Ray Kremer spent ten seasons pitching in the minors before making his major league debut with the 1924 Pittsburgh Pirates. Once he got to the majors though, he put together a string of seven straight seasons winning at least 15 games. Born on March 23,1893 in Oakland, California, Ray didn’t stray far from home most of his minor league career, spending seven seasons playing for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. He began his pro career in 1914, playing for three teams in three years prior to joining Oakland. Starting in 1919, he began a streak of five straight seasons in which he pitched at least 294 innings every year. The final two years of that streak he pitched 356 and 357 innings. The 1922 season was the first real season where he went from being known as a workhorse pitcher to an actual star pitcher. Before that season, his career minor league record stood at 69-105 but in 1922 he went 20-18 with a 2.78 ERA. It was the first time he won 20 games and also his lowest minor league ERA. The following year was even better as he won 25 games and drew attention from the Pirates, who wanted to bring him to the majors for the first time.
Prior to the 1924 season the Pirates picked up Kremer in exchange for three players and cash. He went right into their starting rotation and by the fifth game of his career, he had already thrown two shutouts. With 18 wins as a rookie, Kremer finished second on the Pirates in victories to veteran pitcher Wilbur Cooper, the team’s all-time leader in wins. Ray led the National League in shutouts that season with four and he also pitched in a league leading 41 games.
In 1925 the Pirates won their first pennant since the 1909 season and Kremer was a big part of the pitching staff. He went 17-8, making 27 starts and 13 relief appearances. He was one of five starters for that team to win at least 15 games. In the World Series against the Washington Senators, Kremer started and took the loss in game three but pitched a complete game in the sixth contest to even up the series, then came back two days later to win game seven in relief.
The Pirates dropped down to third place in 1926 but it couldn’t be blamed on the pitching of Kremer. He had his best season that year, leading the NL with his 20 wins(against just six losses). His 2.69 ERA was a league low and his .769 winning percentage was the league best. He finished third in the NL MVP voting.
The 1927 Pirates regained the top spot in the NL, thanks in part to Kremer’s 19-8 record and his league(and career) best 2.47 ERA. He started game one against the Yankees team known as Murderer’s Row, a team that won 110 games and scored 131 more runs than the second best scoring team in the American League. Kremer lasted just five innings as his defense behind him let him down in the third inning, two errors led to three unearned runs. The series ended in four games before he could make another start.
Kremer began to drop off in 1928 but he still had three straight winning seasons left in him. He went from leading the league two years in a row in ERA in the mid-2.00’s to a 4.64 ERA in 1928. He still pitched over 200 innings for the fifth straight season and he had a 15-13 record. In 1929 he went 18-10 with a 4.26 ERA, leading all Pirates pitchers in wins.
Baseball in 1930 saw a huge rise in the offensive numbers and Kremer’s season is proof of just how much hitters dominated the league that year. He won a league leading 20 games, yet had a 5.02 ERA. His 20-12 record was partly due to luck and his 5.02 ERA was partly due to some very bad games. Another Pirates starter named Larry French had a 17-18 record with a 4.36 ERA that year. The two pitcher’s fortunes turned around the next season when they posted near identical ERA’s(3.26 for French compared to 3.33 for Kremer) yet French went 15-13 while Ray went 11-15, his first losing season in Pittsburgh.
That 1931 season was the last of eight straight seasons he won double figures and pitched over 200 innings for the Pirates. In fact, if you go back to his minor league days, that streak extends to 13 straight seasons. Over that time, he won 211 games, 138 while with the Pirates.
Kremer injured his arm during the 1932 season and was able to make just ten starts. He had one last big game left in his arm, a July 15th shutout over the Boston Braves. He threw a three hitter during the Pirates 1-0 win. In his last major league start less than a month later against those same Boston Braves, he lasted just one inning before being pulled from the game. It was said that he trained hard to get ready for the 1933 season but he never fully recovered his form. He got hit hard in his first relief appearance that year, then didn’t pitch for another 36 games. When he finally did pitch again, it was only in relief and he had just seven games and 18 innings left in his arm before making his final major league appearance on July 1st.
Ray returned to the Oakland team he pitched seven years for, to finish out the 1933 season. He did not pitch well there, going 1-5 7.04 in seven starts. He returned for 1934, giving it one last try but that trial ended after just nine innings and an 8.00 ERA. Kremer finished his big league career with a 143-85 record and a 3.76 ERA in 307 games, 247 as a starter. His 143 wins ranks tied for seventh all-time in Pirates franchise history with Rip Sewell. Ray also ranks tenth on the team’s all-time list with 1954.2 innings pitched.