Boston Red Sox: 30 Greatest Players in Team History

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15: Smoky Joe Wood, P (1908-1915)

Best known for having the fastest fastball of his era, Smoky Joe Wood is one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the Boston Red Sox. He joined the Red Sox as a fresh-faced 18-year-old in 1908, before bursting onto the scene with the team in a more full-time role in 1909.

Wood pitched eight years with the Red Sox, and was arguably the most dominant pitcher of the era. The best year of his career was in 1912, which was one of the greatest seasons for any pitcher of all-time. Wood went an incredible 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA. He was an absolute force for the team, leading the league in wins, winning percentage complete games (35) and shutouts (10).

A pitcher having more than 30 wins has only happened 21 times since 1900, and Wood’s 34 wins in 1912 is the sixth most in a single-season of all-time.

He was also a huge contributor for the Red Sox in the World Series that season, pitching in half of the games. He started three of the first seven games against the New York Giants, going 2-1, including a becoming the first pitcher to record double-digit strikeouts in a World Series game, with 11 in Game 1.

One day after getting shelled for six runs in his one inning Game Seven start, Wood was called on in relief late in the decided Game Eight. While he did allow a run in his three innings of relief, Wood was able to hold off the Giants enough, picking up the win as the Red Sox won the World Series.

He had another three great years with the Red Sox, although in a more limited capacity after injuring his thumb on a fielded bunt in 1913. His worst ERA with the Red Sox was a 2.62 put up in 1914 following the tough thumb injury, but he immediately bounced back the next year, going 15-5 with a league-leading 1.49 ERA. However, he sat out the entire 1916 season, and never pitched again.

Wood was also a strong hitting pitcher for the Red Sox with a solid .244/.304/.351 during his time with the team, and found a second career as an outfielder with the Cleveland Indians. Wood was never a star outfielder, but he put in a solid run of five seasons as an above average outfielder in Cleveland, even helping the team to a World Series championship in 1920.

One of the greatest pitchers of his era, but Wood was never able to fully recover from his thumb injury. His pitching career was cut far too short, as he was clearly heading down a strong Hall of Fame caliber career. Wood is sometimes remembered as a player struck down by injuries, but make no mistake, he was a dominant force for the Red Sox for many years.

Next: Number 14