Name: John "Happy Jack or Chad or Ches" Dwight Chesbro 1 2
Name: John Dwight Chesebrough , (birth spelling)
Birth: 5 JUN 1874 in Haughtonville, North Adams, Berkshire County, MA
Death: 6 NOV 1931 in Conway, Franklin County, MA of heart failure probably resulting from a blod clot (cerebral hemorrhage)
Burial: Conway (Howland) Town Cemetery/ Conway, Massachusetts
Occupation: Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, poultry farmer, lumber mill operator and baseball coach
High / Middle School attended Johnson grammar school for 8 years
Reference Number: 13968
1. John is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York. He hol ds the modern day record for most wins of any major league baseball playe r, 41, in 1904 while playing for the American League New York Highlande rs -- predecessors of the New York Yankees. Previously in 1902 he had pit ched the National League Pittsburgh Pirates to a world championship.
Although his 41 wins will probably never be exceeded, he is most known f or his spitball "wild pitch" in the 1904 American League next to final ga me against the Boston Red Sox. Boston was one and a half games ahead goi ng into the last two regular season games. If New York won both games th ey would be the American League champions hoping to play the National Leag ue champions for the world championship. The National League champions we re the Pittsburgh Pirates but they eventually refused to play the Americ an league champions because of many players quitting National League tea ms and signing with the new American League teams. This renown pitch resu lted in the Yankees loosing the championship as they won the final gam e. A runner had advanced to third base because of poor play of the Yanke e's first baseman and scored the winning run on the famous pitch. Ma ny eye witnesses believe the catcher was to blame, making only a half-hear ted effort to block the pitch and prevent the winning run from scorin g. As many or more others blamed John. John never blamed the first basem an or the catcher contending it was all part of the game. His wife did t ry to get the official scoring changed for many years later.
John was sold to New York by Pittsburgh in 1904 for $1,500 which was an un heard of price at that time. The $1,500 was reported to have been the hig hest ever paid at that time for an individual player and stunned the baseb all world. Although this is recorded in articles in John's Hall of Fame f ile, it may not have been an "unheard of price" as Mike "King" Kelly may h ave been paid as much as "$10,000 in 1887.
2. John got his "Happy Jack" nick name because of his positive personali ty while working at a mental institution in Middletown, New York in 1894 a nd playing for the Asylums of Middletown.
3. John's name was recorded as "Chesbrough" as late as 1896:
" 'Ches' was either steady or wild as a hawk; no middle ground with
Chesbrough; but he always had some trick up his sleeve....He fed the
visitors on tender little 'dew drops' (spitters) with slight curve s, but
From the Cooperstown, New York Freemans Journal, of July, 1896
About the same time, box scores were listing him as "Chesbro", e.g.:
The Athletics of Cooperstown in 1896 lined up:
Fox, W. H. - ss
Fox, J. J. - 3b
Mulligan - cf
"Tall" Taylor - 1b
Vigneaux - 2b
White - rf
Howells - lf
Renning - c
Chesbro - p
4. From the "Biographical Dictionary of American Sports", edited by Dav id L. Porter:
"Chesebro, John Dwight "Jack", "Happy Jack" (b. 5 June 1874, North Adam s, MA; d. 6 November 1931, Conway, MA), player and coach, became one of t he few pitchers to lead both current major leagues in won-lost percenta ge with .677 and .824 for the Pittsburgh Pirates (NL) in 1901 and 1902 a nd .774 for New York (AL) in 1904. The 5 foot, 9 inch, 180 pound right ha nder exhibited great endurance in his most outstanding season (1904). Che sbro's 41 victories remain the modern era and AL record, while his 51 star ts and 48 complete games rank second, and his 454.2 innings stands thir d. As a youth, Chesbro played with the Houghtonville Nine and several oth er western Massachusetts sandlot teams. In 1894 he began working for t he state mental hospital in Middletown, NY, and was nicknamed "Happy Jac k" because of his pleasant disposition. Although working with patient s, he maintained principal interest in the hospital baseball team and lear ned about pitching from coach Pat McGreehy.
