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 3
Occupation: Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, poultry farmer, lumber mill operator and baseball coach 4
Death: 6 NOV 1931 in Conway, Franklin County, MA 5 of heart failure probably resulting from a blod clot (cerebral hemorrhage)
Burial: Conway, Massachusetts 6
Note: Conway (Howland) Town Cemetery
Middle or High School attended Johnson grammar school for 8 years 7
1. John is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York. He holds the modern day record for most wins of any major league baseball player, 41, in 1904 while playing for the American League New York Highlanders -- predecessor s of the New York Yankees. Previously in 1902 he had pitched the National League Pittsburgh Pirates to a world championship.
Reference Number: 13968
Although his 41 wins will probably never be exceeded, he is most known for his spitball "wild pitch" in the 1904 American League next to final game against the Boston Red Sox. Boston was one and a half games ahead going into the last two reg ular season games. If New York won both games they would be the American League champions hoping to play the National League champions for the world championship. The National League champions were the Pittsburgh Pirates but they eventuall y refused to play the American league champions because of many players quitting National League teams and signing with the new American League teams. This renown pitch resulted in the Yankees loosing the championship as they won the final g ame. A runner had advanced to third base because of poor play of the Yankee's first baseman and scored the winning run on the famous pitch. Many eye witnesses believe the catcher was to blame, making only a half-hearted effort to bloc k the pitch and prevent the winning run from scoring. As many or more others blamed John. John never blamed the first baseman or the catcher contending it was all part of the game. His wife did try to get the official scoring changed for m any years later.
John was sold to New York by Pittsburgh in 1904 for $1,500 which was an unheard of price at that time. The $1,500 was reported to have been the highest ever paid at that time for an individual player and stunned the baseball world. Althoug h this is recorded in articles in John's Hall of Fame file, it may not have been an "unheard of price" as Mike "King" Kelly may have been paid as much as "$10,000 in 1887.
2. John got his "Happy Jack" nick name because of his positive personality while working at a mental institution in Middletown, New York in 1894 and 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 curves, 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 David L. Porter:
"Chesebro, John Dwight "Jack", "Happy Jack" (b. 5 June 1874, North Adams, MA; d. 6 November 1931, Conway, MA), player and coach, became one of the few pitchers to lead both current major leagues in won-lost percentage with .677 and .824 for t he Pittsburgh Pirates (NL) in 1901 and 1902 and .774 for New York (AL) in 1904. The 5 foot, 9 inch, 180 pound right hander exhibited great endurance in his most outstanding season (1904). Chesbro's 41 victories remain the modern era and A L record, while his 51 starts and 48 complete games rank second, and his 454.2 innings stands third. As a youth, Chesbro played with the Houghtonville Nine and several other western Massachusetts sandlot teams. In 1894 he began working fo r the state mental hospital in Middletown, NY, and was nicknamed "Happy Jack" because of his pleasant disposition. Although working with patients, he maintained principal interest in the hospital baseball team and learned about pitching fro m coach Pat McGreehy.
Chesbro began his minor league career in 1895 with Albany (NYSL). After the Albany club disbanded, he joined Johnstown, NY, and compiled a 7 - 10 combined season record. After the NYSL folded on July 6, 1895, he then logged a 3 - 0 mark fo r Springfield, MA (EL). In 1896 he married Mabel Shuttleworth and played for Roanoke VA (VL), until it failed on August 20. Chesbro spent the rest of 1896 as a semi-pro in Cooperstown, NY, becoming perhaps the only Hall of Famer to pitch t here regularly. He performed for Richmond VA (AtL) in 1897 and 1898 and boasted a 17 - 4 mark through July, 1899, when he was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates (NL) for $1,500. After appearing in 19 games for Pittsburgh in 1899, he was involve d in one of the most complex deals ever made. The Louisville Colonels (NL) were about to be abolished and conducted a dispersal sale, in which fourteen players, including Honus Wagner, Deacon Phillippe, Rube Waddell, and Fred Clarke moved t o Pittsburgh for Chesbro and five others. The players traded to Louisville then rejoined Pittsburgh when the two clubs merged, and participated on the second place Pirates team in 1900.
