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The Pitch That Killed A Career:

FRANK "NOODLES" HAHN

         

    He was the Sandy Koufax of his day. He was sensational on the mound, dominating the opposition in nearly every outing. His fastball was the best. He was the strikeout king.

 

Also like Koufax - the great Dodger pitcher who had no peers when he dominated baseball in the 1960s - this pitcher's career was cut short because of a sore arm.

 

Newspaper articles referred to this Cincinnati Reds pitcher at the turn of the century as "The Great Hahn." His name was Frank G. Hahn, but to baseball fans 80 years ago he was simply "Noodles."

 

For six years, 1899-1904, Hahn was as good as, if not better than, many of the pitchers who would go on to gain Hall of Fame status - Jack Chesbro, Cy Young, Rube Waddell and Christy Mathewson.

 

When he was a 20-year-old rookie in 1899, Hahn won 23 games.

In 1900 at age 21, he pitched a no-hitter against Philadelphia.

 

 

 In 1901 the Reds finished in last place, but Hahn, 22, won 22 games. He had 233 strikeouts, the most in the National League, and he completed 41 of the 42 games he started.

 

In one 14-inning game that season, he struck out 16 batters, a Reds record that stood until Jim Maloney tied it in 1963 and then broke it a year later. It was also a league mark that stood until Dizzy Dean struck out 17 hitters in 1933.

Hahn won 22 games in each of the next two years, 1902 and 1903.

In 1904 Hahn's victory total dropped to 16 and he began playing around with a new pitch. The experiment was disastrous. His first choice in 1905 was a spitball. When it was legal, the pitch was an effective weapon for many pitchers. When thrown correctly, the ball would drop suddenly when it reached the plate.

 

For Hahn, that pitch was the wrong choice. The first time he threw the pitch, he felt something snap in his strong left arm. The once lively left arm went limp and it began aching almost immediately.

 

He tried to pitch, but the pain was almost unbearable. He worked in only 13 games and pitched just 77 innings. The golden arm was dead. At the "ripe old" age of 26, the Reds released their one-time sure-fire winner.

Hahn tried to come back the following year, signing with the New York American League club, but after six games he called it quits and returned to Cincinnati where be became a government meat inspector.

Even though his playing days were finished, Hahn was a fixture at the Cincinnati ballpark. He pitched batting practice and enjoyed suiting up. He was still doing this at age 61 in 1940.

Noodles Hahn will never make the Hall of Fame, but for six years, when he won 121 games, major league baseball had a Hall-of-Famer.

 

         
       

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