It was a cold day, and I've got the horse blanket covering me. I figured I'd be the last guy in the world to be in that ball game. But then our pitcher started getting in trouble and Roger Peckinpaugh, the Cleveland manager, starts waving down to the pen. Glenn Myatt, the bullpen catcher, got up.
"Hey, Wes," he says. "Come on."
'What do you mean?"
"You're first relief pitcher."
"Me?" I said. "What are you talkin' about?'
I was scared. I didn't want to get out there in front of that big crowd. But I loosened up fast, cold or no cold. They finally got our pitcher out of there and here I go, walking in across that green grass—I don't think I even touched it. I get out to the mound and look around and there's all those people staring at me. Hell, boy, I told myself, here you are. Do the job or go home.
First guy I faced was Harry Heilmann standing up there with that big bat like a tin soldier, feet close together. I threw that ball by him so fast he never did see it. Got him out, got them all out. Two innings of shutout ball. Throwing the ball harder than I ever dreamed I could. I guess I was so excited or maybe I just grew into it all of a sudden.
They made me a starter after that. Had a good year, right along. But I'm still making only $500 a month, playing out the second year of that contract. That's around $3000 a year. We had this pitcher with us, Johnny Miljus, used to be with the Pirates. He liked me. He told me, "If you don't get ten grand next year I'm gonna beat your brains out."
They called me up into the office in the middle of August. I'd won about sixteen by that time. Billy Evans was the general manager. "Wes," he said, "I want to sign you up for next year. We want to give you a two-thousand-dollar bonus and five hundred a month."
"Mr. Evans," I said, "I don't care anything about a bonus. I'll tell you what you do. You give me eighty-five hundred for the year and I'll take it."
"You'll never get it," he said.
We went on a long road trip, and every day Miljus is saying to me, "You get that ten grand next year." Then it was near the end of the season and I'm a twenty-game winner. My rookie year this is.
I was shagging flies in the outfield before a game when Mr. Evans waved me in. "Wes," he said, "we're gonna give it to you."
"Mr. Evans," I said, "I want more money now."
Doggone if I don't get my ten grand, and an additional three thousand for retaining me for two years.
The next year I won twenty-five and they gave me a two-year contract calling for $15,000 and $18,000. I won ninety-one games my first four years: four twenty-game seasons—twenty-one, twenty-five, twenty-two, twenty-three. Nobody's ever done that, before or since.
What would I be making today with that record? You name it. But $18,000 was a lot of money in those days. That was during the Depression, and things were bad. After my fourth straight twenty-game season, I got cut $7000. The ball club was barely surviving.