What might have been: Projecting 10 MLB interrupted careers

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 10: Players observe a moment of silence for deceased pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 prior to the Royals 2017 home opener against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on April 10, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 10: Players observe a moment of silence for deceased pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 prior to the Royals 2017 home opener against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on April 10, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by FPG/Getty Images)
(Photo by FPG/Getty Images) /

Lefty Williams

The career of Claude ‘Lefty’ Williams fell victim to a unique event in MLB history. Williams did not die an early death, nor was his career sidelined by war or serious injury. He was expelled by Commissioner Kennesaw Landis as one of the Black Sox.

Most of the tarnished eight, involved in the throwing of the 1919 World Series, were either at or near the ends of their careers at the time. Not so with Williams, a three-time loser in that World Series. He was just 27, and entering the absolute prime of his career, when he pitched his last game.

And Williams was good. A seven-year veteran, he had already won 82 games, against just 48 defeats, including 45 victories in his final two seasons, 1919 and 1920. Williams made 78 starts and logged 596 innings in those two seasons.

A legitimate comparable to Williams was his own teammate, Red Faber. Also a 20-game winner in 1920, Faber was four years older than Williams, but to that point had piled up 105 victories 68 losses. Faber’s 61 percent winning percentage to that point is not far different from Williams’ 63 percent.

Following exposure of the scandal, Faber – one of Chicago’s honest pitchers – continued to work full-time through his age 41 season, 1930. Some of Williams’ best contemporaries, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander among them, enjoyed similar career spans, so it’s not unfair to project the same thing for Lefty.

On the mound for the White Sox from 1921 through that 1930 season, Faber accumulated a 144-116 record. Considering the decimation worked by the scandal on the White Sox roster, that’s pretty good. Projecting that Williams might have done about the same is not unreasonable.

And since Williams was four years younger than Faber, his mound work might have continued for an additional 40 victories. Combine that with the 144 he projects to have won in the 1920s plus the 105 he had won at the time of his expulsion and you have a 289-game winner.

In other words, we are projecting Lefty Williams as a potential 300-game winner, and likely the winningest pitcher in the history of the Chicago White Sox. That’s the potential he threw away by consorting with gamblers to fix the World Series.