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A Man Among Men: Charles Radbourn

Baseball has a storied history. From barnstorming to players leagues to GOATS and goats.

However, nothing represents the zany and fascinating history of baseball as well as the nicknames.

Maybe no player takes a nickname and mixes it with mystique and crazy statistics as well as Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn.

Old Hoss Road

On July 22nd, 1884, a legend was born.

Radbourn would run for the ages in the 1884 season. It all started, of course, with a dugout fistfight and drinking between innings.

No, I’m not making this up, this was 1880s baseball after all. The MLB would not be born for another 19 years.

Charles Radbourn and Charles Sweeney did not get along. Radbourn did not like that Charlie Sweeney was having success.

Old Hoss was jealous and took it to Sweeney. Radbourn had been suspended for deliberately losing a game throwing easy pitches, by the way.

Again, this is all real. We have not even ventured into the legend part.

God, baseball is great.

Right, back to Old Hoss and Charlie. 6 days after the suspension of Radbourn, Charlie was drinking in the dugout. He had actually pre-gamed before the game, because he is a professional, and was continuing to drink between innings. Sweeney was actually pitching well despite this, and went into the 7th with a 6-2 lead.

Frank Bancroft, the manager of the 1884 Providence Grays, dared to take out Sweeney. Charlie refused to be removed, cursed out his manager, was ejected from the game, and stumbled out of the park. Providence now had only 8 players. The Grays proceeded to lose the game, down a man.

The drunken Sweeney did not know it at the time. But his rival became a legend because of day drinking.

Note: At the time, there were only day games. This means that Charlie Sweeney was drinking in the morning before his game, as well as during it. He probably drank the night before. 1880s baseball is WILD y’all.

Charlie Sweeney was kicked off the Grays after the game.

Boss Hoss Time

After the unceremonious departure of Mr. Sweeney from the squad, there were calls to disband the Gray.

Old Hoss would not have it!

The absolute legend volunteered to start every game for the rest of the season.

You read that correctly. He volunteered to start EVERY GAME for the REST of the SEASON! This is after he had casually pitched 76 of the 98 games the season before.

From the 22nd on until the clinching of the pennant, our man started 40 of 43 games and won 36.

His arm became so tired that to warm up he would start warm ups by throwing a few feet, and gradually moving apart until he could make it to the plate. He could not even lift his arm to comb his hair. But, Charles Gardener Radbourn persevered.

Take a look at his 1884 season (click on picture to view in bbref):

Those statistics are unlike anything that has ever been done or will be. People talk about untouchable records like Joe’s hit streak?

No. 60 wins is untouchable. No starter since 1991 has even made 37 STARTS.

The counting stats for this are ridiculous. For those at home who like advanced stats (messy for this time period, but whatever), his WAR for the season was 19.1.

Post 1884

Anyways, the Grays won the 1884 world series. Yes, Old Hoss did pitch all 3 games. He let in 3 runs – all unearned. Legend.

Technically, he won somewhere between 59-62 wins, as wins were a bit more subjective back in those days. So yea, maybe he won even more than the untouchable record of 60 regular season wins.

As a reminder, this is the 1880s. So, naturally, the Grays were gone after 1885 – because a world series didn’t mean as much back then.

He didn’t have as much success after that season, surely his arm was a noodle.

But he did end up pitching for the Boston Beaneaters in the players league that formed around this time. Neat!

More Old Hoss Legend Stuff

Oh Yes. There is more.

He opened a billiard parlor after he retired, lost his eye in a hunting accident, and rarely left the back room of his Blommingtio saloon for the rest of his life. He only lived 42 stunning years, by the way.

Bill James ranked Charles as the 45th best baseball player of all time.

The charley horse may be named after him.

He was the first person ever photographed giving the middle finger. Check the featured image at the top and see if you can spot him.

The man even has a contemporary twitter. Click the photo of the chap below to check it out.

Long live Charles Gardner “Old Hoss” Radbourn. A man among Men.

P.S. If you couldn’t find him, he is far left in the top row flipping the bird!

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-Brent Buckley (@bigbucksbuckley on twitter)

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