Edward Stewart Plank (1875-1926) played second fiddle for much of his career, behind the game’s great pitcher s of the time like Washington Senators Walter Johnson, New York highlanders Jack Chesbro, Boston Red Sox Cy Young and his Philadelphia Athletics teammates Rube Waddell and Chief Bender, but in the end retired as the winningest left handed pitcher in Major League Baseball history with 326 career wins and a 2.35 ERA. Though these men were tremendously successful during each of their respective careers, few pitchers of the day consistently matched the durability, reliability and winning touch that Plank possessed. He grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and was later dubbed accordingly as Gettysburg Eddie, but did not begin playing organized baseball until well into his teens. Gettysburg College coach, Frank Foreman, a former player in his own right, asked Eddie to try out for the school’s baseball team even though he was not, nor would he ever be, enrolled in the institution. He did, however, pitch for Gettysburg College despite never going to college. After he signed with the Richmond Colts of the Virginia League, and that league’s subsequent dissolution, Foreman suggested to friend Connie Mack, the owner and manager of the Philadelphia Athletics that he sign the 25-year old left-hander. Mack did just that and Plank debuted for the Athletics on May 13, 1901. That season, Plank went 17-13 with a 3.31 ERA and 28 complete games. The following year, he was instrumental in the Athletics run to win the American League pennant as he went 23-16, leading the league in games (43) and starts (40).
Beginning in his second season with a 20-15 record, Eddie won 20 or more games for the next four years and posted eight years with 20 or better. Plank won a career-high 26 games in 1904 and then in 1905, Plank, Waddell and Bender took the A’s back to the American League pennant, but this time they would face the Christy Mathewson-led New York Giants in the second ever World Series. Philadelphia would lose to the Giants in five games. The two losses Plank suffered during that World Series were less about his pitching, holding the Giants to a 1.59 ERA in 17.0 innings, and more about the lack of offense from his teammates who failed to score a single earned run. Plank was a stalwart in the Athletics rotation for 14 seasons (1901-1914) and helped lead Philadelphia to five American League pennants and the 1911 and 1913 World Series titles. In World Series play, Plank’s record doesn’t reflect his ability as much as it does his teammates failure to score when he took the mound. He posted a 2-5 record with a minuscule 1.32 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 54 postseason innings pitched. Teammate Eddie Collins described the finesse pitcher as, “not the fastest … the trickiest … and not the possessor of the most stuff. He was just the greatest.” Eddie Plank threw with exceptional control highlighted by a powerful fastball and sweeping “cross-fire” curveball served with a long, side-arm delivery that befuddled batters.
Following the 1914 season, as Philadelphia faced a money crunch, Connie Mack allowed Plank to get away and joined the newly established Federal League with the St. Louis Terriers. Eddie posted a 21-11 record, his last 20-win year, with a 2.08 ERA and 147 Ks. When the federal League collapsed after the 1915 seasons, the St. Louis Browns, who owner his rights, added the now-40-year old Plank to their rotation for his final two seasons. He pitched respectably as he went 21-11 for the Browns over two years (1916-1917) before retiring. Despite announcing his retirement, the New York Yankees sent five players and cash to the Browns for Plank and Del Pratt, but he refused to report and formally retired. Eddie Plank finished his career 326-194, with 2,246 strikeouts and a 2.35 ERA. At the time of his retirement, he was the winningest left-handed pitcher in the history of baseball, since surpassed by fellow Hall of famers Warren Spahn and Steve Carlton. The Veterans Committee elected Edward Stewart Plank to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946. He retired to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and also became a tour guide at Gettysburg National Park before he was struck down by a stroke in 1926 at the age of 50.
|Pos||Grade||Thumbnail||Pedigree and History|
|5||VG-EX 4 (17)|
|Date||Price||Grade||Lot #||Auction House||Auction/Seller||Type||Cert|
|01/27/2012||$1,726||5||39||Mile High Card Company||January 2012||Auction||18946110|
|05/16/2015||$1,912||5||80225||Heritage Auctions||2015 May 14 - 16 Sports Collectibles Catalog Auc... May 16, 2015||Auction||01743704|
|03/08/2008||$672||4 (MC)||111||Goodwin and Co. Auctions||Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XIV||Auction||09182223|
|12/18/2011||$779||4||103||Memory Lane, Inc.||Winter 2011||Auction||30687831|
|03/28/2014||$1,489||4||70||Goodwin and Co. Auctions||Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons LIV||Auction||12389518|
|10/15/2014||$2,040||4||136||Robert Edward Auctions||2014 Fall||Auction||14923471|
|12/04/2015||$930||4||77||Greg Bussineau Auctions||Fall 2015 Vintage Trading Cards and Memorabilia Auction||Auction||12239610|
|05/22/2017||$840||4 (MC)||306||Robert Edward Auctions||2017 Spring||Auction||26724072|
|05/22/2017||$1,320||4||294||Robert Edward Auctions||2017 Spring||Auction||04644762|
|08/12/2017||$1,200||4||322638567884||eBay||aad0906||Buy It Now||40147381|
|09/14/2008||$1,262||3||83||Memory Lane, Inc.||Hot Summer Classic Rarities||Auction||14980695|
|04/18/2010||$686||3||219||Memory Lane, Inc.||Springtime Classic Auction||Auction||90602916|
|11/08/2014||$837||3||80044||Heritage Auctions||2014 November 6 - 8 Sports Catalog Auction - Dal... Nov 8, 2014||Auction||16822983|
|05/06/2018||$780||3||248||Robert Edward Auctions||2018 Spring||Auction||15376793|
|12/15/2018||$319||2 (MK)||733||Memory Lane, Inc.||Holy Grail Rarities Auction||Auction||41278085|