#9 Most Underrated Philly Athlete of All-Time: Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank is the best Philadelphia athlete you’ve never heard of. Yeah, some guys beat him as more underrated, but you’ve heard of those guys. Odds are you’ve never heard of the former A’s great (I had never heard of him until I did that piece on the 1911 World Series), which is nuts because he’s one of the greatest left handed pitchers in the history of baseball and the argument could be made that he’s the greatest lefty in the history of Philadelphia baseball.

I know. I know. Blasphemy, right? Well, not so fast. Carlton won 329 games. Plank won 326. Carlton had an ERA of 3.22. Plank had an ERA of 2.35. Plank’s career WHIP was 1.119. Lefty’s was 1.247. The only place where they don’t compare is strikeouts. Lefty fanned 4,136 to Plank’s 2,236. I think the slight edge overall goes to Carlton, but not by much.  And the fact that it’s even up for debate shows you exactly how good Plank was.

Born in Gettysburg, PA, in 1875, Plank was known as Gettysburg Eddie. He made his debut with the A’s in 1901 at the age of 25, and he would stay with them until 1914. He helped them to World Series wins in 1911 and 1913. He still holds the record for most shutouts by a left-handed pitcher, with 69.

Of course, it’s kind of fitting that he’s overlooked now, because he was kind of overlooked in his own day as well. Pitching at the same time as Cy Young and Walter Johnson, the quiet lefty’s trademark was consistency, which was just as sexy back then as it is now. As his former teammate Eddie Collins once observed: “Plank was not the fastest. He was not the trickiest, and not the possessor of the most stuff. He was just the greatest.”

All Gettysburg Eddie did was win baseball games. A lot of them. He may have been forgotten in Philly, but not in his hometown. He is a Philadelphia athlete you absolutely, positively should know about.

One Comment on “#9 Most Underrated Philly Athlete of All-Time: Eddie Plank”

  1. Chip Millard says:

    The greatest LHP in Philadelphia baseball history wasn’t Eddie Plank or Steve Carlton (though both were all-time great pitchers). No, the greatest LHP pitcher in Philadelphia baseball history was also almost definitely the greatest LHP in MLB history, one Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove.

    On a related note, my all-time Philadelphia MLB starting rotation:

    SP 1: Lefty Grove
    SP 2: Grover Cleveland Alexander
    SP 3: Steve Carlton
    SP 4: Robin Roberts
    SP 5: Eddie Plank

    P.S. Robin Roberts is someone who merits consideration on the “Most Underrated Athletes in Philadelphia History”. Every Philly sports fan historian knows he’s in the Hall of Fame, though some may question his credentials with his relatively unimpressive career record (286-245). However, the guy was an absolute workhorse and arguably the best pitcher in the National League for 6 straight years, from 1950 to 1955. He pitched over 300 innings all 6 of those years, leading the league in innings pitched in 5 of them. He also led the league in wins 4 times and strikeouts twice during this stretch, and overall was highly effective despite pitching all those innings. He achieved these results with a team that only finished above .500 in 3 of those 6 seasons (1950, 1952, and 1953).

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