Friday, January 20, 2006
The Top 40 Dodgers Of All Time: #40, Jeff Pfeffer
40. Jeff Pfeffer RHP, 1911-1924, 138.3 career Win Shares -- Not a Hall of Famer nor even an All Star (which they wouldn't have until 1933 anyway), Pfeffer had five phenominal seasons in a Brooklyn uniform, emerging as the ace of the Robins' staff from 1914 through 1919. Arguably the team's most important pitcher until Dazzy Vance, he helped the team win a pennant in 1916 by tossing a (by modern standards) superhuman 328 2/3 innings with a 1.92 ERA, notching 30 complete games out of 37 started, compiling a 25-11 record, and hitting .279 from the other side of the plate! Manager Wilbert Robinson bypassed him to open the World Series, and paid the price as the Red Sox won the first two games. By the time Pfeffer finally started, it was Game 5; his defense failed him, and Boston outpitched him, winning the series four games to one.
With World War I approaching, Pfeffer enlisted in the Navy Auxiliary Reserves, leaving the Dodgers for the most part in 1918, but allowing him to continue his career on a part time basis. Unfortunately for Pfeffer, he accepted a gold watch as a retirement token from his manager, who thought he was enlisting in the regular Navy and got the money to pay for it from a fund for dependents of ballplayers in the military. The incident chafed Robinson, and so despite starting in 30 games upon war's end in 1919, and 30 more in 1920, Pfeffer made no starts in the 1920 World Series.
Pfeffer demanded a trade, which he eventually got in 1921, to the Cardinals. He had one final good season with them the following year, but his skills declined in 1923, when he became essentially league average. Traded to the Pirates, he was out of the majors after 1924, and out of baseball -- after three years pitching for the San Francisco Seals and the Toledo Mud Hens -- after 1927.
Thanks to Retrosheet, Baseball-Reference, and the SABR Biography Project for background materials.
Footnote: I'm using the same methodology to rank the top 40 Dodgers as I used to rank the top 40 Angels previously: a simple addition of Win Shares. Rich dropped a line to let me know that wasn't clear, so I'm stating it explicitly. One problem with this method is it tends to overrate sheer stubbornness in sticking around, a la Tommy John, while perhaps shortchanging sustained but significantly shorter streaks of brilliance, like Sandy Koufax. I confess to my methodology's shortcomings here and now, so you won't have to.
Incidentally, my plan is to publish one or two of these a day, which ought to get me through right about the time spring training starts for real. Amen.
But neither man was named Jeffrey and Jeff was bigger than Big Jeff to boot.
Whoa, whoa, whoa...Dazzy Vance, anyone?