Monday, April 14, 2014

Old as Moses Monday: Lew Richie

*I bet you can figure out the concept of this feature;  it shines the spotlight on the Cubs in my collection that time forgot a long time ago.  We're talking pre-WWI here!*

For this week's Old as Moses Monday feature, I present to you the oldest baseball card in my collection:  a 1911 T205 Tobacco card of forgotten cubs hurdler Lew Richie.  It had been a goal of mine to add another authentic tobacco card to my collection to keep Tom Needham company.  It came relatively cheap too, for under $20.

After all, I've stated that one of my goals in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection is to have each player represented by an authentic card from their era, i.e. printed when they were an active player.  I feel it almost makes my collection like a museum exhibit.

But enough about me and my needs, let's talk about "Lurid" Lew.

Lew Richie had an exceptional career statistically, if you ignore the time in which he played.  His career ERA is a sterling 2.54 and he kept it under 3 for all but one of his 8 years in the majors, starting in 1906.  But being that this was the Dead Ball Era and offense was at all an all-time low, this was almost league average.

Plus, he played for several mediocre Phillie teams and truly abysmal Braves (then Bees) teams and thus failed to record a winning record until he joined the Cubs via mid-season trade in 1910 for Doc Miller.  In an era when won-loss record was the premium method of analyzing pitchers, this was a killer.  As you can see, in the context of his era, Lew Richie was just another pitcher.

Richie in action - courtesy of the Sporting News and

With the Cubs, he began to break free from the pack.  He went 11-4 with a 2.70 ERA the rest of the year and saw his first and only World Series action.  Against the Athletics, he only made one appearance, closing out game 2 without giving up a run.  However, it was a lost cause as the Cubs were battered 9-3 in a series that they'd eventually lose -obviously.

By 1912 though, Richie struggled a bit out of the gate.  Cubs owner Charles Murphy thought that Richie was washed up and that 11 years of professional baseball had zapped his arm.  Murphy tried to run him through waivers and found that the rest of the league did not agree with him.  Thus, not wanting to lose him for the waiver price, Murphy reluctantly kept Richie on the roster; sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make.

In the pennant race that summer, Richie brought his A-game.  With the Cubs seesawing back and forth against the arch rival New York Giants, Richie beat two HOF pitchers and took a third win in a single series to keep the Cubs in contention. Getting the best of Rube Marquard and Christy Matthewson was no small feat and the third win was almost a bonus after that.

 No match for the great Lew Richie!

Unfortunately, it was all for naught, as the Giants eventually pulled away that September and took the NL Pennant.  But, Lew Richie did all he could possibly do to prevent it.

It must have drained the man, because 1913 was an absolute disaster.  He went 2-4 with a ghastly 5.82 ERA in 16 games, eventually being demoted to the bullpen before being traded to the American Association.

However, his misfortune was the Cubs gain as the player acquired for Richie was none other than Hippo Vaughn, later of dueling no-hitter fame.  Richie netted the Cubs their best left-handed pitcher in franchise history.

There you have the story of Lew "The Giant Killer" Richie.  The history of the Cubs franchise is absolutely filled to the brim with stories of forgotten heroes and hopefully this Monday feature uncovers a bunch more along the way; not to mention an excuse to keep picking up these beautiful and historic tobacco cards!

I'll be back tomorrow with a few more recent new additions to my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.


  1. The T-205s are my favorite set. They're just gorgeous cards. I'm so glad I had a chance to pick up 8 or 9 in the 80s before the prices went nuts. Haven't bought any since, but I pull them out any time I'm in need of a little wonder and awe.

    1. They truly are specimens. I'll continue to add more if I can find them cheap or at thrift/antique shops where the vendors don't really know what they've got; but, otherwise, it's really not even worth it.

      It is a bit humbling to sit down and hold a piece of cardboard that is over 100 years old. That, i think, is the best part of owning a few of these artifacts.