Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday School: History Lesson 52

William "Bucky" Walters was a third baseman who converted to a pitcher, when he played for the Phillies from 1934 to 1938. A native of Philadelphia, Walters played for both the Boston Braves and the Boston Red Sox before his contract was purchased by the Phillies in June 1934.

Phils manager Jimmie Wilson was so impressed with Wilson's strong arm that he began trying to convince Walters that because of his limited hitting abilities, his future in baseball was on the mound. Early on, Walters struggled with his control, but would soon show flashes of things to come.

In 1935, Walters started 22 games for the Phillies and posted a 9-9 record with a 4.17 ERA. His performance in the following season was a step backward, as he led the NL in losses that year. He started 33 games in 1936 and posted a record of 11-21 with a 4.26 ERA. He did, however, throw 4 shut outs. In 1937, more frustration set in as Walters could not win back to back games all season and finished with a 14-15 record with an annually rising 4.75 ERA.

Walters' conversion to a pitcher would solidify him as a star in the National League, as his greatest success came after he left Philadelphia. By mid-1938, the Phillies had seen enough of Walters and began to explore options to trade him. The Reds offered pitcher Al Hollingsworth, catcher Spud Davis and $50,000...the Phillies, in need of cash, accepted. Walters was reunited with his old manager Jimmie Wilson, who was then a coach with the Reds. The trade proved poor and Walters joined Eppa Rixey as a Phils pitcher who would be traded to Cincinnati, rejoin a previous manager, and then have his career take off to new heights.

Wilson really helped Walters regain his confidence and turned things around. In 1939, Walters won 27 games and posted a 2.29 ERA, lowest in the league. He was an all-star and the National League Most Valuable Player. In 1940, Walters had a 22-10 record with a 2.48 ERA, again lowest in the NL. He finished 3rd in MVP voting that year, but the Reds won the World Series. In the 1940 Series, Walters won and completed his 2 starts, allowing just 3 earned runs in 18 innings pitched. Also, with Cincinnati, Bucky was a 5-time all-star and threw 195 complete games over 11 seasons.

To make matters worse, Hollingsworth and Davis would both no longer be Phillies following the 1939 season locking the deal in as on of the very worst trades in Phillies history.

Following his playing days, Bucky Walters coached with the Braves and Giants. He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1958.

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