Memories & Dreams: Plaque Check: Pud Galvin

By Marty Appel

Since baseball may have seen it’s last 300-game winner in Randy Johnson, (at least for a long time to come), we would do well to recall the first member of the club, a pitcher named James Francis “Pud” Galvin of St. Louis, Missouri.

While Randy Johnson stood 6’10” and threw left-handed, Pud Galvin was only 5’8” and threw right-handed – and the differences just grow from there.

For while Randy Johnson was an amateur photographer of note, Galvin, born in 1856, pretty much predated the existence of popular photography, with only a small inventory to select from.

Galvin won his 300th game on September 4, 1888, pitching for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, and if his mark was noted at all, it was certainly not for inclusion in any sort of “club.”  He was, after all, a club of one.

When he retired in 1892, the club had grown to five, with John Clarkson, Mickey Welch, Tim Keefe and Ol’ Hoss Radburne aboard.

The club Randy Johnson joined has grown to 24, but with five-man rotations now in force, and with the leading active winner, San Francisco’s Tim Hudson, being some 80 short, it feels like that club of 24 will hold firm for some time.

What brings us then to Pud Galvin, is the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his Hall of Fame induction.  In 1965, he was the only player selected, and although he had been dead for 63 years, he was represented by a son and a daughter, (he had 11 children in all), and a nice crowd turned out to honor him, which included 22 previous Hall of Fame inductees.  To even astute baseball fans, Pud was hardly a household name, and many had to scramble to find his records and remember his contributions.  But the Veteran’s Committee focused on that magical “300” which was by then held in awe, and cast their votes in his favor.

“Pud” was a nickname having to do with his making “pudding” out of opposing hitters, and modern day sleuths have also stumbled on his playfulness in displaying a certain hand gesture in team photos, which causes one to marvel over the gesture being employed back in the 19th century.

Galvin was also known as “The Little Steam Engine,” which seemed to fit his stocky appearance.  As a player, he eventually played at over 200 pounds, and in retirement, shot up to over 300.

Pud pitched for five teams in four leagues over his 15-year career, with most of his time spent with Buffalo and Pittsburgh of the National League.  Indeed, in both 1883 and 1884, he won 46 games for the Buffalo Bisons, and if you don’t think he and Randy Johnson had enough differences, consider that in 1883, Galvin started 75 games and completed 72 of them, pitching 656 innings.    He walked 50 and struck out 279 – at last, a number Johnson could relate to.

His time in Buffalo brought him into a friendship with Mayor Grover Cleveland, and when Cap Anson and Albert Spalding visited the White House during President Cleveland’s administration, the president inquired as to the health of his “old friend, Pud Galvin.”

Galvin still resides at fifth on the all-time win list with 365, trailing only Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Christy Mathewson.