Spud Chandler (1907-1990)
Arguably the greatest baseball player produced by UGA was Spud Chandler, born in Commerce, GA. However, Spud was an outstanding athlete in other sports too. He arrived at UGA and met with Head Football Coach Harry Mehre. After a requested quick tryout, Spud immediately earned a spot on Mehre’s football team; and he quickly became a very good player as an option halfback. He threw critical touchdown passes in the victory over Yale in the 1929 Sanford Stadium Dedication Game, and again in 1930 in the victory over Rose Bowl bound Georgia Tech. The speedy Chandler also ran track as well as playing baseball for the Dawgs. He actually had chances to sign a MLB contract early in his college days, but turned them down because (1) he was having too much fun playing college football, and (2) his childhood favorite New York Yankees hadn’t come calling yet.
As is the case in so many great athletes, injuries hampered his professional career. In fact, after graduating from UGA, Chandler never had an injury-free season. Part of that was simply hard luck, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that Spud Chandler played hard and gave everything he had on the field till the game was over. Injuries especially hurt Chandler’s Minor League Baseball career, and eventually caused him to retire while he was still a MLB all-star.
After graduating from UGA, Spud was inked by the Yankees and played five years for them in the minors. Finally, in 1937, he was called up to play for the MLB Yankees. He was definitely one of the best pitchers in MLB during his 11 year career in the big leagues (all with the Yankees). Eventually the injuries got so bad that he was forced to retire following the 1947 season. He never had a losing season record in his 11 year Yankee career. He was 109-43 in his MLB career, with his best season (20-4) in 1943 (and he lost two of those games late in the season due to errors by teammates). His career winning percentage of 0.717 was the highest of any MLB pitcher with at least 100 wins since 1876. His 1.64 ERA in 1943 was the best in MLB from 1920-1967, and that 1.64 season ERA remains a Yankee record today. He recorded 614 career strikeouts, pitched 26 career shutouts, and ended his career with a 2.84 ERA.
He was a four time selection to the American League All-Star team (’42, ’43, ’46, and ’47–and he was the American League All-Star game’s winning pitcher in 1942). He joined the military and missed the 1944 and 1945 seasons (at the peak of his career). He was a three time World Series Champion (’41, ’43, and ’47–finished with a 1.62 career World Series ERA). In 1943, Spud was selected as the American League’s MVP, the only Yankee pitcher to hold that honor to this day. Also in 1943, Chandler was The Sporting News MLB Player-of-the-Year.
Spud Chandler could actually hit the ball too. He had 110 hits in his career, including 2 homeruns in one game (one was a grand slam). He was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and selected as a Circle of Honor member at the University of Georgia. Ted Williams said Spud Chandler was one of the three greatest pitchers he ever faced. Bill Dickey said Spud Chandler was the greatest pitcher he ever caught.
1937: 7-4 record
1938: 14-5 record
1939: 3-0 record
1940: 10-4 record
1942: 16-5 record (named to All-Star Team–winning pitcher in All-Star game)
1943: 20-4 record (20 complete games, 5 shutouts, 1.64 ERA, gave up one homerun every 51 innings pitched, tossed two complete game victories in World Series, named to All-Star team)
1944 & 1945: in armed forces
1946: 20-8 record (2.10 ERA, led American league in strikeouts with 138, 20 complete games, named to All-Star team)
1947: 9-5 record (named to All-Star team)
RIP Spud Chandler, a DGD………………………….