Chesbro enjoyed his first 20-win season and led the NL with a .677 won-lost percentage as the Pirates captured their initial NL pennant in 1901. The next season Chesbro led the Pirates to another pennant with an NL-leading 28 victories an d 8 shutouts (including three consecutive shutouts twice). Besides losing only 6 decisions, Chesbro compiled a 12-game winning streak from May 16 to July 24. During the 1902 season, he began throwing his famous spitball for Pirates manager -outfielder Clarke. Chesbro seized an opportunity to earn more money by jumping with pitcher Jesse Tannehill to manager Clark Griffith's New York Highlanders for their first AL season in 1903. Chesbro logged a 21 - 15 mark for the fourth pl ace Highlanders, while the Pirates won their third straight NL pennant and lost their first World Series."
5. From KIRK H. BEETZ's "Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: Sports Figures." Eds. Arnold Markoe and Kenneth T. Jackson. Vol 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2002. p168-170. 2 vols.:
(b. 5 June 1874 in North Adams, Massachusetts; d. 6 November 1931 in Conway, Massachusetts), Baseball Hall of Fame
pitcher noted for his fastball, spitball, guile, and stamina who holds the twentieth-century major league record for wins in a
Chesbro played sandlot baseball in his hometown of North Adams in the early 1890s. He entered the minor leagues in 1894
and two years later married Mabel Shuttleworth. The minors paid little, and Chesbro took a job as an orderly in a psychiatric
hospital, where a patient dubbed him "Happy Jack" because of his dour 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 won forty games and lost nineteen in the year and a half
before the Pittsburgh club of the National League picked him up. He posted a poor record of six wins and nine losses for
Pittsburgh and was traded to Louisville, but the National League reorganized 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 shortstop Honus Wagner. Wagner's fielding and
base-running feats almost overshadowed Chesbro's first great season, 1901, in which he posted twenty-one wins and ten
losses, relying on an intimidating fastball. Chesbro's size was not extraordinary at five feet, nine inches tall and 180 pounds,
but he had an expression that was a cross between despair and rage, 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 fingers 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 erratic pitch that usually approached home plate like a
fastball but then abruptly dropped down. Batters could not be sure whether they were seeing Chesbro's very hard fastball or
a pitch that would break, and this kept them off balance. In 1902 Chesbro 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 American League shifted to New York City, becoming the
Highlanders (later called the Yankees), because their park was on a hill. For a raise in pay, Chesbro jumped leagues to the
Highlanders. That season he won twenty-one games and lost fifteen. Then in 1904 he had perhaps the greatest season a
pitcher has ever had.
As the season began, Chesbro was a respected pitcher whose greatest strength was a dogged determination that never let up.
By 1904 pitching rotations had become similar to that of the modern game, with four or five starters forming a team's rotation.
There were no relief specialists, and starters were asked to pitch in relief on their off days. New York soon ran into problems;
its fine rotation lost three of its members to injuries, leaving Chesbro 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 starts, the last on 4 July. The major league ballparks of 1904
had hard dirt that was full of rocks. Every time Chesbro brought his 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 his muscles became knotted and he was beset by cramps. In
August he hobbled rather than ran. Even so he fielded brilliantly, helping his cause by deftly fielding bunts and throwing out
runners. Chesbro's face added the expression of pain to its mixture 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 games that season.
The league's pennant race came down to the last weekend of the season and a doubleheader against the Boston Pilgrims (later
the Red Sox). New York manager Clark Griffith had advised Chesbro 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 trip 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 was a battle against Boston's fine pitcher Bill Dinneen, with
the game tied at two runs in the late innings. Chesbro, all knots and pain, made his famous glare at a batter, shortstop Freddy
Parent, then uncorked a spitball that moved sharply as it approached the plate. The pitch skipped by journeyman catcher Jack
Kleinow, noted for his fine defensive skills; Boston catcher Lou Criger was on third base and scored on the wild pitch. Some
journalists at the game thought the pitch should have been ruled a passed ball, and Chesbro's wife later campaigned to have the
official ruling changed from "wild pitch," but Chesbro became known as the great pitcher who choked in the big game.
Still, Chesbro won forty-one games and lost only twelve, for a .774 winning percentage and the most wins in a season by any
pitcher in the twentieth century. He pitched 454.2 innings and earned the reputation as one of the most valiant Page 170 | Top of
Article pitchers ever. Without Chesbro, New York would not have been anywhere close to Boston in the standings.
