I really need to get my rear in gear here. Previously, I had mentioned that I had a bit of a curve thrown at me by life late last year. That situation is now coming to close. As a celebration, I have bought another signed 1961 Fleer card to my collection. That one will be, once I receive it, the 63rd such card. So, I really need to get this party going. Hopefully, I can actually make regular entries in this series as there is a long way between 35 and 63.
Fred "Firpo" Marberry is often considered the first relief specialist. To be sure, there were relief pitchers before Marberry's time, but it was never really a specialty. Indeed in the 1910's, the decade before Firpo started his professional career, over 62% of the games ended in complete games. Over the space of his major league career that level decreased but was still substantially around half of all games.
I would have researched this further, but I really didn't want to pay for more detailed access to Baseball Reference, so I tried another approach. Using the free part of B-R, I looked at the progressive career leaders for games finished and looked to see which of the various leaders had more than half of their career appearances in relief. Only one name stuck out: Doc Crandall. Over a 10 year career, Crandall made 302 appearances, 168 of which were in relief. In contrast, Marberry made 365 relief appearances in the 551 games he appeared in.
Here are some random facts about Marberry (mostly stolen) from his SABR biography:
- A big man, Marberry stormed around, throwing and kicking dirt, glaring angrily at the batter. He and catcher Muddy Ruel would put on an act during warm ups intended to psych out opposing batteers.He was Al Hrabosky a couple decades before Al Hrabosky was even born.
- Marberry acquired the nickname Firpo because of his size and facial resemblance to Argentine boxer Luis Firpo.
- At the time, games at Griffith Stadium typically started at 4:00. In the faster-paced games of the time, this meant that “Marberry Time,” as it was soon called, would arrive at about 5:30 or 6:00, with the shadows rolling across the diamond. For a fastball pitcher like Marberry, this was an ideal environment.
- He had a short stint as an American League umpire in 1935, but found the job too lonely.
- Even after his major league career was over at the age of 37 in 1936, he continued pitching in the minors, mostly the Texas League, for 5 more seasons.
- He owned a 600-acre farm near Marberry ‘s boyhood home in Mexia and, at various times, he operated a wholesale gas distributorship and ran a recreation center in Waco.
What I am listening to: Honeysuckle Blue by Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit