21-12) and 1969 (20-14).  In 1972, he almost lost 20 again, going 14-18.  Stottlemyre would eventually win World Series rings as a pitching coach for the New York Mets and the New York Yankees.  

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Dr. Paul Semendinger is a retired principal.  He still plays baseball as a pitcher in two 35+ wood bat baseball leagues in New Jersey.  Paul has authored numerous books including The Least Among Them and his newest 365.2: Going the Distance, A Runner's Journey.  You can read Paul's other writings at www.drpaulsem.com and at www.startspreadingthenews.blog.  

6 Comments


Urgot68
May 28

Friday Night Funkin' - The perfect combination of challenge and creativity.

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fuster
May 25

my son, at 9 years of age, was an obsessed Yankee fan and would pester me to take him to the park on days when Chesbro pitched

he didn't care about missing time and endangering his factory job

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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
May 25
Replying to

I'm still haunted by the wild pitch.

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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
May 25

A bit more historical trivia: Sad Sam Jones (21-year career -- what did he have to be sad about?) saved the 1923 Series-clinching Game 6 after the Yankees came back from 4-1 in the top of the 8th to pull ahead 6-4. If being on the mound when your team clinches the World Series doesn't cheer you up, I don't know what would. Jones had lost a heartbreaker in Game 3, 1-0, on a home run by Casey Stengel.

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Alan B.
Alan B.
May 25

Russ Stripling lost his 9th game of the year last night. In baseball today, to me it's a lot easier to lose 20, then win 20. Guys aren't left in long enough necessarily to get the W, but given the hook and relievers let the IRS, so they are on the hook.


Something was wrong this morning when I pressed on your link, so belated Congratulations Grandpa. Now, have you bought them the baby sets yet so they can be dressed in Yankees gear ?

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jeff
May 25

"It has been said that one needs to be a very good pitcher in order to lose 20-games.  And that's true.  A bad pitcher isn't going to get that opportunity." 


So true. BEFORE he became a New York Yankee, Hall Of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro, at age 40, accomplished the rare feat of leading the majors in wins AND in losses, with a 21-20 record in 1979. Neikro is the last MLB pitcher to win and lose 20 games in the same season In 1977, he had 16 wins BUT he also had 20 losses!

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