Howard Ehmke

  • Card series: Jim Dandie Feds
  • City: Buffalo
  • Team: Blues (FL)
  • League: Federal League

Howard Jonathan Ehmke (1894-1959) was a durable pitcher who played fifteen of his sixteen years in pro ball in the majors. The right-hander compiled a 166-166 record, debuting with the Buffalo Blues of the Federal League in 1915 before moving on to a fine career with three of the sport’s great teams: the Tigers, Red Sox and Athletics. Ehmke had an unlikely highlight to his long career in 1929’s World Series when Connie Mack took him up on his offer to pitch the opening game. Howard had shown flashes of greatness including hurling a no-hitter followed by a one-hitter and had pitched very respectably in ’29, going 7-2. Nevertheless, he was a surprise choice to start the series as the veteran’s activity had been limited that season. But the savvy Mack knew the opposing Cubs might be vulnerable to a side-arming righty. Ehmke went on to set the record for strikeouts in the post-season with 13, a record that would stand for decades until surpassed by Carl Erskine in 1953, a feat Howard listened to on his car radio until the battery died. He also set a record that held until 2006 for having the fewest regular-season wins by a Series starter.

  • Bill James has called Connie Mack’s decision to start Ehmke in ’29 “the most brilliant managerial stratagem in the history of baseball”
  • Playing for Boston in 1923, Ehmke won 20 and threw his no-hitter against Mack’s Athletics, followed four days later by a one-hitter versus the Yankees, an effort marred only by a grounder off the third baseman’s chest ruled a hit. Things evened out for Howard, however, as his no-no had featured a hit off the wall that became an out when the batter missed first base
  • Thanks to his no-no followed by the one-hitter, Ehmke still holds the American League record for fewest hits allowed in back-to-back starts with 1
  • Ehmke had a distinguished career as a player but also made his mark with his inventive bent. He sold the Pirates on his idea for a tarpaulin to cover Forbes Field’s infield in the event of rain.  Howard parlayed that sale into a life-long business marketing all manner of tarps and fabrics, including canvas for the war effort in the forties. The Ehmke Manufacturing Co, based in Philadelphia, continues to this day

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