Smoky Joe Wood: The Biography of a Baseball Legend

Overview

WINNER OF THE 2014 SEYMOUR MEDAL sponsored by the Society for American Baseball Research; Finalist for 2014 SABR Larry Ritter Award

Though his pitching career lasted only a few seasons, Howard Ellsworth “Smoky Joe” Wood was one of the most dominating figures in baseball history—a man many consider the best baseball player who is not in the Hall of Fame. About his fastball, Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson once said: “Listen, mister, no man ...

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Smoky Joe Wood: The Biography of a Baseball Legend

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Overview

WINNER OF THE 2014 SEYMOUR MEDAL sponsored by the Society for American Baseball Research; Finalist for 2014 SABR Larry Ritter Award

Though his pitching career lasted only a few seasons, Howard Ellsworth “Smoky Joe” Wood was one of the most dominating figures in baseball history—a man many consider the best baseball player who is not in the Hall of Fame. About his fastball, Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson once said: “Listen, mister, no man alive can throw harder than Smoky Joe Wood.” 

Smoky Joe Wood chronicles the singular life befitting such a baseball legend. Wood got his start impersonating a female on the National Bloomer Girls team. A natural athlete, he pitched for the Boston Red Sox at eighteen, won twenty-one games and threw a no-hitter at twenty-one, and had a 34-5 record plus three wins in the 1912 World Series, for a 1.91 ERA, when he was just twenty-two. Then in 1913 Wood suffered devastating injuries to his right hand and shoulder that forced him to pitch in pain for two more years. After sitting out the 1916 season, he came back as a converted outfielder and played another five years for the Cleveland Indians before retiring to coach the Yale University baseball team.

With details culled from interviews and family archives, this biography, the first of this rugged player of the Deadball Era, brings to life one of the genuine characters of baseball history.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist - Wes Lukowsky

"Wood was a great ballplayer and an even more fascinating man. Excellent reading."—Wes Lukowsky, Booklist
Cleveland.com - Mark Hodermarsky

"Gerald C. Wood (no relation), author of this first full-scale biography of 'Smoky Joe' Wood, delivers an impeccably researched and poignant account of a great athlete and even greater man."—Mark Hodermarsky, Cleveland.com
Southern New England Chapter, Society for American Baseball Research - John Vorperian

"A stunning account of the life of the best baseball player not in the Hall of Fame."—John Vorperian, Southern New England Chapter, Society for American Baseball Research
CHOICE - W. T. Lindley

"[Smoky Joe Wood is] a thorough and lively account of the career of Joe Wood."—W. T. Lindley, CHOICE
NINE - Ron Kates

"As readers will discover in Gerald Wood's insightful and thorough portrait of the Red Sox hurler, Indians outfielder, Yale coach, and baseball ambassador, the appreciation for Smoky Joe Wood should come not from individual achievements but from the sum of all the parts of the man's life."—Ron Kates, NINE
Bob Ryan

“If I could have been one twentieth-century sports figure, I would like to have been Smoky Joe Wood in 1912. All that talent and all that common sense combined in one package and all showcased in a baseball-mad city. And reinventing himself to become a .366–hitting outfielder wasn’t bad either.”—Bob Ryan, Boston Globe sports columnist and author of When Boston Won the World Series
Glenn Stout

“In Smoky Joe Wood author Gerald Wood sweeps away the smoke of history to provide a clear, detailed, and poignant biography of the legendary pitcher. In these pages Wood comes to life. We meet not only a remarkable baseball player but also an unforgettable man.”—Glenn Stout, author of the award-winning Fenway 1912
Charles C. Alexander
“Exhaustively researched, Gerald Wood’s Smoky Joe Wood is the first full-scale biography of a great pitcher whose mound career was ruined by arm trouble and who then reinvented himself as a fine outfielder. A member of three World Series champions, Joe Wood lived a fascinating life. It’s a life well rendered by someone who clearly loves his subject.”—Charles C. Alexander, Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at Ohio University and author of thirteen books on history and baseball
Kirkus Reviews
In baseball's long history, only two men have started a World Series as a pitcher and as a position player: Babe Ruth and, easily, among the best players not in the Hall of Fame, Smoky Joe Wood (1889–1995), the subject of this biography. For eight years with the dead ball era Red Sox, Wood played with the future Hall of Fame outfield of Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis and Harry Hooper, with the old Cy Young and the young Babe Ruth. He played against and was considered every bit the equal of Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Christy Mathewson. His spectacular 1912 regular season (34-5, 1.91 ERA, 258 strikeouts) featured a classic duel with strikeout artist Walter Johnson, who once said of him, "there's no man alive that throws harder than Smoky Joe Wood." After injuring his arm, Wood followed up his remarkable pitching exploits with six more years as a Cleveland Indian outfielder, where he rated among the game's best hitters. The author never quite gets to the heart of the man--Wood's jack-of-all trades, peripatetic father emerges as the most interesting personality--but Wood's minor league beginnings (including a stint, believe it or not, with the Kansas City Bloomer Girls), his bifurcated major league career and his 20 seasons coaching baseball at Yale all receive exhaustive attention. Wood (English Emeritus/Carson-Newman Coll.; co-author: The Voice of an American Playwright: Interviews With Horton Foote, 2012, etc.) skips lightly over any negatives--his subject's role in the Catholic/Protestant divide among those 1908-1915 Sox teams, his part in a betting scandal featuring Speaker and Cobb--and he hurries through the retirement years. However, most readers will come for the baseball and the stories of this almost-mythic figure from the game's earliest days, the only man other than Cole Porter for whom Yale's president left the college grounds to award an honorary degree. A serviceable biography for hard-core fans of early baseball.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803278417
  • Publisher: UNP - Nebraska
  • Publication date: 4/1/2015
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 1,111,947

Meet the Author


Gerald C. Wood is Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Carson-Newman University and coeditor of Northsiders: Essays on the History and Culture of the Chicago Cubs.
 
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