Ewell Albert “Reb” Russell
Born: March 12, 1889 - Jackson, MS
Died: September 30, 1973 - Indianapolis, IN
MLB Pitching Record: 80–59
Chicago White Sox AL (March 12, 1889 - September 30, 1973)
Pittsburgh Pirates NL (1922–1923)
Although his name sounds like a Civil War hero, “Reb” Russell fought his battles on the mound. A control pitcher, Russell enjoyed a terrific rookie season with the White Sox in 1913. He was 22–16 with a miniscule 1.90 ERA. The wily lefty started a league-leading 52 games and surrendered just two home runs, pretty impressive for a fly-ball pitcher. His 122 strikeouts were offset by only 79 walks. Unfortunately, he would win just 58 games over the next six seasons in Chicago. He did post a 15–5 record with a 1.95 ERA in the team’s World Championship season of 1917, but in the World Series he gave up two hits, two runs, and recorded no outs in a brief appearance.
Nicknamed “Reb” for his Mississippi roots, Russell was adept at pitching out of jams. His nerves were unflappable, but his body was not. In 1914, an ankle injury put him on the shelf, and three years later he struggled through left-arm injury woes. By 1918, the control that made Russell one of the game’s best southpaws was gone, but Russell was not. Always a decent hitter, Russell put up excellent offensive numbers in the minors and was acquired by the Pirates in 1922. Over the next two seasons, he played outfield and hit .323 with 21 home runs and 133 RBI in 154 games, an amazing comeback.
Russell was released for good after the 1923 season, but true to his name, he fought hard and was a dedicated baseball combatant. He continued on, playing the outfield in the Minor Leagues until he was 41 years old, retiring in 1930 with a Minor League career .329 batting average. Ironically, Russell passed away on September 30, 1973, the 50th anniversary of his final Major League game.
– 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