Ferrell could join brother in Hall
Right-hander on Veterans Committee ballot for the second time
In a Ferrell family stocked with baseball talent, Wesley Cheek left his mark as one of the best.
The fifth youngest of seven boys, Wes is the second of the Ferrell sons on the Hall of Fame ballot, as older brother Rick was inducted in 1984.
The younger Ferrell earned 11.3 percent of the votes on the 2005 Veterans Committee ballot, in which a candidate must gain 75 percent of the vote to gain election. Prior to that, Wes appeared on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot six times (1948, '49, '56, '58, '60 and '62), with his highest vote total percentage of 3.63 coming in 1956.
Results of the 2007 Veterans Committee election will be announced on Feb. 27, and the Induction Ceremony will take place on July 29 in Cooperstown.
Wes Ferrell surely does not live in his brother's shadow, carving a career of his own, as the right-hander was not only known for his great pitching mind, but his powerful bat.
The Greensboro, N.C., native owned a .601 career win percentage (193-128), yet never played on a team that won the pennant or even finished in second place. The two-time All-Star won 20-plus games in six seasons, had six years of 25 or more complete games and was a top-10 finisher in MVP voting twice. One of the 20-win years came in 1936, when Ferrell recorded 20 victories for a Red Sox team that only won 74 the entire season.
"Most of the managers in his day were comparing him to Christy Mathewson, arguably the greatest pitcher of all time," said Dick Thompson, author of the book The Ferrell Brothers of Baseball. "I believe that if he'd belonged to the Yankees, A's or Tigers, he'd have won 30 games several times in his career."
And Ferrell earned respect as a dangerous hitter, too, with a career .280 average (548-for-1,176) -- unheard of at his position. In 1935, oft considered the best month of his career, Ferrell won seven games and hit five home runs in July.
"Wes, at his peak, from 1929-36, in his day was the equivalent of a Roger Clemens or a Curt Schilling for that period," Thompson said. "He hit like a Hall of Famer at times."
In a 15-year Major League career (1927-41) with the Indians, Red Sox, Boston Braves, Senators, Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers, Ferrell created his fair share of excitement at the plate. In 1931 with Cleveland, Ferrell hit more home runs in the games that he started than anyone else on his team. Comparably, he also outhit Hall of Fame infielder/manager Joe Cronin in games they both started.
He still holds the records for most home runs by a pitcher in a season (nine in 1931) and in a career (37).
"I think, at his peak, his bat was probably worth about half a run a game," Thompson said. "With his consistency, he was pretty much the team's best hitter when he was in the lineup."
Ferrell proved calm and cool in the clutch as well, driving in 208 runs in 548 games played. In 1931 at Yankee Stadium, Babe Ruth hit a homer off Ferrell to tie the game at 1. Unruffled, Ferrell hit the game-winner out of the park in the next inning.
August Busch Jr.
Perhaps the most telling tale of Ferrell's bat comes from the Red Sox's 1935 season. Hall of Fame teammate Lefty Grove had just blown a ninth-inning lead to the Tigers, who then lead, 6-4. Upset after the half-inning, Grove stormed off the field and into the clubhouse. In the bottom of the ninth, Boston put two men on to bring up Grove. He had long since hit the showers, so Ferrell was sent in his place.
Tigers hurler Tommy Bridges ignored an order to pitch around Ferrell, who promptly delivered a three-run homer to win the game for Boston. Ferrell pitched the next day against the St. Louis Browns, taking a 1-1 into the ninth before hitting his second walk-off home run in as many days. The Red Sox wouldn't hit back-to-back walk-off homers for another 70 years before Jason Varitek and Bill Mueller went deep on consecutive days.
Those weren't the only times Ferrell used his bat to produce a win. To put things in perspective, Boston's David Ortiz had five walk-off hits in 2006 during 558 at-bats. Ferrell had 11 walk-offs between 1934-35, in just 228 at-bats.
Ferrell also made his mark as a workhorse. In 1935 and 1936, when he was at his peak, the righty started 11 games on just two days' rest. From 1935-37, he led the league both in innings pitched (322 1/3, 301 and 281, respectively) and complete games (31, 28 and 26). In all, Ferrell had eight seasons of 200-plus innings of work.
And when it came down to it, Ferrell did whatever he had to do to get the win: his win-loss percentage was 86 percentage points higher than the teams on which he played.
"If you look at most of who's considered the greatest pitchers of the era, they all played on great teams," Thompson said. "Ferrell always played on middle-of-the-road teams. If you subtract what he contributed, they wouldn't have finished over .500."
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.