Chesbro began his minor league career in 1895 with Albany (NYSL). After t he Albany club disbanded, he joined Johnstown, NY, and compiled a 7 - 10 c ombined season record. After the NYSL folded on July 6, 1895, he then log ged a 3 - 0 mark for Springfield, MA (EL). In 1896 he married Mabel Shutt leworth and played for Roanoke VA (VL), until it failed on August 20. Che sbro spent the rest of 1896 as a semi-pro in Cooperstown, NY, becoming per haps the only Hall of Famer to pitch there regularly. He performed for Ri chmond VA (AtL) in 1897 and 1898 and boasted a 17 - 4 mark through July, 1 899, when he was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates (NL) for $1,500. After ap pearing in 19 games for Pittsburgh in 1899, he was involved in one of t he most complex deals ever made. The Louisville Colonels (NL) were abo ut to be abolished and conducted a dispersal sale, in which fourteen playe rs, including Honus Wagner, Deacon Phillippe, Rube Waddell, and Fred Clar ke moved to Pittsburgh for Chesbro and five others. The players trad ed to Louisville then rejoined Pittsburgh when the two clubs merged, and p articipated on the second place Pirates team in 1900.
Chesbro enjoyed his first 20-win season and led the NL with a .677 won-lo st percentage as the Pirates captured their initial NL pennant in 1901. T he next season Chesbro led the Pirates to another pennant with an NL-leadi ng 28 victories and 8 shutouts (including three consecutive shutouts twice ). Besides losing only 6 decisions, Chesbro compiled a 12-game winning st reak from May 16 to July 24. During the 1902 season, he began throwing h is famous spitball for Pirates manager-outfielder Clarke. Chesbro seiz ed an opportunity to earn more money by jumping with pitcher Jesse Tannehi ll to manager Clark Griffith's New York Highlanders for their first AL sea son in 1903. Chesbro logged a 21 - 15 mark for the fourth place Highlande rs, while the Pirates won their third straight NL pennant and lost their f irst World Series."
5. From KIRK H. BEETZ's "Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Themat ic Series: Sports Figures." Eds. Arnold Markoe and Kenneth T. Jackson. V ol 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2002. p168-170. 2 vols.:
(b. 5 June 1874 in North Adams, Massachusetts; d. 6 November 19 31 in Conway, Massachusetts), Baseball Hall of Fame
pitcher noted for his fastball, spitball, guile, and stamina who hol ds the twentieth-century major league record for wins in a
Chesbro played sandlot baseball in his hometown of North Adams in t he early 1890s. He entered the minor leagues in 1894
and two years later married Mabel Shuttleworth. The minors paid littl e, and Chesbro took a job as an orderly in a psychiatric
hospital, where a patient dubbed him "Happy Jack" because of his do ur expression; this name was more commonly shortened
to "Happy" when he played in the major leagues.
Chesbro joined the newly formed Atlantic League in 1898, where he w on forty games and lost nineteen in the year and a half
before the Pittsburgh club of the National League picked him up. He p osted a poor record of six wins and nine losses for
Pittsburgh and was traded to Louisville, but the National League reor ganized itself, dropping several unprofitable clubs,
including Louisville, and Chesbro found himself back with Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh team was led by the hard, tough, immensely talented sh ortstop Honus Wagner. Wagner's fielding and
base-running feats almost overshadowed Chesbro's first great seaso n, 1901, in which he posted twenty-one wins and ten
losses, relying on an intimidating fastball. Chesbro's size was not e xtraordinary at five feet, nine inches tall and 180 pounds,
but he had an expression that was a cross between despair and rag e, as if he meant to kill each batter. Then in 1902 he added
a spitball to his array of pitches, licking his fore-and middle finge rs to wet the ball, and became one of the most terrifying pitche
of any age. The spitball, which was legal in Chesbro's era, was an er ratic pitch that usually approached home plate like a
fastball but then abruptly dropped down. Batters could not be sure wh ether they were seeing Chesbro's very hard fastball or
a pitch that would break, and this kept them off balance. In 1902 Che sbro won twenty-eight games and lost six, for a .824
winning percentage, one of the best seasons any pitcher has had.
