Addie Joss

(1880-1911)

Baseball Hall of Famer

One of Woodlawn’s most famous major league baseball stars, Addie Joss was known as "The Human Hair Pin" because he pitched with a pinwheel motion. 


Joss was born and raised in Wisconsin, where he attended St. Mary's College in Prairie du Chien and the University of Wisconsin. Standing in at 6 feet, 3 inches, and weighing 185 pounds, the tall and skinny Joss was hard to miss when he played baseball at St. Mary's and then in a semipro league where he caught the attention of Connie Mack. He declined Mack’s offer to join his Albany team but in 1900 he signed with the Mud Hens for $75 per month and attracted further major league interest after winning 19 games.  


Midway through the 1901 season, the Boston Americans of the upstart American League offered $1,500 ($45,174) to Toledo to buy out Joss's contract. The St. Louis Cardinals of the National League (NL) matched Boston's offer; Toledo rejected both offers. Joss continued to pitch for the Mud Hens and by the end of the 1901 season he had won 27 games and had 216 strikeouts (some sources say 25 games. He became known as "the god of the Western League." 


After a bitter off season contract dispute between Joss, Toledo and Cleveland, he debuted with the Cleveland Broncos, later known as the Naps in April 1902. Joss led the league in shutouts that year. That same year he married Lilian Shinivar of Monroe, Michigan and their house on Fulton Street in Toledo became their home away from baseball.


By 1905, Joss had completed the first of his four consecutive 20-win seasons. In 1908, he pitched a perfect game during a tight pennant race that saw Cleveland finish a half-game out of first place; it was the closest that Joss came to a World Series berth. It was the fourth perfect game in baseball history (which, additionally, was only the second of the modern era). His 1.89 career ERA is the second-lowest in MLB history, behind Ed Walsh.
The 1910 season was his last, and Joss missed most of the year due to injury. 


In April 1911, Joss became ill and passed away the same month due to tuberculous meningitis. Joss was well-liked by his peers and baseball fans. Upon hearing of his death, the Cleveland Press wrote "every train brings flowers" and "floral tributes by the wagonload are hourly arriving at the Joss home from all sections of the country." His family arranged for the funeral to take place on April 17. On that day, the Naps were to face the Detroit Tigers in the Tigers' home opener. Naps players signed a petition to reschedule the game so they could instead attend the funeral. The Tigers balked at the request. American League president Ban Johnson initially supported the Tigers' position, but he ultimately sided with the Naps. Naps owner Charles Somers and 15 Naps players attended the funeral, which was officiated by player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday.


The first "all-star" game was played as a benefit for Joss's family on July 24, 1911. The Naps invited players from the other seven American League teams to play against them. Visiting club players who were involved in the game included Home Run Baker, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Sam Crawford, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Gabby Street, and Smokey Joe Wood. "I'll do anything they want for Addie Joss' family", Johnson said. The game was attended by approximately 15,270 fans and raised nearly $13,000 ($350,000 today) to help Joss' family members pay remaining medical bills. The Naps lost 5–3.


Addie Joss finished his career with 160 wins, 234 complete games, 45 shutouts and 920 strikeouts. Though Joss played only nine seasons and missed significant playing time due to various ailments, the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Board of Directors passed a special resolution for Joss in 1977 which waived the typical ten-year minimum playing career for Hall of Fame eligibility. He was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1978.


Off the field, Joss worked as a newspaper sportswriter from 1906 until his death. Concerned about supporting his family after his baseball career ended, Joss hired on as a sports columnist after the 1906 season for the Toledo News-Bee. He also served as their Sunday sports editor. His writings proved so popular that sales of the paper increased, and a special phone line was installed in his office to field the large volume of calls he received from fans. He later also wrote for the Cleveland Press and covered the World Series for the News-Bee and Press from 1907–1909. The Press introduced Joss in columns this way: "Of all the baseball players in the land, Addie Joss is far and away the best qualified for this work. A scholarly man, an entertaining writer, an impartial observer of the game." An editorial in the Toledo Blade said, "In taking his vocation seriously, [Joss] was, in return, taken seriously by the people, who recognized in him a man of more than usual intelligence and one who would have adorned any profession in which he had elected to engage."


During the 1908–1909 off-seasons, Joss worked on designing an electric scoreboard that would later be known as the Joss Indicator. The Naps installed the Joss Indicator on a new, larger scoreboard at League Park, which also posted the lineups of both teams on either side of the balls and strikes.

Copyright © 2020 Tedd Long
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