Baseball's storied history is peopled with southpaws, including more than a few in the hallowed Hall. Yet while cards of certain lefthanded pitchers are quite coveted by collectors, individual statistics don't always have a lot to do with it. Albert Peter "Lefty" Liefield (1883-1970) compiled a neat lifetime ERA of 2.47 while pitching for the Pirates, Cubs, and later the St. Louis Browns between 1905 and 1920. That's lower than career marks set by such immortals as Sandy Koufax (2.76), Robert Moses "Lefty" Grove (3.06), Warren Spahn (3.09), and Steve "Lefty" Carlton (3.22).

While Liefield's best single-season ERAs were achieved during the Dead Ball Era, even then he was no Eddie Plank. Plank, a bonafide Hall of Famer, was an 8-time 20 game winner and career 300 win club member whose lifetime ERA was 2.35. He pitched 64 shutouts -- most ever by a lefty. Compared to Liefield's, Plank's cards are treasured, as are the icons of southpaws Grove, Spahn, Koufax, and Carlton.

Grove might have been the best lefthander ever to toss a horsehide. Between 1925 and 1941, he finished 300-141 for a nifty .680 winning percentage. Like Plank, Grove pitched eight 20-win seasons. In an era of livelier balls, he led the American League nine times in ERA (including a sparkling 2.06 in 1931 when his W-L record was 31-4). Certain rare 'Grove' cards and memorabilia still fetch 4-figure prices. Same goes for Spahn and ditto Carlton. Part of a Brave old world until his waning playing days (1942-1964), "Spahnie" amassed 363 wins (63 of them shutouts), thirteen 20-win seasons and 5,244 innings pitched even though he didn't win a game before age 25 and missed three full seasons due to military service. Carlton compiled stellar stats while hurling for lowly teams. For instance, in 1972, Carlton went 27-10. That year, the Phillies won only 32 games when he wasn't pitching.

Ah, but a Koufax card! Between 1962 and 1966, Sandy dominated National League batsmen like no pitcher before or since! He led the league in ERA (2.54, 1.88, 1.74, 2.04, 1.73) while winning 111 decisions and losing just 34. Ironically, certain extremely rare, high-grade Topps Koufax cards from the 1950s (before he was great!) actually bring the best prices -- up to and exceeding $15,000.

Rube Waddell, a fastball swiftie and Hall of Famer, struck out 349 batters in 1904 (a total unsurpassed until Koufax struck out 382 in 1965 and rightie fireballer Nolan Ryan came along). Other "southpaws worth saving?" How about Edward "Whitey" Ford (236-106 with a .690 winning percentage including 45 shutouts), Carl Hubbell (his screwball was actually a reverse curve and deformed his pitching arm), Vernon "Lefty" Gomez (he went 26-5 in 1934), Jim Kaat, the best fielding pitcher ever (he won 16 straight Golden Glove awards) or future Hall of Famer (Class of 2000) Tommy John? A three-time 20 game winner, he racked up 286 wins during a long, steady career that lasted a quarter-century.


Gode Davis is a prolific Rhode Island-based writer specializing in sports and historical topics. His credits include Beckett's Baseball Cards Monthly, Baseball Cards, and Miniature Collector magazines. If you would like to reach him, you can do so by sending an e-mail to [email protected].