If you read the This Date article from today, you would’ve saw the story about Wilbur Cooper, the only pitcher in the history of the Pirates franchise to win 200 games with the team. He is followed on the team’s all-time win list by Sam Leever and Babe Adams who each have 194 wins while with Pittsburgh and then Bob Friend is right behind them with 191 wins. I’ve often heard that the Pirates have a ton of great hitters in their history and no great pitchers. While they may not have a ton of well-known all-time pitchers it is unreasonable to say they haven’t had great pitching in their history.
The list of other teams with four guys who have all won 190 games while wearing that team’s uniform is a short one, the Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers and San Francisco/New York Giants. The 1900 Pirates had one of the best pitching staffs no one ever talks about and it included two future Hall of Famers. That team had Leever, Deacon Phillippe, Jack Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill and Rube Marquard. Those pitchers have a combined career record of 971-601 and they all won at least 189 games.
Back to Wilbur Cooper though for this article.The list that he is part of is also a pretty rare list . Pitchers that are Hall of Fame eligible, with 200 wins with one franchise, but they aren’t in the Hall of Fame. That list consists of:
Mel Harder, Indians 223
Hooks Dauss, Tigers 223
George Mullin, Tigers 209
Mickey Lolich, Tigers 207
Wilbur Cooper, Pirates 202
Charlie Root,Cubs 201
Harder and Dauss are the only ones to play their entire careers with one team and the interesting thing about Dauss as it pertains to Cooper is that he played in the majors from 1912 until 1926, the same exact time frame Cooper spent in the big leagues. Lolich is the only other pitcher on this list besides Cooper who was a lefty. Mullin was the only other pitcher who had at least four 20 win seasons. Root is the only other NL pitcher.
If you wanted to narrow it down in favor of Cooper, you could say no other pitcher in NL history won more games with one team than he did and didn’t make the Hall of Fame. Now I’m not saying I would elect him to the HOF right away, there are pitchers in my mind who need to go in before him but it is interesting none the less to see just where he stands among the group on the outside looking in.
One other note about Cooper and it pertains to the Pirates teams he played with. In 1917 the Pirates were very bad, finishing with a 51-103 record. Wilbur made a team leading 34 starts and pitched six times in relief for a total of 297 innings. He finished with a 17-11 record, which basically means the rest of the Pirates pitchers were just 34-92 on the season. You could only imagine what his record would’ve been on a decent team that season.