Mariano Rivera and Major League Baseball’s All-Time ERA Leaders
Baseball’s dead-ball era really ran from the game’s beginnings up until about 1919/1920, somewhere around when Babe Ruth went amok.
During the dead-ball era, ballplayers just couldn’t lay wood on the ball. Offensive numbers were anemic. “Sluggers” led the league with anywhere from four to, more rarely, the low twenty-something home runs. Then came the Babe in 1919 with 29 homers and again in 1920 with an unheard of 54. He topped that in 1921 with 59.
The dead-ball era was over.
But why the dead-ball era in the first place, and why did it give way so abruptly?
According to baseball-reference.com, “ironically given the Deadball name, dead baseballs probably were not the cause of low scoring.” They list several causes, including spit- and defaced- baseballs, but also the rules of the day and poorly employed offensive strategies.
Anyway, all this talk about hitting and home runs and the dead-ball era in a pitching post: Baseball’s All-Time ERA Leaders. What’s the point? And what does Mariano Rivera have to do with all of this?
Well, 19 of the top 20 lifetime ERA leaders pitched all or most of their careers in the dead-ball era. That makes sense. And it’s Mariano Rivera who is the only modern pitcher on the list. He’s 13th all-time.
“Not surprisingly, at the time Walsh’s spitball was considered the most effective pitch in baseball. Walsh disguised the pitch by going to his mouth before every delivery, regardless of what he was going to throw. When he did throw the spitter, according to Alfred Spink he moistened a spot on the ball between the seams an inch square.”
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|1.||Ed Walsh||1.816||R||1904-1917||Chicago White Sox; Boston Braves|
|2.||Addie Joss||1.887||R||1902-1910||Cleveland Bronchos, Naps|
|3.||Jim Devlin||1.896||R||1875-1877||Chicago White Stockings; Louisville Grays|
|4.||Jack Pfiester||2.024||L||1903-1911||Pittsburgh Pirates; Chicago Cubs|
|5.||Smoky Joe Wood||2.033||R||1908-1920||Boston Red Sox; Cleveland Indians|
|6.||Mordecai Brown||2.057||R||1903-1916||St. Louis Cardinals; Chicago Cubs; St. Louis Terriers; Brooklyn Tip-Tops; Chicago Whales|
|7.||Monte Ward||2.099||R||1878-1884||Providence Grays; New York Gothams|
|8.||Christy Mathewson||2.133||R||1900-1916||New York Giants; Cincinnati Reds|
|8.||Al Spalding||2.133||R||1871-1877||Boston Red Stockings; Chicago White Stockings|
|10.||Tommy Bond||2.138||R||1874-1884||Brooklyn Atlantics; Hartford Dark Blues; Boston Red Stockings; Worcester Ruby Legs; Boston Reds; Indianapolis Hoosiers|
|11.||Rube Waddell||2.161||L||1897-1910||Louisville Colonels; Pittsburgh Pirates; Chicago Orphans; Philadelphia Athletics; St. Louis Browns|
|12.||Walter Johnson||2.167||R||1907-1927||Washington Senators|
|13.||Mariano Rivera||2.214||R||1995-current||New York Yankees|
|14.||Jake Weimer||2.231||L||1903-1909||Chicago Cubs; Cincinnati Reds; New York Giants|
|15.||Orval Overall||2.233||R||1905-1913||Cincinnati Reds; Chicago Cubs|
|16.||Will White||2.276||R||1877-1886||Boston Red Stockings; Cincinnati Reds; Detroit Wolverines|
|17.||Babe Ruth||2.277||L||1914-1933||Boston Red Sox; New York Yankees|
|18.||Ed Reulbach||2.284||R||1905-1917||Chicago Cubs; Brooklyn Superbas; Brooklyn Robins; Newark Pepper; Boston Braves|
|19.||Jim Scott||2.298||R||1909-1917||Chicago White Sox|
|20.||Reb Russell||2.334||L||1913-1919||Chicago White Sox|
- Minimum 1,000 IP
- Date is range over which player pitched in any games. For example, Babe Ruth only pitched five games for the Yankees, between 1920 and 1933.