Harry Franklin “Slim” Sallee
Born: February 3, 1885 - Higginsport, OH
Died: March 22, 1950 - Higginsport, OH
MLB Pitching Record: 174–143
St. Louis Cardinals NL (1908–1916)
New York Giants NL (1916–1918, 1920–1921)
Cincinnati Reds NL (1919–1920)
In some ways, “Slim” Sallee’s career mirrored that of Hall of Famer Rube Waddell. Both talented southpaws had battles with the bottle and would sometimes disappear for weeks at a time. With his crossfire fastball, Sallee had moments of brilliance during his 14-year career. He was labeled a phenom while pitching for several independent teams as well as the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association.
With a 20-win season under his Minor League belt, Sallee’s contract was bought by the St Louis Cardinals in 1908, but his drinking habits became obvious right away. Sallee would disappear for several days on a drinking binge and then return to pitch a gem. His manager, Roger Bresnahan, suspended and fined him repeatedly during his first few years in St. Louis. Finally late in the 1911 season Sallee vowed to curtail his bad habits and really contribute to the team. Over the next several years, he did not disappoint, becoming the big stopper on some pretty weak teams.
After Sallee was signed by the Giants he saw great success, winning 18 games and the pennant in 1917. He then played for the Reds so he could be closer to home, enjoying the best year of his career in 1919, compiling 21 wins to help lead Cincinnati to the World Series. That was the infamous Black Sox Series, but Sallee pitched well for the Reds, winning one and losing one. Because of his age, he became a reliever in 1920 and hooked up with the Giants again, helping them to a pennant in 1921.
That proved to be Sallee’s final MLB season. He invested wisely in several thriving business ventures in his hometown of Higginsport but lost them in the Ohio River flood of 1937. He then worked as a bartender in Cincinnati for several years. In 1947 Sallee coached the Higginsport town team to the county championship. He died in 1950 after suffering a heart attack. Had Sallee devoted more time to his craft than to drinking in his early days, he would likely have been a dominant Deadball Era pitcher.
– 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