Bucky Walters never thought he was going to be a pitcher. He could hit and field and believed he was going to make a Major League career out of being a third baseman. Which he did, for a few minutes. But after reaching the majors, it became apparent that Walters was not going to stick as a position player and he switched to pitching.
Walters was 22 in 1931 when he made his Major League debut for the Boston Braves. Appearing in nine games he batted .211. The next season he batted .187 in 22 games. A year later he batted .256 in 52 games. By 1934, Walters was 25 and rethinking his life. He became a full-time pitcher, one good enough to gain attention from the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Committee when it meets in a couple of weeks.
Born in Philadelphiain 1909, Walters spent parts of 19 years in the majors. He went from a back-up in the field to a front-line pitcher, three times leading the National League in wins for the Cincinnati Reds (after also leading the league in losses once) and retiring with a lifetime 198-160 record and a 3.30 earned run average.
A right-handed thrower, Walters hurled his first games for the Philadelphia Phillies in ’34, twice appearing on the mound. He was already 26 when he began pitching full-time and he did it without minor league training, going 9-9 and 11-21 to start. The key to Walters’ pitching success came when he developed a sinker.
Walters definitely had his moments in the following years, but he first threw off sparks as a star when he was 30. In 1939, Walters unleashed an astonishing season. He finished 27-11 with a 2.29 ERA, the wins and earned run average leading the league. Walters also led the NL in starts, 36, complete games, 31, innings pitched, 319, and strikeouts, 137. He woke up at the end of the regular season as the National League’s Most Valuable Player.
Cincinnati won the NL pennant that year, but was swept in the World Series by the New York Yankees.
Then in 1940, Walters went 22-10 with a 2.48 ERA, again his wins and earned run average leading the league, along with the most complete games, 29, and innings pitched, 305. Walters won two games in the World Series as the Reds won the championship. Walters just missed another 20-win season in 1941 when he finished 19-15.
In 1944, when he was 35, Walters led the league in victories for a third time with 23. In all, Walters was a six-time All-Star and he threw 42 shutouts in his career.
After his playing days, Walters became the Reds manager in 1948, but his two-season tenure was not successful. In the 1950s, Walters coached for the Braves and Giants.
Walters died at age 82 in 1991, but his case for being inducted to the Hall of Fame will be made at the Winter Meetings in early December. He is one of 10 baseball figures on the ballot.