COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – For a five-year period during the 1930s, Carl Hubbell was as effective as any pitcher in the game’s history.
And from the middle of 1936 to the middle of 1937, King Carl was better than anyone.
Seventy-five years ago this week – on May 9, 1937 – Hubbell, the New York Giants’ magnificent left-hander, ran his winning streak to 20 games by defeating the Chicago Cubs 4-1 at the Polo Grounds. For Hubbell, it was his 20th straight victory dating back to July 17, 1936 – a mark that tied him with former Giants’ hurler Rube Marquard for the most wins in a row by a pitcher.
“I got my biggest pitching thrill out of winning the games we just had to win,” Hubbell said.
Hubbell pitched a complete-game seven-hitter than day, allowing just one earned run while striking out five batters. Hubbell would go on to win four straight games following his 20th (before losing on May 31 against the Dodgers), giving him 24 consecutive victories – a mark that still stands as the record. During that stretch, Hubbell absorbed only one no-decision – but saved two games coming out of the Giants’ bullpen.
“He was a marvel to watch, with that screwball, fastball, curve, screwball again, changes of speed, control,” said Hall of Fame second baseman Billy Herman, who faced Hubbell often during the 1930s and 40s. “He didn’t have really overpowering stuff, but he was an absolute master of what he did have, and he got every last ounce out of his abilities.”
Hubbell burst onto the national scene in 1933 when he went 23-12 with a 1.66 earned-run average for the Giants, winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award while leading New York to the World Series title. The next season, Hubbell stamped himself into baseball lore by striking out five straight future Hall of Famers in the All-Star Game: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin.
Two years later, Hubbell posted his best season – going 26-6 with a 2.31 ERA and again winning the MVP Award.
Hubbell retired after the 1943 season with a record of 253-154, having been selected to nine All-Star Games and establishing himself as the master of the screwball.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum