York writer explores myths about Gettysburg native and big league southpaw Eddie Plank

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Eddie Plank, a Gettysburg native, won more than 300 games in his Major League Baseball career, the first lefthander to do so. Plank ended his career with 327 victories. He entered the majors in 1901 and retired in 1917. He became a hall-of-famer in 1946. Background posts: Story answers much about great athlete Hinkey Haines, including origin of his nickname and Southpaw could be next York/Adams major leaguer and Baseball’s Methuselah played for White Roses.


A Gettysburg restaurant recently has themed native son and baseball Hall-of-Famer Eddie Plank.
“Gettysburg is a town that lives on the dead, their legends, speeches and actions.
Most restaurants, gift shops and museums have themes that deal with the borough’s famous battlefield and presidential history,” blogger Pat Abdalla wrote under the headline, Finding a niche with Eddie Plank.
“Restaurant owner Bill Wills, however, has found a different niche in Gettysburg’s history: Eddie Plank, a legendary baseball player who was born and lived in the town.”
This attention on Plank brings to mind a review of an article in “National Pastime” on Plank.
That York Sunday News article (7/25/04) debunked some myths about Plank, the first southpaw to win more than 300 games in the majors… .


Excerpts from that article follow:

Local historian Dave Gulden has dispelled a couple 100-year- old myths about Gettysburg native Eddie Plank, the first southpaw to win 300 games in the major leagues.
Gulden’s article “The Forgotten Games of Eddie Plank” was published earlier this month in The National Pastime, an annual publication of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), which has more than 7,000 members. The National Pastime is to serious baseball fans what the Journal of Medicine is to physicians.
“The inaccuracies and lack of information concerning the early games of Eddie Plank are surprising considering his prominence,” said Gulden, who has self-published two local history magazines, Old York Times and Forgotten Cigar Kings of York County.
Plank compiled 327 victories during a major league career that spanned from 1901 to 1917. He earned most of his fame with the Philadelphia Athletics and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.
The two myths Gulden dispels in his 4,000-word article are that Plank never played baseball before pitching for Gettysburg College and that he opposed Bucknell University’s Christy Mathewson in several college games. Gulden, 50, became interested in Plank in the mid-1990s when he came across an article about a game he pitched in York while playing for the Gettysburg town team in 1899.
Later, he read in several books and on the Baseball Hall of Fame Web site that Plank never pitched before being invited to join the Gettysburg College team in 1900.
He was determined to find Plank’s other “forgotten games.” Researching various newspapers on microfilm, the first games Gulden found were in 1896, when the 20-year-old was a member of the Good Intent Adams County team. In all, Gulden documented more than two dozen games Plank played for town teams between 1896 and 1901. He also chronicled every game Plank pitched for Gettysburg College in 1900 and 1901.
“Plank’s early games are of interest to me because of the local angle,” said Gulden. “He was well-known and highly regarded before he started pitching for Gettysburg College.”
Another oft-repeated myth is that although Plank pitched for Gettysburg College, he did not attend the school. Plank attended Gettysburg Academy, a prep school under the auspices of Gettysburg College. You did not have to attend the college to play for its team.
Gulden’s most important discovery, however, is what he didn’t find during his research.
When Mathewson of the New York Giants and Plank battled each other in three World Series (1905, 1911 and 1913), newspaper accounts inevitably referred to their matchups in college. They were supposed to have been mound opponents on two occasions.
Plank’s 1926 obituary states, “Matty was at Bucknell when Eddie was at Gettysburg. They pitched in two baseball contests in the spring of 1901.”
In quest of accounts of those games, Gulden visited the libraries at Gettysburg College and Bucknell University, searching microfilm of their college newspapers.
Not only were the two never mound opponents, they never pitched for Gettysburg and Bucknell at the same time. Plank didn’t pitch for Gettysburg College until 1900 and by then Mathewson had left Bucknell to play for a team in Norfolk of the Virginia League. Mathewson went on to win 373 games in the major leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
“Any publication that alludes to their college match-ups fails to mention exactly when and where they took place,” said Gulden. “A properly researched story would long ago have raised doubts.”
SABR member Norman Macht, who is working on a biography of Athletics manager Connie Mack, wrote to Gulden, “I have been aware of the long-handed-down myth of the Plank-Mathewson matchups. Glad to see you shoot it down.”

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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