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On This Date in Sports July 25, 1941: Lefty Grove #300

 In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Lefty Grove of the Boston Red Sox earns his 300th career victory in a 10-6 win over Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. Grove is the 12th pitcher to achieve 300 wins and the second lefthander. It would be the final win of his career as he retired at the end of the season with a record of 300-141 in 17 seasons with the Red Sox and Athletics.

Robert Moses Grove was born on March 6, 1900, in Lonaconing, Maryland. He learned to play baseball on the sandlots of Baltimore, earning the nickname Lefty as lefthander. Grove did not play organized ball until he was 19. A year later, he was signed by Jack Dunn Sr. to play for the Baltimore Orioles, then an independent minor league in the International League. Lefty Grove helped the Orioles dominate the IL but had no way of reaching the majors, as the Orioles were unaffiliated and unwilling to lose their top player. At the time, the reserve clause tied players to even AAA teams, as the major leagues respected their contracts and purchased any player from the minor league team.

Finally, in 1925, Jack Dunn agreed to sell Lefty Grove to the Philadelphia Athletics for $100,000. Grove’s first season in the majors was rather disappointing as he battled injuries and finished 10-12 with an ERA of 4.75. It would be the only time in a 17-year career that he had a losing season. However, he would lead the league with 116 strikeouts. A year later, Grove would lead the American League in ERA at 2.51. He would lead the league in ERA nine times in his career, more than half his 17 seasons.

As the Philadelphia Athletics won three straight pennants, Lefty Grove became the unquestioned best pitcher in baseball, as he won the pitching triple crown in 1930 and 1931. In 1931, Grove won the first modern MVP award for the American League, as he posted a record of 31-4 with an ERA of 2.06 and 175 strikeouts. Grove would lead the league in strikeouts in each of his first seven seasons, with the ERA crown nine times, and led the league in wins four times. He would also start for the American League in the first All-Star Game in 1933.

As the Athletics hit hard times financially due to the depression, they were forced to sell off their biggest stars. This led Lefty Grove to be sold to the Boston Red Sox following the 1933 season. Grove’s first season in Boston was disappointing as he won just seven games and missed most of the season with an injured arm. Grove bounced back to win 20 games again in 1935 as he remained a top hurler for the rest of the decade.

As the 1940s began, it was clear that Lefty Grove was in decline, as he again won just seven games and dealt with injuries in 1940. The same pattern held out in 1941, but as July was nearing an end, Grove was on the threshold of history, sitting at 299 wins as he looked to become the first 300-game winner since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1924.

Facing the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park, things did not look good early for the Red Sox and Lefty Grove as the Indians jumped out to an early 4-0 lead. However, as Indians starter Joe Krakauskas faltered in the fourth, the Red Sox began their comeback, scoring twice as Mel Harder came in to pitch out of the bullpen. Boston would tie the game in the fifth inning on a two-run home run by Ted Williams. The Tribe regained the lead on a home run by Lou Boudreau and a triple by Gee Walker. The Red Sox answered right away as Jim Tabor homered with Williams on base. After Lefty Grove set down Cleveland 1-2-3 in the eighth, the Red Sox grabbed to lead against Cleveland reliever Al Milner. Surprisingly Ted Williams failed with the two on and nobody out, popping up on the infield. Jimmie Foxx, a teammate of Grove with the A’s, came through with a two-run triple while scoring on a throwing error. Tabor followed up with a second home run as the Red Sox led 10-6, heading to the ninth. Grove would get the final three hitters to fly out, including Lou Boudreau; he flew out to Dom DiMaggio in centerfield to end the game.

As it turned out, Lefty Grove’s 300th win would be his last as he lost two decisions in August and made just one final appearance in the final game of the season at Philadelphia, where he lost to his former team, the Athletics, 7-1, finishing at 7-7 in his final season and he had a record of 300-141 for his career, one of the best win percentages in baseball history.

Lefty Grove was the 12th pitcher to win 300 games and the second left-handed pitcher following Eddie Plank. He was the only pitcher to get his 300th win in a 37-year period between 1924-1961, as there would not be another 300-game winner until Warren Spahn reached 300 wins in 1961.