Red Ruffing, NY Yankees
Charles Herbert “Red” Ruffing (May 3, 1905 – February 17, 1986) was an American professional baseball player. A pitcher, he played in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1924 through 1947. He played for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Chicago White Sox. Ruffing is most remembered for his time with the highly successful Yankees teams of the 1930s and 1940s.
Ruffing dropped out of school as a child to work in a coal mine in his native Illinois. He played for the mine’s company baseball team as an outfielder and first baseman. After he lost four toes from his left foot in a mining accident, he became unable to run in the field, and switched to pitching. He played in minor league baseball in 1923 and 1924 before making his MLB debut with the Red Sox. After struggling with Boston, pitching to a 36–93 win–loss record, the Red Sox traded Ruffing to the Yankees, where he became successful, pitching as the Yankees’ ace through 1946. After one season with the White Sox, Ruffing retired from pitching to work in coaching. He served as a bullpen coach for the White Sox, a pitching coach for the New York Mets, and a scout and minor league instructor for the Cleveland Indians.
Ruffing was a member of six World Series championship teams with the Yankees. He also appeared in six MLB All-Star Games. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967. The Yankees dedicated a plaque to Ruffing in Monument Park in 2004.
After the 1942 season, Ruffing took a job with Vultee Aircraft, a defense contractor. Despite his age (37) and missing toes, a United States Army doctor certified Ruffing as Class 1-B in the Selective Service System, overruled Ruffing’s personal physician, who had ruled Ruffing unfit for service. The Army decided that Ruffing could serve in a non-combat role. Ruffing missed the 1943 and 1944 seasons due to his service during World War II. He served in the Sixth Ferrying Group of the Air Transport Command of the United States Army Air Forces at the rank of private. However, he did pitch for the Air Transport Command’s baseball team, throwing a perfect game against Joe DiMaggio‘s team, and leading his team to the championship against Ted Lyons‘ team. In 1944, he played with an All-Star team for troops stationed in Hawaii.
Ruffing turned forty years of age during the war, resulting in his discharge in June 1945. He rejoined the Yankees that month, signing for the same $20,000 salary ($266,063 in current dollar terms) he earned in 1942. He made his first appearance with the Yankees since the 1942 season in July 1945. Pitching for the Yankees as a spot starter in 1946, he had a 5–1 win-loss record and a 1.77 ERA when he suffered a broken kneecap from a line drive hit by Hank Majeski, and missed the remainder of the season.
From Baseball in Wartime:
Charles H “Red” Ruffing was born on May 3, 1904 in Granville, Illinois. He dropped out of grammar school in Nokomis, Illinois and took a job tending a mine ventilation system. Ruffing lost four toes on his left foot when it was caught between two coal cars.
Playing minor league baseball for Danville in the Three-I League in 1923, Ruffing was sold to the Boston Red Sox in August. He made his major league debut with the Red Sox on May 31, 1924 and made eight unmemorable appearances that season.
The following year he joined the starting rotation and had a 9-18 won-loss record for the last place team. Ruffing remained a losing pitcher with Boston until he was traded to the Yankees in 1930. With a winning team, he became a winning pitcher and won 20 games or more in 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939.
In January 1943, Ruffing was drafted despite having only one toe on his left foot and being 39 years old. “When Uncle Sam reached out and tapped Red Ruffing for service,” wrote Joe Williams in the New York World-Telegram, “he put a period at the end of a famous battery, Ruffing and Dickey.”
Based at Long Beach Army Air Base in California with the 6th Ferrying Group of the Air Transport Command, Ruffing managed the baseball team with a lineup that included Max West, Harry Danning and Nanny Fernandez.
In April 1943, Ruffing pitched for a service all-stars team against the Hollywood Stars. With service teammate Joe DiMaggio in fine form Ruffing helped the military squad overcome the Stars 5-2.
The 6th Ferrying Group proved to be a formidable baseball team and Ruffing pitched them to a 4-1 victory over Camp Pendleton for the Southern California service championship in 1943.
In June 1944, Ruffing’s 6th Ferrying Group team took on the Hollywood Stars and won 7-1. In November 1944, it was rumored that Ruffing would be returning to the Yankees. “Word has reached here from California,” wrote Dan Daniel in The Sporting News on November 9, 1944, “that Ruffing, now in the Army, will be back with the Yankees when they start training … The report is that Ruffing, who was drafted two years ago, even though he lacked a couple of toes and was close to the age limit, is to be discharged honorably because of his years.”
However, Ruffing was to remain in service and eventually received his discharge at Fort Dix on June 5, 1945.
He was 41 years old when he returned to the Yankees in July 1945, but still posted a 7-3 record in 11 starts. He suffered from a flying phobia as a result of experiences during WWII and was the only player on the Yankees squad excused from traveling on the team plane. Ruffing ended his major league career in 1947 with the Chicago White Sox.
After retiring as a player he worked as a minor league manager for the White Sox and Indians. He was a coach with the Mets in 1962.
Red Ruffing was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967. He passed away on February 17, 1986 in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, aged 81.