Jesse Haines

How Jesse Haines was elected to the Hall of Fame

More than 43 years after he helped the St. Louis Cardinals win their first World Series championship, Jesse Haines was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee at age 76.

It wasn’t a bad achievement for a pitcher whose former minor-league manager with the Tulsa Oilers expected him back in less than a couple months, as baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn recalled during Haines’ induction ceremony.

“When he came up to the Cardinals, his old manager Spencer Abbott, who had unwisely sent him from Tulsa to Kansas City, made a bet of a suit of clothes that Haines wouldn’t last six weeks in the big leagues,” Kuhn said.[1]

Abbott obviously lost that bet, as Haines not only stuck around with the Cardinals for their 1920 campaign, but played in St. Louis through the 1937 season.

Haines played his first season of pro ball in 1914. He bounced around different teams and leagues – even reaching the majors with the Reds in 1918 – before he won 26 games between Tulsa and Kansas City in 1919. That success inspired Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey to seek a $10,000 loan to purchase Haines.

“Mr. Rickey told the story many times,” Haines said. “He was turned down by every bank in St. Louis in requesting a loan for that money and finally got it by getting Sam Breadon to buy a piece of the ballclub.”[2]

Recognizing that the Cardinals lacked the funds to compete for top-caliber talent, Rickey developed baseball’s first farm system. Haines became the last player Rickey ever needed to buy.

In his first season in St. Louis, Haines appeared in a league-high 47 games, throwing 301 2/3 innings. However, he went just 13-20 despite a 2.98 ERA. In 1923, Haines developed a knuckleball, the pitch that would allow him to stick around the majors well into his 40s.

It took him years to perfect the pitch, and in 1924 he suffered his worst season. Ironically, that campaign also included his best game, a no-hitter against the Braves that marked the first recognized no-hitter in Cardinals history.

Finally, in 1926, Haines got his knuckleball under control. He went 13-4 with a 3.25 ERA to help the Cardinals win the National League pennant and advance to the World Series, where they played a seven-game classic against the Yankees.

After throwing a complete-game shutout to win Game 3, Haines started Game 7, going 6 2/3 innings into the game before he popped a blister on his pitching hand. With Haines’ hand bloody, manager Rogers Hornsby turned to Grover Cleveland Alexander with the bases loaded and talented rookie Tony Lazzeri at the plate. Alexander struck out Lazzeri, then pitched two more scoreless innings to win the Cardinals’ first World Series championship.

“I was a knuckleball pitcher and I used it a lot in that game,” Haines said. “I wore a big blister on my finger and when I showed it to Hornsby, he decided to take me out. I went straight to the clubhouse and didn’t see Alex strike out Lazzeri.”[3]

Haines pitched in three more World Series for the Cardinals in 1928, 1930, and 1934. In Game 4 of the 1930 World Series, he allowed just one run in a complete-game win over another Hall of Famer, Lefty Grove, and the Philadelphia Athletics.

In his 19 years in the big leagues, Haines won 210 games and posted a 3.64 ERA. A three-time 20-game winner, Haines’ best season came in 1927 when he went 24-10 with a 2.72 ERA. His 25 complete games that season included six shutouts.

“There are a lot of things that stand out in my career,” Haines said. “My 210 victories. My no-hit game in 1924 against the Boston Braves, when the last batter I retired was Casey Stengel. The 1926 World Series, and the 1930 Series game in which I beat Lefty Grove.”[4]

In the years following his retirement, Haines never enjoyed much luck with the Hall of Fame voters. In his final year on the standard ballot in 1962, he received just three votes. He found better luck, however, with the Veterans Committee, which included his former manager and teammate, Frankie Frisch, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter J. Roy Stockton.

In 1970, the committee also elected Earl Combs, now age 70, and former commissioner Ford C. Frick, now 74.

“It’s quite an honor,” Haines said. “I was in hopes and my hopes came true. I’d hoped that if I ever was going to get into the Hall, it would come before I passed on and now it’s happened. I’m kind of broke up about it.”[5]

Upon Haines’ election, Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg admitted that Haines may have benefited from a friendly committee, but pointed to the crucial role Haines played teaching successive generations of Cardinals how to compete for championships:

Whether Haines’ 210-158 won-and-lost record gives him Hall of Fame credentials is a question, but there never was a doubt about the man’s nobility as a person. He’s a ramrod-straight, right guy, a small-town boy who went back home to Phillipsburg, (Ohio), a suburb of Dayton, and put in 25 years as county auditor.

Pop Haines became an elder statesman for the Cardinals long before he threw his last knuckleball at the age of 44. He helped soothe ruffled Redbird feathers many times to keep the old Gas House Gang from exploding.

He could be kind, gentlemanly, considerate, and philosophical – except when he pitched. Then, he was the darndest hard loser.

When 1920 batterymate Pickles Dillhoefer threw wild on a pickoff attempt and the only run of the game scored, teammates had to harness Haines in the clubhouse to keep him off his catcher.

Fifteen years later, rookie center fielder Terry Moore was flabbergasted to walk into the visitors’ clubhouse at Cincinnati to see how Haines had ripped the furniture after a game had been lost by Redbird errors.

“When I saw how hard a nice old man like Pop could take it after losing a game,” said Moore, “I realized why he’d been a consistent winner and the Cardinals too. I never forgot how much Haines expected of himself and of others.”[6]

The three Veterans Committee selections were inducted on July 26 alongside former Indians manager and shortstop Lou Boudreau, who was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Haines, who recently had undergone surgery, told the audience that as a boy growing up, his mother used to have him bring baked goods to an old German lady. On this occasion, he repeated the phrasing his German neighbor often used.

“Deep down in my heart, I thank you too much,” Haines said. “I am one thousand times obliged.”[7]

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[1] “Pop Haines: Hall Induction Greatest Of All My Thrills,” Dayton Daily News, July 28, 1970.

[2] Ritter Collett, “Haines adds class in entering ‘Hall,’” Dayton Journal Herald, July 28, 1970.

[3] “Haines ‘Kind Of Broke Up’ By Hall Of Fame Selection,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1970.

[4] “Haines ‘Kind Of Broke Up’ By Hall Of Fame Selection,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1970.

[5] “Haines ‘Kind Of Broke Up’ By Hall Of Fame Selection,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1970.

[6] Bob Broeg, “Hall Hurrahs For Haines, Combs; Hmm For Frick,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 2, 1970.

[7] “Haines: ‘Thank You Too Much,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 27, 1970.

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