Laurence Russell “Larry” Cheney
Born: May 2, 1886 - Belleville, KS
Died: January 6, 1969 - Daytona Beach, FL
MLB Pitching Record: 116–100
Chicago Cubs NL (May 2, 1886 - January 6, 1969)
Brooklyn Robins NL (1915–1919)
Boston Braves NL (1919)
Philadelphia Phillies NL (1919)
One of the wildest pitchers of the era, Larry Cheney was quite good when he could control the ball. Cheney once admitted that in his early days as a pitcher, he was never sure where the ball was going. Called up to the Cubs in 1911, Cheney’s thumb was injured fielding a line drive by Zack Wheat in his third appearance, which forced him to change his pitching style, and the rest is history.
Needing to develop an overhand delivery because his thumb was too weak to grip the ball properly, he perfected his spitball which became a devastating pitch. The delivery and trajectory actually allowed the ball to rise as it approached the plate, which really affected the timing of some hitters. In 1912, his first full season, Cheney led the National League with 26 wins and 28 complete games, but also led the league with 18 wild pitches. He became one of the most dominant pitchers in the league over the next two years, with 21 wins in 1913 and 20 wins in 1914, but continued to lead the league in wild pitches. A real workhorse, Cheney logged more than 300 innings per season over that three-year period.
To go along with his awesome spitball, Cheney terrorized hitters because of his wildness. His 26 wild pitches in 1914 is still a Cubs record today. That wildness finally got him traded in 1915 because his new manager, Roger Bresnahan, believed that Cheney had no mound discipline. With the Brooklyn Robins in 1916, Cheney had one more very good season, winning 18 games. That year he appeared in the World Series but really had no impact. Cheney spent 1919 between Brooklyn, Boston and Philly, getting very little playing time, and his Major League career was over. Like many players during that time period, Cheney went back down to the minors for several seasons with pretty good success. He finally retired to operate an orange grove in Florida, which evidently had a good effect on him since he lived to the ripe old age of 82.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html