Could Aroldis Chapman Be The Next Rube Waddell?

June 29, 2012 – 2:10 am by Hickey

Rube Waddell is the greatest pitcher in baseball history.

Not necessarily in terms of statistics, though he is a Hall of Famer and still holds the AL record for most single-season strikeouts by a lefty (349) that he set in 1904. No, Rube is the official patron saint of Rumors and Rants because of his unusual personality, which included chasing after fire engines on foot, losing count of how many times he’d been married, missing starts because he was either drunk or playing marbles with kids in the street and a contractual clause prohibiting him from eating crackers in bed.

It’s all true. You can look it up.

Needless to say, there hasn’t been anyone quite like Rube since, much to the relief of every big league manager. Connie Mack once had to use Pinkerton detectives to deliver Rube to Philadelphia to play for the Athletics.

But there finally just may be a Rube Lite in the making — Aroldis Chapman.

The Reds closer did a pair of somersaults after striking out Martin “Don’t Call Me Candy” Maldonado on Tuesday night, almost directly borrowing a page out of Rube’s book. Following a 20-inning complete-game win over Cy Young on July 4, 1905, Waddell cartwheeled off the field.

On-field gymnastics are far from the only thing the two have in common.

Both are lefties who overpower opposing hitters. Three years into his career, Chapman has a WHIP of 1.07 and strikes out an average of 13.9 batters per nine innings. Rube’s career WHIP was 1.10 over the course of 13 seasons, while he struck out an average of 7 batters per nine innings in an era when every hitter was a contact hitter and every pitcher was expected to go the distance. In an era of specialized relief, one could imagine Waddell’s strikeout ratio being the same or better than Chapman’s — or Chapman’s coming down to his level had he pitched in Waddell’s era.

While Chapman still has a long way to catch up to Waddell off the field, he has at least found himself in some Rubesque scenarios this year.

In May, Chapman was arrested after police clocked him doing 93 MPH on a suspended license. If Rube had access to that kind of horsepower, he’d definitely do the same thing.

Things got even Rubier a week later when a stripper claimed to be tied up in Chapman’s Pittsburgh hotel room by unknown assailants who stole $6,000 in jewelry while he was at the ballpark. Police later charged her with falsifying a police report.

If all that wasn’t enough, Chapman is also getting sued for $18 million by a Cuban guy who claims Chapman is to blame for his false imprisonment and torture for human trafficking.

Aroldis Chapman has a long way to go to reach a Rube Waddell level — he has yet to save a town from a flood or spend an offseason wrestling alligators, for starters. But his 2012 season is giving us a glimpse of Rube-like potential on and off the field.

If he can keep it up, cracker-eating clauses may be the limit.

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  1. 2 Responses to “Could Aroldis Chapman Be The Next Rube Waddell?”

  2. March, 1936
    From The Only and Only Rube by CONNIE MACK
    In August [1900] we were playing a double-header in Chicago. The first game was strung out for seventeen innings. The Rube pitched all seventeen innings, and won the game with a triple that smacked up against the right-field fence. The score was 3 to 2. After he had set down the last Chicago batter in the last half of the seventeenth, he made his way to the bench from the pitcher’s box in a series of cartwheels. The first game had taken up most of the afternoon, and Dick Padden, the White Stocking captain, suggested that we cut the second game down to five innings.
    I told Padden it would be all right with me. Then I turned to the Rube
    “How would you like to spend three days fishing at Pewaukee instead of making the jump to Kansas City?” I asked him. The Rube’s face split in a grin as wide as a country mile. “All you have to do is pitch five more innings,” I told him. It didn’t faze him. He went back out there and stood them on their ears, shutting them out, 1 to 0.

    August 17, 1902
    His antics on the field gained him the name of “Rube.” At one game in Columbus he struck out three men, one following the other, and when the crowd cheered the doffed hid cap with a wide sweep and turned a series of back somersaults from the pitcher’s box to the players’ bench. He is fond of applause, and frequently walks across the field for apparently no other reason than to excite the admiration of the crowd, in which he is always successful. In his last game in Chicago he “performed” whenever occasion offered.

    April 13, 1943
    Waddell, the baseball dramatist and acrobat − he turned cartwheels from the mound to the bench following particularly brilliant performances − …

    April 7, 1914
    Once for the Athletics he won a 14-inning game and then kept right on pitching to win a nine-inning game, ended up turning cartwheels all the way to the clubhouse.

    August 13, 1946
    Waddell calling his fielders in and pitching all by himself became national lore. This he frequently did in exhibition games. He turned cartwheels from the box to the bench after particularly brilliant performances

    January 17, 1947
    When Waddell joined the Athletics his first game was against Baltimore, with Joe McGinnity pitching. He won his game 2 to 0 and celebrated by turning a number of handsprings from home plate to first.

    April 15, 1941
    Waddell just started to turn handsprings on the mound until Barney Dreyfuss almost went nuts.

    August 26, 1903
    The Franklin team was disgusted, the manager of the team was in a rage, but Waddell only turned a handspring and ran like mad for the grand stand.

    February 9, 1908
    One day in Chicago he was in especially good trim and the White Sox knew they had no chance to win after the first inning had been played. In one inning Rube struck out the side and then turned a couple of handsprings in the pitcher’s box.

    October 21, 1901
    McFarlane struck out. It was at this stage of the game that Waddell applauded and turned a hand spring.

    He displayed funny business before the game and before the game was over by applauding with the crowd and at times turned a hand spring for their edification.

    By Dan O'Brien on Jun 30, 2012

  3. The cracker-eating clause is one of the popular legends about Rube Waddell. However, it was a creation of writer Charles Dryden, a self-professed baseball humorist of the period.

    American League Strikeout Leaders
    Total per 9 inn.
    WADDELL, Phi 210 6.84
    Young, Bost 160 3.74
    Powell, StL 137 3.76

    WADDELL, Phi 302 8.39
    Donovan, Det 187 5.48
    Plank, Phi 176 4.71

    WADDELL, Phi 349 8.20
    Chesbro, NY 239 4.73
    Powell, NY 202 4.66

    WADDELL, Phi 287 7.86
    Young, Bos 210 5.89
    Plank, Phi 210 5.45

    By Dan O'Brien on Jun 30, 2012

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