Carl Owen Hubbell (June 22, 1903 - November 21, 1988), along with Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox pitcher Lefty Grove, were in a league of their in the 1930s as Hubbell strung together five consecutive 20-win seasons, leading the National League three times while Grove led the American League four times in victories. Carl was born in rural Missouri, but then moved to Oklahoma where he graduated from Meeker High School before heading to the oil fields. Hubbell pitched for the company’s baseball team and was soon playing for Cushing in the Oklahoma State League. In 1925, Carl joined the Oklahoma City Indians of the Western League where he went 17-13 in his first season. This was where Carl developed his patented screwball, or reverse-curve (later referred to as the “fadeaway”), as he was trying to turn the ball over, giving it a sinking motion. The Detroit Tigers signed the talented left-hander in 1926, but with player/manager Ty Cobb refusing to allow Hubbell to throw the screwball for fear of arm soreness and damage, Carl was unable to find a roster spot with Detroit and was released. He signed with the Beamont Exporters of the Texas League and was then spotted by New York Giants scout Dick Kinsella, who reported back to manager John McGraw of his find and the Giants purchased Hubbell midseason in 1928. Over the second half of the season Carl went 10-6 in 20 games and 14 starts. While working to master the extremely difficult and physically grueling pitch, the screwball, which ultimately became his money or out pitch, Carl threw a no-hitter on May 8, 1929 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, though his teammates nearly gave it away with three errors and sloppy play behind him. As was customary for the giants at the time, Mel Ott led the offense with two home runs and three RBI in the 11-0 rout of the Buccos. After Bill Terry replaced Hall of Fame manager John McGraw in 1932, the Giants acquired catcher Gus Mancuso from the St. Louis Cardinals, setting up one of the game’s great batteries as Mancuso was particularly adept at catching low pitches framing them as strikes. If thrown correctly, the screwball off a left-handed pitcher curved low and away to right-handed batters. Hubbell himself later described it as “throwing it over the top with exactly the same motion as a fastball … but, it isn’t the break that fools the batter, it’s the change of speed. The couldn’t time it and were out in front of it.”
Hubbell was a key component to the Giants starting rotation that also included knuckleballer Freddie Fitzsimmons and the sinkerball hurling Hal Schumacher. By the early to mid-1930s, Hubbell was the premier pitcher in the National League and in 1933 he helped led the Giants to their first National League pennant in nine years. Carl went 23-12 that season, leading the league in wins (23), ERA (1.66), shutouts (10) and innings pitched (308.2). He finished second to St. Louis’ Dizzy Dean (199) in strikeouts with 156, but captured the NL MVP award. With the Meal Ticket, Hubbell’s nickname, leading the charge, the Giants beat the Washington Senators in five games in the 1933 World Series as Carl went 2-0 with two complete games and 15 Ks. Often remembered as Hubbell’s most astonishing feats, in the 1934 MLB All-Star Game, after allowing a single from Charlie Gehringer and then walking Heinie Manush, Carl sent down five of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. With most of the American Leaguers unfamiliar with the screwball, he struck out Babe Ruth on five pitches, Lou Gehrig on four pitches, Jimmie Foxx on four pitched – though he alone made contact with a foul tip, and then Al Simmons and Joe Cronin to start the second inning. His record of five consecutive strikeouts to start an All-Star Game stood until the 50th Anniversary of the event when Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden fanned six in a row to start the 1984 All-Star Game. Also remarkable was the fact that all five of the batters were eventual Hall of Famers and some of the most feared hitter in history. Notably, after Cronin struck out, Bill Dickey lined a single to center and Hubbell came back to strike out his opponent, Lefty Gomez, to set the All-Star record of six strikeouts. Carl was a 9-time MLB All-Star.
King Carl pitched his entire career with the New York Giants (1928-1943) and led the National League three times in wins and ERA, twice in winning percentage and once in complete games, shutouts, innings pitched and saves. In 1936, Hubbell had a league leading 26 victories and 2.31 ERA to win his second NL MVP award. The 1936 campaign proved to be his best as he helped get the giants to the NL pennant, despite struggling mid-season. He won his final 16 starts including the pennant clincher. But, the powerful New York Yankees toppled the Giants in six games. In 1937, Hubbell remained focused and in control as he started the season 8-0 thus stringing together a 24-game winning streak that spanned the 1936 and 1937 season - the longest streak ever recorded in the American or National Leagues.. New York once again fell to the Yankees in the World Series that year though. Though arm soreness began to take effect on Hubbell over the remainder of his career, he was able to pitch a handful of gems, one-hitting the Dodgers on Memorial Day in 1940 and then one-hitting the Pirates on June of his final season. He also won eight straight games in 1942. Hubbell helped lead the New York Giants to three National League pennants and one World Series championship in 1933. With an arsenal of pitches anchored by a deadly screwball, Carl won 20 or more games in five consecutive seasons. Carl Hubbell retired with a 253-154 record, with 1,678 strikeouts and a 2.97 earned run average. He served as a scout for the Giants for 35 more years, even after the franchise relocated to San Francisco, though he remained on the East Coast. Carl Owen Hubbell was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947.