[Ed. Note: This is the first of two #21 posts today. Later, Joe will weigh in on Paul O'Neil.]
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if you're reading this blog, you probably weren't alive to see Spud Chandler pitch. His last appearance was on October 2nd, 1947, so you would have to be at least 68 to stake a reasonable claim to remembering him as a Yankee, even during his last season. Neither of my parents were alive at that point, but praise be to the bounty of these here interwebs, I can hop on Baseball-Reference and Wikipedia and write him a mini-biography like I'm his agent or something.
Chandler grew up in Jaw-Juh, and was a three sport athlete at UGA, playing halfback for the football team, pitching for the baseball team and running some track.
If I told you Mr. Chandler had a ten year career, you'd probably guess he started when he around 23-26 and retired at about 33-36. Oddly, he was born in 1907, but didn't make his debut until 1937, in his age 29 season after spending five years in the Yankee farm system. Lots of guys make their major league debuts at 29, not many of them have 10 year careers. He started only 12 games in '37, but threw six CGs, including two shutouts.
The following season, he threw 172 innings to a better than a league average ERA, but had a microscopic 36 strikeouts. At age 31, he was relegated to only 11 relief appearances and looked as if he was headed out of the league. In 1940, he was re-installed into the rotation and for the next three seasons complied successively more innings, more strikeouts and a lower ERA, setting the table for his 1943 season.
I'm not that familiar with the effect that WWII had on most major leaguers' stats, but I've got to assume that Spud Chandler's '43 season was still pretty damn incredible. The marginal pitcher I just described to you, at age 35, busted out with 253 innings of a 1.64ERA and a .992WHIP, gave up only two home runs all season and went (20-4). He received 246 out of a possible 336 points in the MVP vote and pulled off the rare feat of winning the award as a pitcher. He pitched two complete games in that World Series, including a CG shutout in the clinching Game 5.
In 1944, after starting only one game, Spurgeon F. Chandler was enlisted in the Army. He returned towards the end of the 1945 season but appeared in only 4 games.
At age 38, Spud had another truly great year. He set a career high in IP (257.3), strikeouts (138), and shutouts (6!) and had a 2.10ERA with a 1.12WHIP. Spud made the All-Star team and even got a few points in the MVP voting. Starting only 16 games in his final season (1947), he still pitched to an ERA a full run lower than league average (2.46).
Chandler was a part of three World Series winning Yankee teams (1941, 1943, 1947) and was named to four All-Star teams. He had one of the odder career trajectories and had one of the finer seasons ever as a Yankees pitcher.
[P.S. To all this people who hate stats (I'm looking at you Jon Heyman and Murray Chass), first of all, I hope you trip over your walker. Second of all, without stats this post would not have been possible. I'm sure you crotchety old fucks love a good history lesson and if we didn't record and analyze stats we couldn't look back at things and put them in perspective. Maybe you resent the fact that I was still 37 years from being born when Spud threw his last pitch and Murray Chass was already on his second marriage, but seriously, there are plenty of places to project your impending death. Leave stats alone.]
[Ed. note: There are some serious fucking inconsistencies between Spud Chandler's Wikipedia page and his B-R page. Obviously I went with B-R on every single one, but does anyone know how to go about fixing such things? I will do it when I get some spare time.]