If Corey Kluber wins tonight he’ll notch his third win in this World Series. That’s not a terribly common thing, as only 13 pitchers in major league history have recorded three wins in a World Series.
The last to do it was Randy Johnson in 2001. Johnson did not start three games that year, however. One of his wins came in relief. One might also mention that Madison Bumgarner‘s 2014 — two wins as a starter and a five-inning save on two days’ rest — was pretty darn impressive. Maybe more impressive than a three-start, three-win Series, but let’s let that go for the time being.
For now, let’s look at the company Kluber would be keeping if he wins his third start tonight. You’ll note that it’s a Deadball Era-heavy thing, with eight of the first 17 World Series featuring a three-game winner. Since then it’s become far more rare:
2001 — Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks
1968 — Mickey Lolich, Tigers
1967 — Bob Gibson, Cardinals
1957 — Lew Burdette, Braves
1946 — Harry Brecheen, Cardinals
1920 — Stan Coveleski, Indians
1917 — Red Faber, White Sox
1912 — Joe Wood, Red Sox
1910 — Jack Coombs, Athletics
1909 — Babe Adams, Pirates
1905 — Christy Mathewson, Giants
1903 — Deacon Phillippe, Pirates
1903 — Bill Dinneen, Red Sox
Fun facts: Christy Mathewson and Jack Coombs won their three games in series which lasted only five games. All three of Mathewson’s were shutouts. Don’t see that one being topped ever again. Then again, I don’t expect us to ever have a Deadball Era again, so we’ll keep those oranges away from these apples.
It’s probably also worth mentioning the most orange factoid of them all for these purposes: Old Hoss Radbourn’s 1884, in which the Providence Grays’ ace beat the New York Metropolitans of the American Association three times in three games in three days in what was called the World Series, but which Major League Baseball does not recognize as an official World Series.
Another fun fact: the guy winning three games was often not the ace of his staff. Burdette in 1957 was second fiddle to teammate Warren Spahn, Coveleski in 1920 was arguably the best guy on the Indians staff, but he was seven wins behind 31-game winner Jim Bagby, and not considered the ace. Eddie Cicotte was the top starter for the 1917 White Sox, not Red Faber. In 1909, Babe Adams started only 12 games for the Pirates. Howie Camnitz or Vic Willis were better-regarded. Same happened in 1968, when Denny McClain won 31 games for the Tigers yet Lolich ended up being the star of the series. Lolich even hit a home run.
Kluber is the Indians ace. He’s not going to hit a home run tonight, though. He’s likewise not going to get his third win in three days like Old Hoss Radbourn did or notch a save like Madison Bumgarner. But he has a chance to make history all the same, and that’s pretty neat.