Classic Yankees: Spud Chandler

New York Yankees Spud ChandlerNo  pitcher has won the MVP award since Dennis Eckersley did it in 1992. There is just one Yankee who has ever done it. It’s not Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Ron Guidry, Andy Pettitte… none of those.

The only Yankee pitcher to win the MVP award was Spurgeon Ferdinand “Spud” Chandler in the WWII year of 1943. There was no CYA back then.

Chandler didn’t make it to the majors until 1937 at the age of 29. He went 7-4, 2.84, ERA+ 158 that year. He didn’t pitch in the World Series.

In 1938, he went 14-5, 4.03, ERA+ 113. Another ring, but no WS appearance by Chandler.

1939 saw Chandler go 3-0, 2.84 in eleven games, all in relief. ERA+ 157. Same thing. Ring, no WS appearance.

1940 saw no ring. Chandler went 8-7, 4.60, ERA+ 88. He led the AL in HBP with 6.

Another ring in 1941. Chandler went 10-4,  3.19, ERA+ 124. This time, he finally pitched in the WS. He gave up 3 R, 2 ER in 5 IP in Game 2 and lost 3-2.

1942 was the first year that Chandler pitched 200 innings. He was an all-star and finished 27th in the MVP voting with a record of 16-5, 2.38, ERA+ 145. He pitched in two WS games, starting one. Despite giving up just one earned run in 8 1/3 innings, Chandler was 0-1, 1.08. He started and lost Game 3.

1943 saw many players in the service. Chandler, who turned 36 in September of 1943, didn’t enter the service yet, and responded with his MVP year. He went 20-4, 1.64, ERA+ 198 and was an all-star. He led the AL in wins, CG (20) and shutouts (5). He led the majors in winning percentage, ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and SO/BB ratio. He pitched two complete game victories in the World Series, giving up just two runs, one earned.

Chandler’s 1.64 ERA of 1943 was the lowest of any pitcher from 1920 (introduction of the lively ball) through 1967. 1968, as we know, was the “Year of the Pitcher”, dominated by Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA and Denny McLain’s 31 wins (Luis Tiant had a 1.60 ERA that year as well). It’s still the Yankees’ team record for pitchers who qualified for the ERA title.

Chandler missed most of the 1944 and 1945 seasons due to WWII service (Army). In 1944, he started one game and got a ND, going 6 innings and giving up 3 runs. In 1945, he started four games and was 2-1, 4.65.

When the 1946 season started, Chandler was 38 years old. He came back to 1943 form with a superb 20-8, 2.10 season, ERA+ 164 with 20 CG. He was once again an all-star, and he finished 16th in MVP voting. He led the AL in least HR given up per 9 innings.

Chandler’s final season was 1947. He was an all-star for the fourth and final time as he turned 40 just before the season ended. He went 9-5, 2.46, ERA+ 144. In the WS, Chandler gave up 2 runs in 2 innings and got a no –decision.

Chandler ended his career with a record of 109-43, 2.84, ERA+ 132. He only pitched in eleven seasons, and 1939 (injury), 1944, and 1945 (WWII) were shortened considerably. Only three times did he pitch 200 innings or more. His WS record was 2-2, 1.62. As a hitter, Chandler held his own, hitting .201 with 9 HR and 45 RBI for his career (548 AB). In his MVP season, Chandler hit .258-2-7. He went 2 for 10 as a hitter in the WS.

In 1937, Chandler wore uniform numbers 13, 24 and 35. He wore 27 for a time in 1939. He is most famous for wearing #21 from 1938 to 1947.

Chandler played for seven pennant winners and six world championship teams.

On baseballreference.com, under winning percentage (minimum 1000 IP, 100 decisions), Chandler ranks second all-time with his .717. Only Al Spalding, who pitched in the 1870s, ranks higher. So in the modern era (1901 on), Chandler ranks #1 among all pitchers in W-L percentage. Chandler also ranks #1 among pitchers who pitched in ten or more seasons, such was the brevity of Spalding’s career (1871-1878). Despite the brevity of his own career, Chandler threw 26 shutouts.

Chandler never had a losing record. Only his one game, no-decision 1944 season keeps him from joining Babe Ruth as the only pitchers to pitch in ten or more seasons and have a winning record in each season. Andy Pettitte also never had a losing season. Only Pettitte’s 14-14 2008 season kept him from joining the Babe.

Bill Dickey called Chandler the best pitcher he ever caught. Considering that Dickey caught Ruffing and Gomez, two Hall-of-Famers, that’s high praise. Dickey described Chandler as having five pitches, a fastball, curve, slider, forkball and screwball.

After retirement, Chandler managed in the minors for a while, and was the KC A’s pitching coach in 1957 and 1958. He also became a scout.

Chandler died in 1990 at the age of 82.

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