Chesbro had only one more twenty-win season, in 1906. He was not the pitcher he had been, and many believe the 1904
season had taken too much out of his arm, but a foot injury from slipping on a stone while delivering a pitch may be more to
blame. Chesbro retired after 1909, coached baseball for Amherst College in 1911, and played for some semipro teams. He
settled in Conway, Massachusetts, and established a chicken farm. Later he added a sawmill to his assets and proved to be a
sharp businessman. At age fifty-seven Chesbro died of a heart attack on his chicken farm in Conway. He is buried there in the
The Oldtimer's Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame eventually chose Chesbro for membership, and he was inducted
on 24 April 1946. Since then, some baseball writers have suggested that Chesbro was not good enough for the Hall of Fame,
implying he was selected on the basis of one great season. Yet Chesbro had five twenty-win seasons and was not only the
best spitball pitcher but also one of the most feared pitchers in the history of baseball.
Despite Chesbro's many accomplishments as a pitcher, writers often focus 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 journalist 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 keepers do not agree about the number of games Chesbro actually
won in his career. The official tally is 199 wins, but the most accurate source for baseball records before 1910, the STATS
All-Time Major League Handbook (1998), puts the tally at 198. Joseph M. Wayman, "Chesbro, 200 Wins!" in Grandstand Baseball
Annual, 1990 (1990), argues that Chesbro should be credited with 200 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 Expires at 56.
CELEBRATED FOR SPITBALL
Veteran Held a League Record With Old Highlanders, Now Yankees, Winning 41 Games in Season.
CONWAY, Mass., Nov. 6 (ap). - John Dwight (Happy Jack) Chesbro, one time spitball pitcher of the New York Americans, died suddenly today on his chicken farm from a heart attack. He was 56.
A native of North Adams, Chesbro was developed on the sandlots of Western Massachusetts and had his first experience in organized baseball with the old Springfield club.
He led the National League pitchers in 1901 and 1902 while with Pittsburgh. He won the most games in a season of any year, from 1900 to the present, in 1904 while with the New York highlanders, now the Yankees. In that year he won forty-on e games while losing thirteen.
During his big year with New York, in 1904 jack won fourteen straight games before the Red Sox, then a pennant winner, stopped him. it was to the same team that he lost the pennant in the final game of the season when he uncorked a wild pitc h to let the winning run score.
The changes of nearly three decades of major league baseball proved Chesbro something of a poor prophet. In 1905, Chesbro said the spitball had come to stay. Its exponents now, however, are few and far between.
Speaking of the moist delivery then, Chesbro said it was the 'most effective ball that possibly could be used.' He claimed he could make the ball drop tow inches of a foot and a half."
6. John was selected in 2002 as the American League pitcher for the all time lineup of The Deadball Era - the period of 1900-1919 so named when the ball was not as lively as present time. During this period there were eight teams in each o f the two leagues with only one player selected for each position from each league for the all time team. More information including card, team, player, and stadium galleries and other interesting items can be viewed at http://thedeadballer a.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
- Author: Anna Chesebrough Wildey
Title: ''Genealogy of the Descendants of William Chesebrough, Founder of Stonington, Ct.'' (Larry Chesebro's personal file)
Publication: Name: New York: Press of T. A. Wright 1903; Location: Chesebro' Reference Material;
Source Medium: Book
Page: page 266
- Title: Obituary or Death Notice
Publication: Location: Subject Surname Source File;
Source Medium: Other
Page: The New York Times, November 7, 1931
- Title: ? Place Rec: Haughtonville, North Adams, Berkshire County, MA
Author: Place Rec Id [P23198]
Source Type: Place Details
- Title: ? Place Rec: Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, poultry farmer, lumber mill operator and baseball coach
Author: Place Rec Id [P23200]
Source Type: Place Details
- Title: ? Place Rec: Conway, Franklin County, MA
Author: Place Rec Id [P2228]
Source Type: Place Details
- Title: ? Place Rec: Conway, Massachusetts
Author: Place Rec Id [P23201]
Source Type: Place Details
- Title: ? Place Rec: attended Johnson grammar school for 8 years
Author: Place Rec Id [P23199]
Source Type: Place Details