Out of Reach of All the Glory

From 1927 to 1939, Wes Ferrell was a pitcher with Cleveland, the Yankees, and the Red Sox. In this interview he tells what it was like to face some of the great hitters as well as to stand in the batter's box.

Now, that was just a little relief stint, those eleven innings. A few days later I'm taking my regular turn, against the Yankees in New York. I go out there and I just don't have anything on the ball. They beat me. I'm sitting in the clubhouse after the game and Peckinpaugh comes over and says "Hey, why didn't you bear down out there?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" I said. "I've been winning twenty games a year for you and pitching out of turn whenever you needed me, and you ask me why I wasn't bearing down? I always bear down. I just didn't have anything to bear down with today." Oh, I was steamin'.

Well, that didn't sit too good with him. Then we go up to Boston, and I start another ball game. They get one or two runs off me in the second inning and he wants to take me out.

"Hell," I said. "I ain't coming out. I just got in here."

Finally I had to leave, and the next thing I know I'm suspended. They called it insubordination or something like that. I went back to Cleveland and sat around doing nothing for fourteen days, in the middle of one of my finest years. What a waste of time.

Couldn't get along with Peckinpaugh, no matter what. The guy hardly ever spoke to me. He got fired in 1933, and Walter Johnson came over to manage. Here was a fine guy, nice as could be. Religious type of person, a real gentleman. He had some drawbacks as a manager, though. He wasn't all that articulate, had trouble expressing himself. He'd hold a meeting and you'd hear him say,

"Now, dadgummit, confound it, I want you boys doggonnit, to get out there and get 'em." That's how he'd tell you. Never profane though. A very kind person. Never had any trouble with his ballplayers. Not even with Fiery Wes Ferrell. Fiery Wes Ferrell. Boy, I've got to laugh at that. I guess I've still got the reputation. But reputations aren't always justified. Here, listen to this. I was with the Red Sox and pitching a game in Yankee Stadium, against Monte Pearson. I had them beat going into about the fifth or sixth inning. The Yankees had two men on and DiMagio is up. I walked over to Eric McNair, who was playing shortstop. Cronin, who was the Red Sox manager and the regular shortstop, wasn't playing that day. I forget why.

I tell McNair, "Now, I'm gonna throw him a slider and try to make him hit it to you."

I go back to the mound and make my pitch, get it right where I want, and doggone if Joe doesn't hit it right straight to McNair. But the ball was hit right off the end of the bat and had such spin on it that when it hit the ground it got away from McNair. Two runs scored. I figured I should have been out of the inning, and I got mad. Then a couple base hits followed on top of that.

I look over at Cronin. He's standing up in the dugout with his hands in the air. I thought he wanted to take me out. I look around and my infielders are standing around with their hands on their hips looking at the ground. I figured I'm gone, and I walked off the mound. In those days you had to go through the Yankee dugout to get to the clubhouse. I went right past brother Rick—he was with the Red Sox too, then—and he didn't say anything to me. I was told later that Cronin started to yell at me not to leave, but I didn't hear anything. I thought I was out.

Next thing, I know I'm sitting in my hotel room and somebody calls me on the telephone to tell me I'm suspended, fined a thousand dollars, and a lot of stuff like that. Boy, I nearly hit the ceiling! I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

They had a big meeting that night, and I told Cronin that it was all a misunderstanding, that he knew my record, how hard I worked, how willingly, and that I was the last one in the world to run out on a ball club.

Well, nobody said much. They send me back to Boston and I find the newspapers filled with the story: "Wes Ferrell Suspended. Walks Out Of Ball Game." A lot of crap like that. Two days later I was out pitching again, in my regular turn. Wasn't fined, wasn't suspended. It was all a misunderstanding and was soon forgotten by all concerned. But that's how you get a reputation as being this or that sort of fellow.

Sure, Rick was there with me on the Red Sox. When I got traded over to Boston in 1934, he was already there. We got along real fine. Usually thought alike. Brother or no brother, he was a great catcher and ought to be in the Hall of Fame.

He was a real classy receiver. You never saw him lunge for the ball; he never took a stride away from you. He'd get more strikes for a pitcher than anybody I ever saw, because he made catching look easy.

Well . . . I say we not along real fine, and we did . . . but I'll always remember a game I was pitching against the Detroit Tigers. Brother Rick is giving me the signs, the little old one-two-three for fast ball, curve, straight change. I kept shaking him off; I wanted to throw my change-up curve. Finally he got tired of squatting there and being shaken off, and he got up and walked around in front of the batter.

"Throw any damn thing you please," he said. "You can't fool me no way. I know you well enough."

Boy, that made me mad! Me winning all those games, and he thinks he's going to catch me without signs? I kicked the mound around a little bit, pulled my cap down tight on my head. Then I fired him a curve ball—one of the best I'd ever thrown, I swear—and he just reached down across his body and caught it backhanded with that mitt of his. Showboating. I'd throw him my best fast balls and he'd catch them soft—you know, wouldn't let it pop.

Well, we went through the whole ball game that way. Just a-stormin', and a-throwin'. and a-powderin' that ball. And here's Cronin, standing out at shortstop, wondering what in the world's going on up there—he's not seeing any signs!

I pitched a two-hitter. Beat the Tigers 3-0. One of my finest games. After it's over, I go into the clubhouse and I'm sitting there, Everybody's coming over to shake my hand on the game. And there's brother Rick, sitting two stools away. I keep glancing over, but he won't look. We're pulling our socks and our uniforms off. Finally I glance around again, and now he's looking at me.

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