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FABER, Urban "Red"
FABER, Urban "Red" (Cascade, IA, Sept. 6, 1888--Chicago, IL, Sept. 15, 1976). In 1964, Faber, the last legal spitball pitcher, was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York by the Veteran's Committee.
Faber began his baseball career in Dubuque. Although born in Cascade, he transferred to ST. JOSEPH ACADEMY, the prep school associated with what became LORAS COLLEGE. He soon became a leading pitcher on the local semi-pro scene earning $2 per Sunday as a 16-year old pitcher for hire. His interest in a professional baseball career began when his usual team, the Tigers, boosted his salary to $5 per game. He contributed to an undefeated season in 1909 for St. Joseph's College although he never attended classes.
Faber's performance for St. Joseph and semi-pro clubs caught the attention of Clarence "Pants" ROWLAND, former owner of Dubuque's minor league team and an acquaintance of Chicago White Sox owner Charles Albert COMISKEY. Rowland encouraged Faber to sign with the Dubuque Miners, who were struggling in the Class B Three-I (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa) League. Joining the team with two months left in the 1909 season, Faber went 7-6. In August 1910, during his first full season as a professional, Faber (18-19) threw a perfect game against Davenport; only one ball reached the outfield. The Pittsburgh Pirates bought his contract the next day. (1) The Pittsburgh Pirates signed him to a 1911 contract the following day.
Faber made the Pirates' 1911 Opening Day roster, but manager Fred Clarke never used him and in mid-May sent him to Minneapolis of the American Association. Within days of his arrival, Faber entered a distance-throwing contest and injured his pitching arm. During his short stay in Minneapolis, however, Faber had a career-changing experience. Teammate Harry Peaster taught him the finer points of the spitball, which at the time was a legal pitch. Faber worked on his spitter over the next 2½ seasons, first in Pueblo and then for two years in Des Moines of the Western League. He was one of the pitchers allowed to continue to throw the spitball after it had been banned in 1920. The spitball may have been easier on the arm as those grandfathered in continued to pitch through the 1920s and into the 1930s. (2) In his second year in Des Moines, 1913, Faber earned his "Iron Man" reputation. He sometimes pitched on consecutive days and once, during an Iowa heat wave, pitched all 18 innings of a tie game ended by darkness. In the closing weeks of the 1913 season, White Sox owner Comiskey bought Faber's contract for 1914. (3)
Faber joined the Chicago White Sox in 1914 and remained with the team his entire career, winning 254 games before retiring in 1933. He ranked second in number of strikeouts in the American League in 1915 and 1922 (182 and 148, respectively) and placed fourth in 1920 and 1921 (108 and 124, respectively. (4) He led the league in 1920 and 1921 in earned run average with 2.37 runs per game in the former and 2.80 runs in the latter year. He played three hundred innings and led the league by pitching fifty games. Faber won more than 20 games in four different seasons, the first time in 1915 and then again in the post–1919 era: in 1920, 1921, and 1922. His lifetime record of 254-213 with a career 3.15 earned run average; as late as 1931 he won 10 games and had a 3.82 ERA. (5) In 1964 LORAS COLLEGE, his alma mater, named its baseball field in his honor.
1. Cooper, Brian. "Red Faber," Society of American Baseball Research, Online: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/a6dff769
2. Jebsen, Harry. Nine: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture, Vol. 16. No. 2, Spring 2008. p. 149-150. Online: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/nine/summary/v016/16.2jebsen.html
4. "Urban Charles Faber," MLB.com Online: http://mlb.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=113965#gameType=%27R%27