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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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.