Book Review, Pud Galvin: Baseball’s First 300-Game Winner

Book Review:
Pud Galvin: Baseball’s First 300-Game Winner, by Brian Martin
Reviewed by Jeffrey Reed, Editor,

Unlike most major league ballplayers, retired London Free Press investigative reporter Brian (Chip) Martin has unlocked the secret of carving for himself a successful second life away from his long-time gig – in Martin’s case, as a baseball historian and prolific author.

Martin’s latest work, Pud Galvin: Baseball’s First 300-Game Winner, is hot off the presses and already drawing rave reviews for its thorough storytelling of the life and times and Galvin, winner of 365 big-league games (more on that total in this review), and deservedly (or is he?) a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame: more on that, too.

Brian (Chip) Martin

Brian (Chip) Martin

Martin burned the basepaths during his research for this gem, which saw him slide into such destinations as Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cooperstown, all of which held secrets about baseball’s first 300-game winner. And hats off to Martin for providing a comprehensive story about one of the game’s biggest yet most ignored superstars. Digging into the batter’s box of 19th Century baseball research is about as difficult as hitting Cleveland Indians pitchers thus far during this year’s World Series.

Martin, 66, spent 41 years as one of Canada’s top investigative news reporters with The London Free Press. In 2015, he hit a grand slam for baseball fans and local history buffs with his fifth book, The Tecumsehs of the International Association: Canada’s First Major League Baseball Champions (McFarland & Company, Inc.) – read that review here.

Pud Galvin: Baseball’s First 300-Game Winner is Martin’s third baseball book. His first, Baseball’s Creation Myth: Adam Ford, Abner Graves and the Cooperstown Story (2013) blew the cover off Cooperstown’s claim that baseball was invented there in 1839.

Martin has recently rejoined the Free Press as a weekly columnist, but his love of baseball and baseball history has given him a second professional life, and it’s a labour of love. As a fellow baseball historian and author, and deeply proud of our Canadian baseball roots, I’ve become a big fan of Martin’s relentless digging into the game’s past.

978-0-7864-9977-9Fittingly, as Martin gives new life to his career as a writer, so, too, does he give new life to one of baseball’s forgotten stars.

James Francis Galvin was born on Christmas Day 1856 to Irish immigrant parents who settled in Kerry Patch, a tough St. Louis neighbourhood. This was a community of hard-working, lower-class residents, and boasted its share of gangs, thieves and thugs – think Martin Scorsese’s 2002 movie, Gangs of New York.

A stout little man – all 5’ 8” of him – Galvin found an escape from the hood in his right arm. He would earn the nickname, Pud, because it was said his fastball turned grown men into pudding at the plate. By today’s standards, Galvin was a bonus baby when signed by the International Association’s Pittsburgh Allegheny ballclub at the tender age of 20.

No surprise, there’s some local flavour in Martin’s latest book and it is written seamlessly. Galvin pitched against both the London Tecumsehs and the Guelph Maple Leafs as he became the Pittsburgh ace in 1877. In fact, that season he lost a 5-2 decision in London during the International Association’s championship game.

Galvin won his milestone 300th game in 1888, although it would take decades before that mark was considered baseball’s magic number for pitchers. He threw the first-recorded perfect game (accomplished the feat twice), amassed 365 wins and was finally in inducted into Cooperstown’s National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965, a year when another pitcher, Sandy Koufax, dominated on the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

70295-5092692frBut accomplishments and accolades are only a small part of Pud Galvin’s story, as Martin writes.

An 18-year professional pitcher with St. Louis, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, Galvin was an easy-going gent who also earned the nickname, “Gentle Jeems.” As Martin recounts, when his arm began to fail him, Galvin turned to the “elixir of life,” as it was dubbed at the time. A Pittsburgh medical school provided Galvin with an experimental concoction derived from animal testes during the 1889 season.

Soon afterwards, the Pittsburgh sports media dubbed their star hurler, “Galvin, the Great.” Immediately following injection stemming from dog and guinea pig testes, ‘ole Pud was his spectacular self on the mound.

But was Pud the original baseball juicer, setting the stage for the widely-accused Barry Bonds and crew? Martin cites a 2002 article in the Medical Journal of Australia to debunk the elixir and the pitcher’s tarnished reputation. Researchers concluded there was “too little testosterone in the concoction t to have any biological effect” on Pud’s pitching career. However, they did conclude, the injection may have had an effect on his six inches between the ears.

dp826817As Martin writes, Galvin’s career stats are the stuff of which legends are made. He pitched almost every inning of every game until the latter part of his career, and finished with 646 complete games. Galvin threw more than 6,000 innings over 705 appearances. In 1883 and ’84 he won 46 games both seasons. He won 20 or more games in 10 seasons.

In the book’s appendix, Martin lists all of major league baseball’s 300-win pitchers, including at the top of the list: Cy Young, 511; Walter Johnson, 417; Grover Cleveland Alexander, 373; Christy Mathewson, 373; and Pud Galvin, 365.

Interesting note: not included amongst those totals are Galvin’s 36 victories earned in the International Association in 1877-78.

There were a lot of changes to early baseball during Galvin’s career – Martin lists them, including changes in the pitch count, and distance from the rubber to home plate. In another oddity in relation to Galvin’s lifespan, the distance of 60 feet, six inches was established in 1893 – the year after he retired from baseball.

I must confess, as a life-long Pittsburgh Pirates fan and occasional visitor to the Steel City, I eagerly awaited the release of Martin’s latest book. He acknowledges sources including the Pittsburgh Press, and Pittsburgh Dispatch; Craig Britcher, curatorial assistant and project coordinator at the Senator John Heinz History Center; Gil Pietrzak at the Carnegie Library; and Miriam Meislik, media curator at the archives center of the University of Pittsburgh library for assisting with this book.

It was Britcher who helped Martin track down Galvin’s grave – the book includes a few photos of the humble grave marker remembering the man who, despite his superstar status as a big-league pitcher, died a pauper at age 45 in 1902. The first modern World Series would be played the following year, when the Boston Americans would defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates.

galvin_pud_plaque_nblIf there were a Cy Young Award for baseball books which deliver the perfect mix of statistics plus a revealing look into the life of a baseball superstar, then Martin’s, Pud Galvin: Baseball’s First 300-Game Winner, would receive my vote. He’s working on a fourth baseball book, too, entitled, the Detroit Wolverines.

If you’re a stats junkie, a history buff or a baseball fan, then this 244-page book is for you.

Pud Galvin: Baseball’s First 300-Game Winner
by Brian Martin
Softcover Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-9977-9
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-2551-5
29 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
McFarland, $29.95

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and

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