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The Great Pinch-Hitting Pitcher:

RED LUCAS

         

As strange as it sounds, one of the greatest pinch hitters in baseball history was a pitcher.

The pitcher with the penchant for coming off the bench with timely hits was Charles Fred Lucas, better known as "Red" Lucas when he played in Cincinnati from 1926 through 1933.

 

In a big league career that spanned the years from 1923 through 1938, Lucas accumulated 114 pinch-hits and set a record that stood until Smoky Burgess, who once played for the Reds, set a new standard in 1965.

 

Four different times in his career, Lucas led the National League in most pinch-hits in a season. He collected a personal high of 15 in 1930 when he appeared in 68 games in a pinch-hitting role.

 

Lucas was such an effective pinch hitter that it was easy to overlook the fact that he also was a standout pitcher. He often was called lucky because his defense seemed to make one remarkable play after another behind him, but Lucas defended his pitching.

 

 

 

"I guess the object of the game is to get the opposition out," he told baseball historian Lee Allen. "A lot of batters said they enjoyed hitting against me - I know Bill Terry was one of them - but the batter who gave me the most trouble was Blimp Phelps of the Dodgers. During the eight years I pitched for the Reds, we finished in the first division only once, but I usually managed to win more games than I lost."

An appreciation of Lucas' effectiveness as a Cincinnati pitcher can be gained by checking the Reds position in the standings during his career. During his eight years, the Reds were last three times, finished seventh twice, fifth twice and second once.

Nevertheless, he won 109 games and lost 99 during that stretch.

A part-time relief pitcher and part-time starter during his first three years with the Reds, Lucas moved into the starting rotation permanently in 1929, except for five relief appearances in 1930.

Although he never won 20 games, Lucas came close several times. His best year was 1929 when he was 19-12. Undoubtedly Lucas would have won 20 on several occasions had he been pitching for a stronger team.


 

 

    He was a workhorse. In 1929 he pitched 28 complete games, the most in the league. He again led the National League in complete games in 1931 and 1932. It was during those two seasons he established a Reds record that will probably never be broken.

    Between August 13, 1931, and July 15, 1932, Lucas pitched 250 consecutive innings without being relieved. Today, a streak like that is unheard of. It was remarkable back in those days, too, but the Reds bullpen was so spotty, a tired Lucas often was better than anyone coming to his aid.

Lucas originally was signed by the New York Giants. He was only 5 feet 9 inches tall, and New York manager John McGraw thought Lucas was too small to become a big-time pitcher. The following year Lucas was shipped to the Boston Braves.

Because of his strong bat, Boston manager Dave Bancroft believed he had a second baseman and in the spring of 1925 Lucas was made an infielder. He played only six games with the Braves and was sent to the Seattle club of the Pacific

Coast League because Boston owed that minor league team a player from an earlier deal.

 

Lucas had a 9-5 record and a 2.82 earned run average with Seattle and he became a hot property for the minor league team.

         
       

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