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A Javelin That Was Thrown Away:



    One of the fitst highly successful relief specialists in Cincinnati Reds history was right-hander Joe Beggs, a lanky 6-footer. At one time, Beggs was one of America's best javelin throwers.


Beggs burst onto the Cincinnati baseball scene in sensational fashion in 1940 when he became manager Bill McKechnie's most trustworthy pitcher out of the bullpen. Beggs pitched in 37 games - 36 in relief - and allowed only 19 runs in 77 innings. His earned run average of 2.00 was the lowest among National League pitchers who worked more than 75 Innings.


He quickly earned the nickname "Fireman Joe." Beggs attended Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. He was a better track-and-field performer in his collegiate days than he was a baseball player. The javelin was his specialty. After a standout performance at the prestigious Penn Relays, he was encouraged to work seriously on the javelin. He was told that a spot on the United States Olympic team and a trip to the 1932 Olympics could be in the offing.



Instead he turned to baseball and broke in professionally in Washington, Pennsylvania, in the Penn State League.


Beggs first made it to the major leagues with the New York Yankees in 1938, but the next year he was shipped to the Yankees Class AAA Syracuse farm club.


Beggs appeared to have no future with the New York organization so when the Reds offered pitcher Lee Grissom in a trade for Beggs, the Yankees jumped at it.


While Beggs never had the one big winning season, he always was stingy when it came to allowing earned runs. His nine-year major league earned run average was 2.96.


Despite the fact that Beggs was a top-notch relief pitcher, he always wanted to be a starter. In 1943 he got his chance. In four starting assignments, he pitched four complete games. Indeed, he did have a nine-inning arm.


He was set to be one of McKechnie's regulars in the rotation the next year, but he went into the Navy and served two years as a gunnery officer.


Returning to the Reds in 1946, Beggs came back with a flourish. In his first start, he pitched eight innings and allowed the Chicago Cubs only a scratch single. He went on to win 12 games and to post a glittering 2.32 earned run average in 190 innings of work.


"He's at his best under pressure," Reds publicist Gabe Paul, later a Reds general manager, wrote in a press release. "What does Beggs have? He has pretty fair stuff, great control and courage. He doesn't flinch."


Bur after Beggs' comeback in 1946, age began catching up with him. He was 36 years old in 1947 and after he was 0-3 in 11 games that season, he was traded to the New York Giants for Babe Young. He was 3-3 the remainder of that year with New York. After only one appearance in 1948, Beggs was released; the years had doused the flames for Fireman Joe.




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