Before the 1903 season, the Baltimore franchise of the upstart Americ an League shifted to New York City, becoming the
Highlanders (later called the Yankees), because their park was on a h ill. For a raise in pay, Chesbro jumped leagues to the
Highlanders. That season he won twenty-one games and lost fifteen. Th en in 1904 he had perhaps the greatest season a
pitcher has ever had.
As the season began, Chesbro was a respected pitcher whose greatest s trength was a dogged determination that never let up.
By 1904 pitching rotations had become similar to that of the modern g ame, with four or five starters forming a team's rotation.
There were no relief specialists, and starters were asked to pit ch in relief on their off days. New York soon ran into problems;
its fine rotation lost three of its members to injuries, leaving Ches bro and Jack Powell to carry nearly the entire burden of pitching
games. Powell responded with a 23–19 season, with 390 innings pitched .
Chesbro responded to Powell's record by winning fourteen straight st arts, the last on 4 July. The major league ballparks of 1904
had hard dirt that was full of rocks. Every time Chesbro brought h is left leg down, his foot slammed into the hardy, stony ground,
and by mid season it was jarring him up and down his body. In July h is muscles became knotted and he was beset by cramps. In
August he hobbled rather than ran. Even so he fielded brilliantly, he lping his cause by deftly fielding bunts and throwing out
runners. Chesbro's face added the expression of pain to its mixtu re of despair and rage; yet he started 51 of his team's 151
games and pitched in relief in 4 games. He pitched 48 complete gam es that season.
The league's pennant race came down to the last weekend of the seas on and a doubleheader against the Boston Pilgrims (later
the Red Sox). New York manager Clark Griffith had advised Chesb ro to remain in New York City and rest during the ball club's
last road trip, but the team's owner wanted Chesbro to make the tr ip and to pitch. Ominously, Griffith lost. Going into the last t
games of the season on 10 October, New York trailed Boston by one-and -a-half games; New York had to win them both in
order to be the league champion. Chesbro pitched the first game; it w as a battle against Boston's fine pitcher Bill Dinneen, with
the game tied at two runs in the late innings. Chesbro, all knots a nd pain, made his famous glare at a batter, shortstop Freddy
Parent, then uncorked a spitball that moved sharply as it approach ed the plate. The pitch skipped by journeyman catcher Jack
Kleinow, noted for his fine defensive skills; Boston catcher Lou Crig er was on third base and scored on the wild pitch. Some
journalists at the game thought the pitch should have been ruled a pa ssed ball, and Chesbro's wife later campaigned to have the
official ruling changed from "wild pitch," but Chesbro became kno wn as the great pitcher who choked in the big game.
Still, Chesbro won forty-one games and lost only twelve, for a .774 w inning percentage and the most wins in a season by any
pitcher in the twentieth century. He pitched 454.2 innings and earn ed the reputation as one of the most valiant Page 170 | Top of
Article pitchers ever. Without Chesbro, New York would not have be en anywhere close to Boston in the standings.
Chesbro had only one more twenty-win season, in 1906. He was not t he pitcher he had been, and many believe the 1904
season had taken too much out of his arm, but a foot injury from slip ping on a stone while delivering a pitch may be more to
blame. Chesbro retired after 1909, coached baseball for Amherst Colle ge in 1911, and played for some semipro teams. He
settled in Conway, Massachusetts, and established a chicken farm. Lat er he added a sawmill to his assets and proved to be a
sharp businessman. At age fifty-seven Chesbro died of a heart atta ck on his chicken farm in Conway. He is buried there in the
The Oldtimer's Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame eventu ally chose Chesbro for membership, and he was inducted
on 24 April 1946. Since then, some baseball writers have suggested th at Chesbro was not good enough for the Hall of Fame,
implying he was selected on the basis of one great season. Yet Chesb ro had five twenty-win seasons and was not only the
best spitball pitcher but also one of the most feared pitchers in t he history of baseball.
