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Ferguson: The story of Kid Nichols, 361-game winner

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Scott Ferguson
12/20/2013 11:36:59 AM
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The voting results for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced on January 8 in the new year. Unlike last year when nobody got in, there have been estimates of as many as five getting voted in this time around and as few as one, Greg Maddux.

Going over the list of players already in Cooperstown, I found it interesting that four went by the nickname "Kid" or "The Kid". They would be former Expos and Mets star Gary Carter, the Brewers Robin Yount, the immortal Red Sox legend Ted Williams and one you may not be as familiar with, Charles "Kid" Nichols.

"Kid" Nichols began his career in the Majors in 1890 and was through in 1906. But the numbers he put up were truly remarkable. Starting in 1890, with the Boston Beaneaters in the National League he went 27-19 with a 2.23 ERA. In seven of the next eight seasons he won 30 or more games. He finished his career with 361 victories against 208 losses and a 2.96 ERA. Not only that he started 562 games over his career and finished 532. In other words he pitched complete games in about 95 per cent of his outings.

Granted it was a different era. In his first three seasons, 1890-92, the distance from the pitching mound to home plate was only 50 feet. Nevertheless Nichols was the main reason the Beaneaters won three consecutive pennants. After that though the mound was pushed back to its current distance of 60' 6" but Nichols remained every bit as dominant.

The funny thing is Nicholls wasn't physically imposing. It has been estimated he only weighed about 138 pounds when he broke in with Boston and looked like a teenager, hence the nickname "Kid".

"Kid" Nichols threw straight over the top and threw few if any breaking pitches. He and others have credited this for his durability and good fortune in avoiding injuries. He had impeccable control, and an uncanny ability to change speeds on his fastball.

Nichols was almost lost in the annals of baseball history and didn't get into the Hall of Fame until 1949 when he was selected by the Veterans Committee. One of the loudest voices in getting him elected was a charter member of the Hall of Fame was none other than Ty Cobb.

The most amazing fact about "Kid Nichols" is that he won his 300th game when he was only 30 years old. Again, there is a bit of a caveat. During his career teams usually only carried five pitchers at most and depending on circumstance you could be pitching every second or third day. Still the numbers he put up and the career he had was amazing.

Here's the thing I'm wondering about. It's "Kid" Nichols Canadian connection. Baseball Reference.com claims he went to secondary school at Queen Elizabeth High School in Surrey, BC. If you click on the school name, Nichols name comes up along with another former Major Leaguer who attended the same school, Kevin Nicholson. Nichols was an American born in Wisconsin, who spent part of his youth in Kansas City. I can find no mention of how he wound up in a Canadian high school. Interesting to say the least.
 
I also wanted to mention another "Kid" who is not in the Hall of Fame. You might remember the name "Kid" Gleason. He was the manager of the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox, of the "Black Sox" scandal infamy. Gleason played no part in throwing the series to the Cincinnati Reds, in fact he called out some of his own players for tanking after they played a brutal first game of the World Series.

Well before that series, Gleason was a decent player in his own right. In 1890 for instance, he pitched 506 innings and completed 54 of the 55 games he started. Gleason was also a decent position player over part of his career in addition to being a manager. It was said he was every bit the fiery competitor Cobb was, if not more so.
 
Bringing Back Banks

It seems only fitting, when Disney is releasing the movie "Saving Mr. Banks" about the making of the "Mary Poppins" movie, the Blue Jays should be shooting out a lifeline to a Mr. Banks of their own.

They've signed right-hander Josh Banks, a pitcher they originally drafted in the second round in 2003 to a minor league deal. Banks only pitched in three games for the Jays back in 2007, then bounced from San Diego to Houston and finally to the minor league systems of the Giants and Orioles. He was actually released by the O's on March 31, 2012.

So why is he back? Well back in the day Banks could throw eight pitches including a knuckleball. Now at age 31 he has re-invented himself as a knuckleballer. The Jays are hoping they've caught "Lightning in a Bottle" on this one.

Altogether now, the Jays have three knuckleballers in their organization, R.A. Dickey, Tomo Ohka who is coming back as a knuckler at age 37, and now Josh Banks. If Banks makes it after three years out of the Majors maybe Disney will come calling about another movie.

The Baseball Hall Of Fame (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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