Grantland Rice on Great Pitchers
On May 23, 1915, just a month after Damon Runyon's column on great pitchers appeared (See Damon Runyon on "Who's the Greatest Pitcher?"), sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote about great pitchers. He differentiates between one- or two-season phenoms and hurlers who put up "the numbers" year after year. These excerpts are taken from his column that appeared in the Washington Post.
"In rating a slabman as a great pitcher it isn’t a matter of one year or two years—but of the test of time. There have been any number who starred for a year or so—and then fell back out of range. Joe Wood drew one record-breaking year. Vean Gregg was a Nap Rucker for one season. Russ Ford illuminated the trail two campaigns. But one or two years form no lasting test.
"Matty [Christy Mathewson] with fifteen years and Plank with fourteen years of stardom have proved that they belong. Walter Johnson has been a grand pitcher for eight seasons. And now Alexander is qualifying among the Pitching Immortals. Alex began his great run back in 1911. He starred for four campaigns, and now beginning his fifth year looks to be greater than ever. So he was proved his worth—not over the short way, but over the long route, where the test is complete.
"Joe Wood in 1912 looked to be one of the great pitchers of the game. But since that one purple-tinted year Smoke Ball Joe, through accidents and illness though it be, has never qualified. The same is of [Vean] Gregg, who could never be ranked with Nap Rucker, a star—not of one season—but of nine grinding campaigns, and these with a ball club feeding most of the way from the soup trough…
"The test is not in what a man might do, but in what the record shows he has already put through. For, after all, it is the cold, unbiased record that furnishes the full reply…In this pastime no one qualifies in one season to sit with the Stalwarts."