Despite Chesbro's many accomplishments as a pitcher, writers often fo cus their accounts on his wild pitch at the end of the
1904 season. See, for example, Bill Felber, "Happy Jack's Wild Pitch ," in Baseball History 2: An Annual of Original Baseball
Research (1989), edited by Peter Levine. Pitcher Tom Seaver and journ alist Marty Appel weigh in with their opinion about the
pitch in "Wild Pitch to Nowhere" in their Great Moments in Baseball ( 1992). As is often the case with pitchers who played before
1920 (most official records were destroyed in a fire), record keepe rs do not agree about the number of games Chesbro actually
won in his career. The official tally is 199 wins, but the most accur ate source for baseball records before 1910, the STATS
All-Time Major League Handbook (1998), puts the tally at 198. Jose ph M. Wayman, "Chesbro, 200 Wins!" in Grandstand Baseball
Annual, 1990 (1990), argues that Chesbro should be credited with 2 00 victories. An obituary is in the New York Times (7 Nov.
6. John's obituary:
"JACK CHESBRO DIES; FAMOUS AS PITCHER
Veteran, Whose Wild Throw Once Cost new York Americans Pennant Expir es at 56.
CELEBRATED FOR SPITBALL
Veteran Held a League Record With Old Highlanders, Now Yankees, Winni ng 41 Games in Season.
CONWAY, Mass., Nov. 6 (ap). - John Dwight (Happy Jack) Chesbro, one t ime spitball pitcher of the New York Americans, died suddenly today on h is chicken farm from a heart attack. He was 56.
A native of North Adams, Chesbro was developed on the sandlots of Wes tern Massachusetts and had his first experience in organized baseball wi th the old Springfield club.
He led the National League pitchers in 1901 and 1902 while with Pitts burgh. He won the most games in a season of any year, from 1900 to the pr esent, in 1904 while with the New York highlanders, now the Yankees. In t hat year he won forty-one games while losing thirteen.
During his big year with New York, in 1904 jack won fourteen straig ht games before the Red Sox, then a pennant winner, stopped him. it w as to the same team that he lost the pennant in the final game of the seas on when he uncorked a wild pitch to let the winning run score.
The changes of nearly three decades of major league baseball proved C hesbro something of a poor prophet. In 1905, Chesbro said the spitball h ad come to stay. Its exponents now, however, are few and far between.
Speaking of the moist delivery then, Chesbro said it was the 'most ef fective ball that possibly could be used.' He claimed he could make the b all drop tow inches of a foot and a half."
6. John was selected in 2002 as the American League pitcher for the all t ime lineup of The Deadball Era - the period of 1900-1919 so named when t he ball was not as lively as present time. During this period there we re eight teams in each of the two leagues with only one player selected f or each position from each league for the all time team. More informati on including card, team, player, and stadium galleries and other interesti ng items can be viewed at http://thedeadballera.crosswinds.net.
Father: Chad Brown Chesbro b: 5 FEB 1844 in Conway, Franklin County, MA
Mother: Martha Jane Fralensburgh b: ABT 1844
Mabel Suttleworth b: ABT 1876
- Philip Chesbro b: ABT 1898
- Title: ''Genealogy of the Descendants of William Chesebrough, Founder of Stonington, Ct.'' (Larry Chesebro's personal file)
Author: Anna Chesebrough Wildey
Publication: New York: Press of T. A. Wright 1903
Note: Chesebro' Reference Material
Page: page 266
- Title: Obituary or Death Notice
Note: Subject Surname Source File
Page: The New York Times, November 7, 1931